Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bringing Back Epistolary Form

And now for a somewhat educational post entirely unrelated to gaming.

Originally, I was going to write a post about how to generate tons of ideas for your writing (of any kind), but realized I'd do a crap job of it at 10pm after a work day and have saved that post to be completed at a later date. Instead, I thought I'd trot out one tiny nugget of my English degree for you, since the idea fell into my head earlier this afternoon.

Your word for the day is epistolary. If any of you had ever heard of this word before reading this blog post, give yourself 20 points. If you've correctly used it in a sentence, give yourself another 50.

e⋅pis⋅to⋅lar⋅y  –adjective
1. contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
2. of, pertaining to, or consisting of letters.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is the most famous example of an epistolary novel. The whole thing is written in the form of letters back and forth between the main characters. What makes things even more interesting (and more than a little meta) is that the characters go back and refer to their own letters, and read them, as events progress in the story. I think you have to read the book to get just how cool/freaky the effect of that is. Or you need to be an English geek. Not sure which.

So, the crazy idea that fell into my head this afternoon was that I want to write an entire novel in epistolary form. I'm not sure how publishable such a work would with today's publishers, but damn the technique provides some interesting opportunities. One, it would allow me to experiment with more first person voice, which I need, since virtually 100% of my fiction is written in 3rd person point of view. It would really allow the difference in thought process and voice between characters to shine out. The challenge, of course, is keeping the plot flowing along and not boring readers.

From a writing standpoint, this would be an incredibly easy experiment to integrate into the rest of the writing I'm doing. Since the novel would be told in the form of emails, blog posts, mock news articles, IM conversations, (gag) Twitter posts, etc. that stuff isn't terribly time consuming to write. Perhaps write one item a day and then move on to the core project I'm working on. Hell, these are even the sort of thing I can write after a work day (though I'd surely have to edit them again later).

So I know HOW I want to tell a story, but I'm still now 100% on what the story is I want to tell. My mind keeps drifting to the movie District 9 and how they used the clips of mock sociologists, scientists, news anchors, etc. to set the movie's universe. I'm actually planning on doing some research to fuel the angle I want to take with it. I'm thinking of an alien takeover of Earth as the starting point, and from that framework see how badly I can twist up and subvert social conventions. My other degree, after all, is Sociology... and we secretly love messing with people... sometimes =P

Perhaps as I go I'll post example sections of the project so you can see what it looks like. SInce it's so very experimental, it won't take priority over projects I'm been brainstorming for so long, but it will make an interesting diversion.

And there you are. If nothing else, you learned a new word today. =P


  1. I still don't understand the meaning of my new word for today :( lol

  2. JJ, it's like long distance communication. Sending written letters back and forth with another person slowly advancing and revealing a coinciding story.

  3. District 9 was made very well with a modern twist to it by using aliens instead of refuges from other countries. My wife even thought it was well done and she doesn't like anything sci-fi. Hopefully when you write that story you let your friends read it if it doesn't get published. Best of luck!

  4. Off topic, I have been reading your blog for quite some time. I have come to realise your quite a smart person. So I will ask you something, How do I get my Gamercard on my blog?

  5. I'm looking forward to tomorrows word of the day lol. Not a bad idea Thrawn but as you said how publishable a thing will this work out to be? Could be an intresting way to start out your writing career though.

    David go to the blogger dashboard, click Layout, then click add Gadget and search for a Gadget called 'My Gamercard', you should find it then.