What is an epistolary novel? – Literary Terms 101

Epistolary novel: “From epistle, or “letter.” A novel written in the form of a correspondence between characters. A popular alternative to first-person fiction that rose in the 18th century, though it shares different points of view.” – The NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms

My Take On The Epistolary Novel and Study Recommendations

Currently, I’m halfway through Dracula by Bram Stoker. It’s a wonderful epistolary horror novel and probably the first one I’ve been seriously interested in. Third-person narration is my preferred reading and writing perspective because I like omnipotence. An epistolary novel, however, presents the story in first-person and even though this perspective is more limited, you’re forced inside every character’s personal world. Many writers like first-person narrative for the sake of more apparent character development and intimacy. Epistolary writing shows there’s nothing more intimate than a character writing a letter to a loved one or sending an urgent telegram for a medical emergency. Additionally, there’s an interesting world-building element to this style of writing. It’s a given to make sure that your writing in any point of view makes the setting is clear. With an epistolary novel, you don’t have to only have letters where your characters mention certain places or events. Stoker used newspaper articles, interviews, and journal entries. Imagine writing an epistolary work your character’s Twitter fed or Facebook post. Movies have already done this, but it’d be really impressive to see this in a novel. Many RPGs I’ve played definitely use more than letters. Here are some classic epistolary novels you should look into if you’re studying the style.

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