June 19th, 2013


Go Ahead — Write This Story: Epistolary

Stories told in epistolary fashion — as letters — enjoyed popularity in the 18th century because of their realistic elements. Then they fell out of favor, but they never faded away entirely. These days, we tend to write few letters in real life, but we write lots of email, tweets, instant messages, Facebook posts, and even battling blog posts and comments. These are being used to tell whole or parts of stories or novels, sometimes interspersed with traditional narrative, transcripts from broadcast media, diary entries, news clips, artwork, and conventional letters. If you want to write an epistolary story with one, two, or several “writers,” here are some ideas:

• This is a science fiction story in which a self-aware psychotherapist and second-generation Moon resident faces her longing to visit Earth despite its deadly high gravity, corresponding with her imaginary self during a visit “home.”

• This is a thriller about a sample of contagion sent to several labs to speed up work on a vaccine, but it falls into the wrong hands, which is revealed in a series of emails.

• This is a story told as messages between two friends as they witness an outbreak of demonic possession from different locations with different outcomes.

— Sue Burke