PDA

View Full Version : How about letters in novels?



Pamster
07-09-2007, 04:19 AM
In my first novel I have a letter from the MC's father, who died, come to the MC and I wanted to see what you all think of having a letter from one character to another and see if it is something you've ever done. :)

Marian Perera
07-09-2007, 04:29 AM
In my first novel I have a letter from the MC's father, who died, come to the MC and I wanted to see what you all think of having a letter from one character to another and see if it is something you've ever done. :)

I wrote the first chapter of a medieval romance novel which begins with the heroine receiving a letter from her fiancee, whom she has recently slept with for the first time. The letter says,


I have given much thought to our betrothal, and I am sorry to inform you that I have changed my mind. Upon consideration, I believe that a marriage between us would be neither suitable nor successful. My needs in a wife include some degree of propriety and restraint; I believe you understand my meaning. I am more than willing to overlook your interest in trade and business, rather than in more feminine pursuits; in fact, I rather admire you for it. However, I am afraid your intemperance is a far more serious manner. What I have enjoyed may be just as easily offered to another man, and I am sure you agree that this would be disastrous to any marriage. Therefore, I have decided that we shall remain friends, undoubtedly a far more tenable situation than lawful wedlock.

I have already written to your cousin to inform him of my decision. Of course, I have not gone into the details of my reasons. You need have no fear on that account.

I trust that you will find happiness some day, by whatever means left to you.

Shortly afterwards, he sends another letter, a very short one.


An addendum to my letter. If you find yourself with child, please be sure to inform me. I would be happy to adopt any child of yours that I father, and since I plan to marry soon, you may be assured that the child would have a good and secure home. If you are not with child, please disregard this.

I named the heroine after a good friend of mine. When my friend read the letters her namesake received, she wanted the fiancee to die. :D

Chumplet
07-09-2007, 04:33 AM
If the message is short, I usually just italicize it. If it's long, like a letter, you could indent it on both sides and maybe italicize that, too.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
07-09-2007, 04:53 AM
There were several letters in my second historical, from various characters to various other characters - they all served in some way to give detail of historical events happening outside the main plot. Saved a lot of 'info dump' that way. :)

blacbird
07-09-2007, 07:07 AM
It's been done by many many writers, since novels were invented as a form of literary expression. Many of the earlier classics consist of little or nothing except letters (epistolary novels), and writers continue using the technique today. Not the least unusual, and nothing wrong with it. Proceed.

caw

maestrowork
07-09-2007, 07:31 AM
Read my book. :)

I have a whole chapter of nothing but letters. My readers like them.

Pamster
07-09-2007, 03:29 PM
Thanks everyone, I figured it was a good device to us in novels. I think it's easy to do it badly though. So it shouldn't be overused, but if you go with your gut and do what 'feels right' odds are the readers will enjoy it too.

Thanks all, AW as usual rocks! ;)

maestrowork
07-09-2007, 08:00 PM
Contemporary novels tend to favor e-mail now. It makes sense. I mean, I just asked myself: When was the last time I actually wrote a letter? I can't remember.

E-Mail is the new literary expression of the 21st century.

Azure Skye
07-09-2007, 08:22 PM
Read my book. :)

I have a whole chapter of nothing but letters. My readers like them.

How did you format that for submission?

maestrowork
07-09-2007, 09:27 PM
The normal way. It's pretty clear that the block of text are "letters" and I don't think I italicized the whole thing -- that would be really hard to read.

Pamster
07-09-2007, 09:30 PM
I took out all italics and bold from my novel, isn't that the right thing to do? Thanks for the replies. :D

Summerwriter
09-22-2007, 10:44 PM
It's been done by many many writers, since novels were invented as a form of literary expression. Many of the earlier classics consist of little or nothing except letters (epistolary novels), and writers continue using the technique today. Not the least unusual, and nothing wrong with it. Proceed.

caw

Hi Blacbird!
I am glad to hear the letters are not a no-no.

Summerwriter
09-22-2007, 10:46 PM
Read my book. :)

I have a whole chapter of nothing but letters. My readers like them.

Oh Maestrowork! That is interesting - and good to know. That sounds good. In one version of the BdH I thought there could be letters from the female MC to other characters. But then I turned them down. Oh well...At least I know the letters are not strictly forbidden. And that you can use them much if needed.

melaniehoo
09-22-2007, 10:55 PM
I have one email in my MS so far, and I'm going to try to add a few more so it's not jarring, esp since it's towards the end.

PeeDee
09-22-2007, 11:08 PM
Hi Blacbird!
I am glad to hear the letters are not a no-no.

ANd who cares, even if they were? Do 'em anyway. Rage against that machine. It's the joy of writing.

PenTeller
09-22-2007, 11:16 PM
Children's book, but has anyone read Daddy Long Legs? It's written completely in letters (and I find it rather endearing).

Harper K
09-23-2007, 02:09 AM
I've read a couple novels where the entire book was one letter -- i.e., one character writing to another character. If it's done well, it's really effective. Marilynne Robinson's Gilead (about a dying man writing to his very young daughter) won the Pulitzer a couple years ago, and Nancy Werlin's The Rules of Survival (about a teenage boy writing to his younger sister) was up for the National Book Award.

I started writing the 3rd draft of my WIP in that format, but it got kind of awkward. It helps for the letter recipient to be somewhat removed from the story itself. Also, you have to have a really good reason for someone to be writing a letter of more than 60,000 words.

But I've read plenty of books where the entire thing was told in letters sent back and forth between two or more people. Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw comes to mind. Great middle-grade book from the 80s.

veinglory
09-23-2007, 02:12 AM
As I recall Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has letters in her books in italics.

Sohia Rose
09-23-2007, 06:58 AM
I've got letters, emails, text messages and Gmail/Yahoo instant messenger chats in my memoir.

Chasing the Horizon
09-23-2007, 08:48 AM
I've got letters, telegrams, diary entries, and poetry (all supposedly written by the characters) in my novels. I've seen those techniques used dozens of times in novels and actually never even thought twice about doing it. To me, it seems pretty normal.

My favorite way for letters to be formatted within novels (assuming the letters are an occasional occurrences and not the majority of the book) is to see them printed in a different font which actually looks like handwriting (but still easily legible). Several of Stephen King's books include letters printed this way and I think it looks really, really nice. Now as for how this translates for an MS submission, I have no idea, LOL.

Lyra Jean
09-23-2007, 10:13 AM
I have an entire short story made of nothing but letters. In fact of my three shorts it's the only story I have published. So I don't see a problem with it. I've been thinking of trying to write another using letters.

BigRed
09-23-2007, 04:52 PM
My novel pretty much hinges on a letter written to the MC from his (missing) best friend. So if letters in novels were a no-no, I'd be in trouble! BTW, Queen of Swords, if I was your MC, I'd go after my ex with a rusty knife and he'd soon be singing soprano, if you get my drift! ;)

Marlys
09-23-2007, 04:59 PM
I took out all italics and bold from my novel, isn't that the right thing to do? Thanks for the replies. :D
Bold text doesn't belong in fiction, but italics can be useful and even required at times (titles of books, for instance). My editor doesn't like a lot of italics, though, so I try to keep that in mind when I'm writing.

ccarver30
09-25-2007, 05:18 PM
I have an invitation in mine and changed the font and blocked it. I think it worked well.