The Epistolary Story Form (Vaibhavi’s Session)

THE EPISTOLARY STORY FORM

An Epistolary Story is a story written in the form of a series of documents. The usual form is letters ,although, dairy entries, or newspaper clippings are sometimes used. In recent times, email correspondences, or blog entries are also used.The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story because it mimics the workings of real life. It is able to demonstrate different points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator. There are three types of epistolary stories: monologic (one narrator), dialogic (two narrators), or polylogic (with three or more letter writing characters). A crucial element in the epistolary story is the dramatic device of Discrepant awareness ie the simultaneous correspondences of the protagonists, and antagonists creating dramatic tension

Epistolary novels in more recent literature:

An Excerpt from the Epistolary novel The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis:

The senior demon, Screwtape, is trying to help his new tempting nephew, Wormwood, keep the new Christian sliding away from his faith.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

 

 

Excercise:

 

Use the epistolary format (letters, emails, dairy entries, or newspaper clips) to describe a situation in which one character has been betrayed by another.

 

Or describe a scenario in which one protagonist has behaved in a completely unexpected manner. Describe how the sudden change in behaviour has upset the plans or worldview of another

 

Or describe a situation in which the hero and villain of a piece correspond to one another and describe the same situation from opposing standpoints

 

 

Example:

 

Albert and Hermann Goering were two brothers in Nazi Germany. One went on to become Hitler’s close associate, and one of the most powerful leaders and infamous criminals of the Nazi regime….His brother Albert Goering was a subversive, anti-Nazi, Jew sympathiser who risked his life to save Jewish victims of the regime. When caught he often turned to his politically powerful older brother Hermann to escape being punished by the regime…Imagine a correspondence between two such people bonded by blood but divided by ideology or circumstance

 

 

 

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