An epistolary narrative is the telling of a story through a series of documents, rather than the traditional prose usually used in writing. The word comes from ‘ἐπιστολή epistolē’, which means letter.
The most common, and classic, form of epistolary narratives is through letters – so the story is told through letters sent between characters. Dracula and Carrie are classic examples of this. The whole story can be told through these letters, or just partially. It can add a new level to the story and create some really meaningful characterisation and relationships between your characters.
It doesn’t just have to be letters; epistolary narratives can involve diary entries, newspaper articles and journals, as well as other kinds of documents too.
This kind of writing has been used since hundreds of years ago, which is when letters were still a popular method of communication. More contemporary epistolary narratives go for emails, blog posts, or even radio or video recordings to tell a story.
Epistolary novels are still a big thing today. World War Z is an example, told through interviews. Also the children’s classic Diary of a Wimpy Kid is written in the form of a diary, so it’s another example of an epistolary narrative.
Here are some other great guides to help you if you’re interested in learning more about epistolary writing: