for writers and readers….


LUsing letter writing as a narrative structure has a long history.

Here are some examples….

Dangerous Liaisons written by Pierre de Laclos just before the French Revolution. Most of it is written as letters between the two main characters

Daddy Long Legs was published in 1912 . You can download it here  The central character is a bright, witty orphan girl who is  given a grant to go to university. She writes to her anonymous benefactor who never replies.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. An exchange of letters between the devil and a lesser demon

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. A real life exchange of letters between an American writer and a London antiquarian bookshop

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver: the mother of a teenager killer writes a series of letters to her husband.

Ladies of Letters by Brighton based writer Carole Hayman. It was a very successful BBC Radio 4 series with Prunella Scales and Patricia Routledge.  It also became a television series starring Maureen Lipman. It started off life as letters but as time passed it became an exchange of deeply sarcastic emails.

Epistolary literature is an engaging way of telling a story. However, a novel set in the 21st century has to take into account that other forms of communication are more popular.

Keitai shousetsu or mobile phone novels have been popular in Japan since the early 2000s and in 2007 a Finnish novel called The Last Messages by Hannu Luntiala told the story of an IT executive giving up his job in about 1,000 text messages.

A number of writers have explored the idea of Twitter novels.  In 2008, Penguin Books launched the We Tell Stories project in which six of its authors used interactive media, including Twitter.

twitter y macworld

(Photo credit: juque)

In 2009, writer Neil Gaiman worked with the BBC to produce an interactive novel built from tweets and last year the American novelist Jennifer Egan published a story in tweet after tweet over 10 consecutive evenings. You can read it HERE

Do you still write letters?



10 comments on “L is for LETTER WRITING

  1. chicaderock
    April 13, 2013

    Really enjoying your posts!!!Learning a lot from them 🙂

    • bridget whelan
      April 13, 2013

      Thanks – but your stories about village life are so vivid – the must-read of the A-Z Challenge as far as I am conerned

  2. Elizabeth Hein
    April 13, 2013

    Daddy Long Legs was one of my favorite books as a kid. It is a great example of an epistolary novel.

  3. ann perrin
    April 13, 2013

    thought had commented but probably didn’t press the right button, but yes do write letters …by the yard… but more often emails these days to special friends – and they ‘blather’ back, as my friend Karen in the north puts it.
    Sometimes good to write a letter to someone who causes one grief and not send it! At other times an idea for a poem might emerge from unexpected thoughts in a letter… if unlike me… one pauses for breath to find it. Great posts Annx

  4. bridget whelan
    April 13, 2013

    Oh, there’s an idea….a short story about the letters not sent….

  5. cindydwyer
    April 13, 2013

    Before I started blogging I used email to tell my funny stories to family and friends. That’s almost like letter writing, right?

  6. bridget whelan
    April 13, 2013

    Isn’t that what writers used to do? Correspondence circles with like minded people….

  7. Vikki Thompson
    April 14, 2013

    I still write letters 🙂

    My WIP has letters in it….I love that structure.


  8. The Story Reading Ape
    May 8, 2013

    Fascinating informative post Bridget, thank you 🙂

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