Epistolary writing is fiction told through the medium of letters, but I like to think of letters as voices, their stories told in beautiful prose. If you have ever researched collections of old letters and viewed their graceful, rhythmic lines, you understand what I mean. Past generations knew how to “turn a phrase”.
Not totally put on the shelf however, letters as a literary form made notable appearances in contemporary novels. Some of them even included diary entries, newspaper clippings, book excerpts and the like. Stephen king’s Carrie used epistolary structure and Ronald Munson used epistolary style in Fan Mail. Others followed suit; a favorite of mine was Barbara Hambly’s Homeland.
Cell phones, BlackBerrries, iPhones, etc. arrived in our 21st century, entering the fast communication scene with Texting as a popular mode of communication. It is doubtful I will personally use texting, but the characters that people my stories, perhaps will. Letter writing was partly the inspiration for my first novel, Four Summers Waiting, Five Star, 2006 (now available on Kindle). The discovery of authentic family letters and diaries of my children’s ancestors helped me to create the setting and social milieu for that Civil War story. I used some of the actual diary excerpts and letters in dialogic epistolary style (giving the letters of the characters) throughout the book. A line from a letter, contained in Four Summers Waiting written by Civil War surgeon, Henry Simms to his beloved Maria, is an example:
Never Put a date on your dreams.