2019 Day 20 – Epistolary Story

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

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The Prompt

Write A Story In The Form Of Letters

An epistolary story is one that is written in:

  • letters,
  • memos,
  • texts,
  • voicemail messages,
  • video messages…anything that is communicated directly to another character, not in real time.
  • Make this conversation between two or more characters.
  • Make sure to give everyone a distinctive voice,
  • Think about how we communicate in writing vs in dialogue and how a character’s voice might change in writing, when they are in no danger of being interrupted and can explain themselves fully.


Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

14 thoughts on “2019 Day 20 – Epistolary Story”

  1. Message on the answering machine

    Thurston was flabbergasted when he heard the recording. He did not know what to do or who to talk to, but the recording was clear and concise, “We have launched the missiles, sir as ordered.”

    What missiles? Who launched them? His mother was in the other room watching one of her soaps and his father was at work. When he tried to tell his mom, she just shooed him away telling him not to interrupt her while she was watching her soaps.

    Was this a mistake? Did someone dial a wrong number?

    His brother Chet called him a dork when he mentioned the recording on the family answering machine.

    “Hey dork, probably one of your dorky friends playing some kind of prank.” He laughed. “I got football practice in a few minutes, so clear out and give me some room.”

    Picking up the phone, he could not help pressing play before calling Carl his best friend since kindergarten.

    “We have launched the missiles, sir.” The voice sounded official, if there was such a thing, filled with confidence and assuredness. Thurston could see some unfaced entity dressed in a military uniform pressing a red button without hesitation.

    Hey Thru.” Carl’s voice sounded flat and unconcerned as he answered his phone. “Wha’sup?”

    “I got this phone call on the answering machine.” Thurston did not know what else to tell his friend. It was as if the words were stuck in his throat.

    “Yeah?” Carl’s interest was piqued.

    “Something about launching missiles.” His voice croaked out.

    “Ha, ha, good one.” His laugh was as flat as his affect.

    “No serious, dude.” Thurston shook his head. He had learned at school that Intercontinental ballistic missiles were nuclear and capable of reaching just about anywhere in the country.

    Why had no one said anything? Something this big surely could not be ignored.

    “Something just flashed across my computer screen.” Carl’s voice sounded more intense. Then the line went dead and Carl’s squeaky voice was no longer. He heard his mother scream “Oh my God!”

    A sense of cool satisfaction went through him like an electric current. Just before the flash when the world went white for one last time, Thurston thought smugly to himself, “I tried to say something, but nobody wanted to listen.”

  2. September Day 20
    Epistolary Story
    I have chosen to write letters exchanged during the 1970’s between two females.
    I adore this form of writing, perhaps because I was an avid letter writer in those days!
    Excitedly, I can envisage me writing more exchanges between them over their next 40 years. A seed has been sown. Thank you once again Julie.
    I have enjoyed reading the posts members are putting here. There is a great deal of talent amongst everyone. It’s really inspiring.

    1. It’s too bad that writing letters is such a lost art. I used to love to write and receive letters by mail – hidden gems amongst the bills.

  3. I had fun with this and had the time to do 3 different forms of communication : texting, voice mail messages and good old hand written letters.

  4. This is an add-on to my novel that takes place in the 1800s Old West.

    Victoriana is a city girl who has some education in reading and writing although she has made her living as a milliner until a sexual assault changes the direction of her life. Her verbal and written communication skills are at a higher level and a bit more formal. Having to deal with daily with customers, Victoriana knows how to communicate in a softer easier tone.

    Early is a poor backwoods young girl who has never been to school because her father and brothers never thought reading and writing were worthwhile skills for a girl. She is a first-rate hunter and provider, but her communication skills are raw and she has not yet learned to talk without yelling. It was interesting to try to find the voice for each character to express themselves in writing, at first angrily and then with more understanding.

    I enjoyed this exercise, and I may create more epistolary situations in my future writings.
    Here is an example of a letter from each (neither letter was sent):

    Day 1:
    Dear Ms. James,
    I am not sure why you feel it necessary to yell so loudly to make a point. I have perfect hearing and would have understood every word you said even though I feel you are totally wrong. You said that I hide behind my bonnet so that people won’t see my face. Perhaps some of that is true, but I also conceal my face out of a sense of modesty. Something that, I fear, you know nothing about. If you had been raised with any womanly virtues at all, you would know this without my telling you.
    Your servant,
    Ms. Woods

    Early is writing a letter the first night, too.

    Dear Vee,
    Stop carrying on every time I mention you should come into town with me. Almost everybody knows about your scars. It’s been a whole year now an’ you gotta move on. You scared people gonna talk ‘bout ya? Hellfire, people been talking ‘bout me my entire life. Don’t mean nothing. Jus ignore them. They’ll stop soon enough. I don’t know what else to say.

  5. I’ve started a story made of notes passed between friends in high school (you know, in the dark ages of the 80s, before texting 😂). I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with the story yet, but I’m having fun with creating the characters. I don’t usually write from a teenage POV. I hope to get back to it after the kids are in bed, but I wanted to post before the end of the day.

  6. My correspondence occurred in the 1920’s between a father who was in the Royal Navy and the eldest of three siblings he’d left at home in a rural Herefordshire village.
    I wrote 846 words but I feel I could keep adding to this exchange of letters. It’s addictive!
    I am enjoying this site so much. Thank you!

  7. 7 year old exchanges letters with her grandmother. I wanted to see if I could create the character of the girl’s mother/grandmother’s daughter from their letters. I like what I have so far.

  8. This was fun and gave me a chance to expand on something in my project. The one thing connecting one of the main protagonists and their grandparents is the collection of postcards. I had only referenced them in different stages of the character’s life. This allowed me to have fun and write them out (yes, on actual postcards, so another typing day needed), finding a few fun details along the way.

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