In and Out of the Fringe (Jenny O'Connell)

Hmm, characters on the fringe. I have to admit, all the books I enjoyed reading when I was in high school were about people like me. "Normal." No dark secrets, no feelings of being an outsider, no life altering drama (outside the "normal" drama). So when it comes to writing characters, I write the same sorts of characters I enjoyed reading back then. The thing is, at times everyone feels on the fringe.

I can recall vividly the constant "fringe-inducing" fights with my two best friends in middle school. Like Heidi Klum says on Project Runway - one day you're in, the next you're out. Years later, when I was in college, I ran into a guy I dated when I was in seventh grade. He had saved a note I wrote to him from English class and sent it me in the mail. In my scrawly seventh grade pencil penmanship I told Greg how Liz and Lisa were mad at me and I didn't know why. What could I have done? Obviously it didn't scar me for life or I would certainly remember. And years after running into Greg I ran into Lisa in Chicago and we became good friends all over again. Neither of us could remember what any of our fights were about. And we never had a fight after that (in fact, I was in her wedding some 22 years after that forgettable seventh grade fight I wrote about).

I also recently found some letters I wrote an old boyfriend during a fight. My god, that girl was in pain! Oh, boy, did she feel on the fringe, like she was unlovable. I didn't always feel like that but to read those letters you would have thought my life was ending. It didn't. Life went on. 

I think that "fringe" is all about perspective. Was I an outsider? Did I feel lonely and like the world was against me? Not on a daily basis, and not on the whole, but when my two best friends turned against me you can bet I did. When my boyfriend broke my heart, I did.

So even though my characters appear "normal" on the outside, they're always on the fringe - the fringe of losing a best friend, of having family problems, of getting their hearts broken. Being on the fringe is part of life, things can change in the blink of an eye. It's what makes life scary but it's also what makes life life.


  1. Such a great point about looking normal on the outside and feeling "fringe-worthy" on the inside.

  2. So cool that you have these old letters! It must be fun to see your "old" self in them. Have you ever considered posting them?


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