The Epistolary Novel is written as a series of letters from one or more of the characters. It could be all from just one character, an ongoing correspondence between two characters or letters from a variety of characters addressed to a number of different people.

Which form the novel takes can affect how information is revealed to us. If it is monologic then what we'll have is a single, possibly biased, view, and we may have to read between the lines to get the subtext or to note the characterization that comes through. When between just two characters, these novels are often love letters, or the restriction to just two characters will be used to compare the intimacy between these two compared to the rest of the world. When dealing with many characters, which could be many-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many, we can compare how one character treats two different characters, what they reveal in one case compared to another, etc. We can also return to the practice of revealing information not revealed to some of the characters and introduce DramaticIrony.

Later on, books evolved to start using other devices than just letters. This gave rise to the ScrapbookStory format, of which this can be considered a subtrope.

An interesting case are epistolary novels that are co-written, ie have two authors. These can take the form of the two authors each adopting a character, and sending the in-character letters to the other author who responds with another in-character letter. This becomes comparable to a UsefulNotes/{{Roleplaying}} PlayByPostGame.

See also TheRashomon, LiteraryAgentHypothesis (authors will occasionally credit themselves as "compiler" or similar), and {{Diary}}.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder: Fan Fiction ]]

* The ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' fanfiction [[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3689325/1/The_Original_Naked_Quidditch_Match Naked Quidditch Match]] is written as a series of 'm-mails' between the characters in the days leading up to the aforementioned match. At the end, [[ScrapbookStory it switches to Lee Evans' commentary on it, then Rita Skeeter's article supplies the epilogue]].
* The appropriately named ''Series/DoctorWho'' fanfic [[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8619924/1/Epistolary-The-50-Years-Before-We-Were-Born "Epistolary: The Fifty Years Before We Were Born"]]'' is written as a series of letters and diary entries, following the lives of Amy and Rory after [[spoiler: they were stranded in the 1940s at the end of "The Angels Take Manhattan"]]

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* Popularised for use in English literature by Samuel Richardson with ''{{Pamela}}'' in 1740 and with ''Literature/{{Clarissa}}'' in 1748.
* OlderThanSteam: The TropeMaker is ''Prison of Love'' (''Cárcel de amor'') (1485) by Diego de San Pedro.
* ''Literature/FreedomAndNecessity'', by Stephen Brust and Emma Bull - 100% letters exchanged between the main characters, with a few authentic excerpts from ''The Times'' mixed in for verisimilitude.
* ''TheScrewtapeLetters'' by Creator/CSLewis.
** There's also the lesser known ''Letters to Malcolm; Chiefly on Prayer'', which was not so much a novel (although Malcolm himself is fictional) as a discussion on various aspects of Christianity, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin especially prayer.]]
* ''GriffinAndSabineAnExtraordinaryCorrespondence'' is presented in the form of postcards exchanged between the eponymous characters. (As one character begins to descend into insanity, the astute reader will note that the cards no longer bear postmarks.)
* ''TheColorPurple'', by Alice Walker, is entirely a collection of letters: some addressed to {{God}} (naturally never mailed); some addressed to the heroine's sister; and some from the sister to the heroine.
* ''Les Liaisons Dangereuses'' (''Literature/DangerousLiaisons'') is composed entirely of letters.
* ''Dear Enemy'' is composed of letters written to various people, some in response to incoming letters we never see.
* ''Literature/FannyHill'' by John Cleland, consisting of two long letters from the title character to a woman addressed simply as "Madam."
* Creator/JaneAusten's ''Literature/LadySusan'', which has been compared to ''Les Liaisons Dangereuses'' above, both for its structure and the similarity between Lady Susan and the Marquise de Merteuil. Also Jane Austen's self-parody ''Literature/LoveAndFreindship'' (Not a misspelling: that's how she spelled the title).
* ''Literature/TheBible'', a ScrapbookStory taken all together, contains Paul's Epistles which are just that - epistles, i.e. letters. Also, the Revelations of John of Patmos consist of letters to various Christian communities.
* ''Literature/WeNeedToTalkAboutKevin'' is a series of letters all from one woman, concerning her son, whose disturbed personality gets slowly revealed as each letter passes.
* Anne Frank framed her journal, published as ''Literature/DiaryOfAYoungGirl'', in the form of letters to her imaginary friend Kitty.
* ''Literature/DaddyLongLegs'', by Jean Webster consists solely of letters written by the protagonist.
* The Newbery Medal winner ''Dear Mr. Henshaw'' by Beverly Cleary consists entirely of the protagonist's letters to Mr. Henshaw (as well as his own diary entries).
** All of the 'letters', after the halfway point of the book, are actually diary entries; the protagonist's creative-writing teacher told him to pretend he was writing to someone to make it easier. The dropping of "Dear Mr. Henshaw" at the beginning of entries signifies his getting used to journaling.
* ''Literature/ThePerksOfBeingAWallflower'', by Stephen Chbosky, is ostensibly the letters of a teenage boy to a stranger.
* ''Literature/SorceryAndCecelia'', by Creator/PatriciaCWrede and Creator/CarolineStevermer, consists entirely of letters written between two protagonists, each voiced by one of the authors. There are currently three in the series, which is set in a RegencyEngland with magic.
* ''ZForZachariah'' is written in the form of the main protagonist's diary.
* ''Literature/{{Dracula}}'' is written as a collection of letters, ship's logs, and diary entries.
** Its unofficial sequels, ''Bloodline'' and ''Bloodline: Reckoning'' by Kate Cary, follow suit.
* ''LETTERS'', by John Barth, is an epistolary novel which consists of a series of letters in which Barth (or, at least, a character known as "The Author") and characters from his other books interact.
* The entirety of ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}'' is related via a series of letters from a ship's captain to his sister.
* The Griffin and Sabine books are presented in the form of postcards sent from Griffin to his penpal Sabine and vice versa.
** As is their parody, ''Sheldon and Mrs. Levine, An Excruciating Correspondence'' by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein
* EllaMinnowPea consists of letters written between the characters are communication becomes more and more difficult.
* Meg Cabot's ''The Boy Next Door'' is composed of emails sent between the characters.
* Creator/MarkTwain's [[http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/twainlfe.htm "Letters from the Earth"]]
* The Whalestoe Letters, by Mark Z. Danielewski consists of letters from Pelafina H. Lievre to her son, Johnny and is a companion piece to ''{{House Of Leaves}}''.
* Dorothy L. Sayers' ''The Documents in the Case''.
* Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield books are possibly the most creative example of epistolary narration. In order of publication, the books are ''FeelingSorryForCelia'', ''TheYearOfSecretAssignments'', ''TheMurderOfBindyMackenzie'', and ''TheGhostsOfAshburyHigh''.
* One of the stories in Bret Easton Ellis's collection ''The Informers'' is a series of letters written from a girl to Sean, the protagonist of his novel ''TheRulesOfAttraction''. [[spoiler: He never replies to any of them.]]
* A modern version: ''Literature/{{Exegesis}}'' is mostly composed of e-mails.
* Creator/DouglasCoupland's ''The Gum Thief'' is comprised of letters between two employees at an office supply store mixed with passages from one of their in-progress novel.
* Steve Kluger's ''My Most Excellent Year'', told in school assignments, websites (Augie updates his to include "Diva of the Month"), emails - the works.
* ''Literature/CountAndCountess'' by Rose Christo is a series of letters that UsefulNotes/VladTheImpaler and Elizabeth Bathory secretly send to one another despite living one hundred years apart in time.
* The first half of Creator/HPLovecraft's novella, ''The Whisperer in Darkness'' consists almost entirely of a correspondence of letters exchanged between the first-person narrator and another character, until the protagonist decides to visit his penfriend in person.
* Cecilia Ahern's ''Where Rainbows End'' is written almost solely in letters and e-mails.
* James Mills' "Report to the Commissioner" consists entirely of official documents and transcripts
* ''e'' by Matt Beaumont is told through a series of e-mails. The second sequel ''e Squared'' also contained text messages.
* ''Anne of Windy Poplars'', chronologically the fourth book of the ''Literature/AnneOfGreenGables'' series, is composed of Anne's letters to Gilbert while she is teaching at Summerside High School and he is attending med school.
* ''Literature/LettersToHisSon'' is one made up of real letters, unlike most of the other examples. Of course, the Earl of Chesterfield had not exactly planned to publish them.
* StephenKing 's short story "Jerusalem's Lot" (published in ''Literature/NightShift'') is a series of letters from the narrator to a colleague of his.
* While not a novel, Creator/{{Ovid}}'s ''Heroides'' is a collection of letters from famous women to men they loved. Quite a few are addressed to men who abandoned them, the heroes of ClassicalMythology frequently being a pack of {{Jerkass}}es; two of this type are intended for Jason of the Argonauts.
* ''Literature/CorrespondenceFromTheGoddess'' is an ongoing WebSerialNovel published as a series of letters from Lydia Devin, a seemingly normal woman who unexpectedly became all-powerful, to humanity, with introductions from Elana Devin, her sister and conscience - at least, at first.
* The books of ''Franchise/EmilyTheStrange'' are written by Emily in diary form.

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[[folder: Music ]]

* "Stan" by Music/{{Eminem}} is framed as a correspondence between a psycho fan ("Stan") and his favorite rapper.
** Christian rapper KJ-52 then wrote "Dear Slim" parts 1 and 2, which were a respectful call to Eminem to be careful with the great influence he has over his fanbase, also letting him know he was praying for him (this was all taken by much of the music industry as an [[CompletelyMissingThePoint insult]], but not by Eminem himself). Eminem later wrote "Careful What You Wish For," in which he talks about how someone told him he was praying for him, and says that he's thankful but he believes he's already got God on his side.
* "Adam's Song" by Music/{{Blink182}} is a suicide note.
* "A Letter To Elise" by Music/TheCure is, presumably, a letter to Elise.
* For that matter, there's also Music/TomWaits' [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis."]]
* "I'm All Right" by {{Twizted}} is a suicide note asking the reader not to mourn.
* "Boots of Spanish Leather" by Music/BobDylan alternates each verse between letters sent by two lovers temporarily separated across the Atlantic.
* "Strawberry Letter 23" by Shuggie Otis and {{covered up}} by The Brothers Johnson is a reply to a much anticipated love letter from the singer's girlfriend.

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''NorthernExposure'' had a tie-in book called ''Letters From Cicely'', which was ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. Highlights included Joel thanking his parents for sending him lox from New York and asking for a recipe, it being smoked salmon and all.

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[[folder: Radio ]]

* The radio drama ''Beethoven Lives Upstairs'' is a series of letters between a young boy whose family has taken Beethoven in as a lodger and his uncle, a student of music.
* TheBBC Radio 4 (and [[SoundToScreenAdaptation later]] {{ITV}}) series ''Ladies of Letters''.
* TheBBC Radio 4 series ''Radio/WarhorsesOfLetters'', about the love letters sent between Napoleon's horse and Wellington's.

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[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* ''{{TabletopGame/Shadowrun}}'' and ''{{TabletopGame/Cyberpunk}}'' have many sourcebooks that read this way, using combinations of internet postings, news article commentary, and chat room transcripts to advance the background stories.

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[[folder: Theatre ]]

* The play ''Love Letters'' by A.R. Gurney is the correspondence between two characters; Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III over 50 years.
* ''{{Theatre/Passion}}'' and the musical version of ''Literature/DaddyLongLegs'' are both epistolary musicals.
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