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, i.e. 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}}.


[[folder: Fan Fiction ]]

* ''FanFic/TheHandkerchiefFiles'' is a ''Literature/TheHobbit'' fanfic told entirely through letters between Gandalf and Saruman (with one letter from Radagast).
* The ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' fanfiction [[ 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 ''[[ 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"]].
* The ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fanfic [[ Yes, Apple Bloom, there is a Santa Hooves]] consists of a series of letters recording the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Applejack corresponding with Equestria's equivalent to Santa Claus.
* ''[[ Sub Rosa]]'' is a ''Literature/SherlockHolmes'' fanfic that depicts a series of telegrams sent between Holmes and Mycroft during the former's time in hiding after his faked death.
* ''[[ As It Was Written]]'' is written as a series of diary entries/letters by [[Anime/KillLaKill Satsuki Kiryuin]] from age 5 to 18
* The first third or so of ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier'' consists of a series of blog entries, mostly written by [[VideoGame/KerbalSpaceProgram Jebediah Kerman]], and the comments underneath them. Blog entries appear a few times throughout the rest of the story as a CaptainsLog-esque framing device for a bit of exposition. It also functions as a FourthWallMailSlot, as the blog's comments and Q&A questions are nearly all supplied by the early readers of the story.
* ''Paper Cranes'' is written as this and a {{Diary}}, as Ryuuko writes her letters to her passed-on IllGirl sister Satsuki in a diary that the latter had given her.
* ''Across the Waking Sea'', a side volume in the ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' fic series ''Fanfic/TwiceUponAnAge'', consists entirely of letters exchanged between [[TheStoryteller Varric Tethras]] and [[ShipTease Bethany Hawke]].
* ''Stars'' is a ''Disney/{{Zootopia}}'' fanfic that takes the form of a string of e-mails and text messages exchanged between Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde during the latter's time at police academy.

[[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.
* ''Literature/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.]]
* ''Literature/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.)
* ''Literature/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).
** Early drafts of her ''Literature/SenseAndSensibility'' were written this way, under the name ''Elinor and Marianne''.
* ''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, Judy Abbott. Its sequel, ''My Dear Enemy,'' has the new protagonist, Sallie, writing letters to her old friend Judy and other characters.
* The UsefulNotes/NewberyMedal winner ''Literature/DearMrHenshaw'' 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.
* ''Literature/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
* ''Literature/EllaMinnowPea'' consists of letters written between the characters, demonstrating the effects of the increasingly stringent and hard-to-follow laws [[ItMakesSenseInContext forbidding the use of certain letters of the alphabet]]. Some copies of the book feature the subtitle "[[{{Pun}} A Novel in Letters]]".
* Meg Cabot's ''The Boy Next Door'' is composed of emails sent between the characters.
* Creator/MarkTwain's [[ "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 ''Literature/{{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 ''Literature/FeelingSorryForCelia'', ''Literature/TheYearOfSecretAssignments'', ''Literature/TheMurderOfBindyMackenzie'', and ''Literature/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 ''Literature/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 ''Literature/TheWhispererInDarkness'' consists largely of a correspondence of letters exchanged between Professor Wilmarth and Henry Akeley, with some bridging narration by Wilmarth, until Wilmarth 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.
* Creator/StephenKing 's short story "Jerusalem's Lot" (published in ''Literature/NightShift'') is a series of letters from the narrator to a colleague of his. He uses letters, newspaper and magazine articles, court transcripts and police reports in ''Literature/{{Carrie}}'', giving the story a strong sense of immediacy.
* ''The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'' by Mary Ann Shaffer and Ann Barrows (the latter finished the book after [[AuthorExistenceFailure Shaffer passed away]]), which is the collected correspondence between a London writer and the natives of [[UsefulNotes/TheChannelIslands the island of Guernsey]], who started a book club to keep morale up during the German occupation of WWII.
* 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 Myth/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.
* A.S. Byatt's ''Literature/{{Possession}}'' revolves around a pair of modern day scholars discovering the letters of two fictional Victorian poets. Various [[{{Diary}} diaries]] are also quoted at length.
* ''Literature/TheLettersFromNicodemus'' are twenty five letters from the titular Nicodemus to his old mentor.
* Kathrine Kressman Taylor's short story "Addressee Unknown" is a series of letters between Max Eisenstein, a Jewish art gallery owner, and his friend and business partner, Martin Schulze, a gentile German who has returned with his family to the Fatherland. The letters span the period of 1932-33, and detail the split between the two partners: Max is first alarmed, then horrified at the rumors of what is happening to Jews in Germany, but Martin (and his family) is swept up in the current of the rise of the Third Reich.
* Lucy Kellaway's ''Who Moved My [=BlackBerry=]?'' is told through emails.


[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]

* ''Series/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.
* ''Series/{{MASH}}'' had numerous episodes in which a character writes a letter to somebody (narrated in voiceover) and relates various anecdotes shown in flashback.
** "Dear Dad", "Dear Dad... Again", "Dear Dad... Three", and "A Full Rich Day" all have Hawkeye writing a letter (or, in the case of the latter episode, tape-recording a message) to his father in Maine.
** Not the entire episode, but "Bulletin Board" has a scene of Trapper John writing to his daughter in this manner.
** "Radar's Report" has Radar writing a weekly report to HQ.
** "Dear Mildred" has Colonel Potter writing to his wife.
** "Dear Peggy" has B.J. writing to his wife.
** "Dear Ma" has Radar writing to his mother.
** "Dear Sigmund" has [[TheShrink Sidney Freedman]] writing a fanciful letter to Sigmund Freud while visiting the 4077.
** "The Most Unforgettable Characters" has Radar jotting down anecdotes for a creative writing course.
** "The Winchester Tapes" has Charles tape-recording a letter to his parents.
** "Dear Comrade" has a North Korean spy (serving as a houseboy to Charles) writing to his superiors.
** "Dear Sis" has Father Mulcahy writing to his sister the nun.
** "Dear Uncle Abdul" has Klinger writing to his uncle.
** "Letters" has ''all'' the characters writing to schoolchildren in Hawkeye's hometown.
** "Give 'Em Hell, Hawkeye" has Hawkeye writing to President Truman.


[[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.
* "Care of Cell 44" by Music/TheZombies is addressed to the narrator's lover who's awaiting release from prison.
* "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.
* Two different songs called "P.S. I Love You". One is an old Johnny Mercer standard, the other is by Music/TheBeatles.
* "Dear Eloise" by Music/TheHollies has the narrator writing to console his ex-girlfriend, who's been abandoned by her newer lover, and in the hopes that they can get back together.
* "Indiana Wants Me" by R. Dean Taylor is a letter from the narrator, who's on the run from police for a murder he committed, to his wife/girlfriend.


[[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.
* Creator/TheBBC Radio 4 (and [[SoundToScreenAdaptation later]] Creator/{{ITV}}) series ''Ladies of Letters''.
* Creator/TheBBC Radio 4 series ''Radio/WarhorsesOfLetters'', about the love letters sent between Napoleon's horse and Wellington's.


[[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.


[[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.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The narration of ''VideoGame/DearEsther'' consists of snippets of letters addressed to someone called Esther, voiced out by a male character as the player wanders around a haunted island.
-->''"Dear Esther, I sometimes feel as if I've given birth to this island..."''


[[folder: Web Originals ]]

* ''Literature/BabeRuthManTankGladiator'' is written by a 39th century priest in the style of a twenty-first century WebSerialNovel.
* [[Machinima/RedVsBlueTheRecollection Season six]] of ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' begins [[OnceAnEpisode each episode]] with a dramatic reading of a memo from the Director of Project Freelancer to the Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, or vice-versa. Who writes to whom alternates between episodes, so each episode begins with a reply to the memo sent in the previous episode.
* Though the podcast ''Podcast/AliceIsntDead'' takes the form of a CaptainsLog recorded by a driver in the cabin of her truck, it's also a monologic epistolary. In her logs, the {{Narrator}} speaks throughout as though she's addressing her wife, Alice, occasionally adding commentary that implies she expects Alice to listen through them if they reunite.
-->'''Narrator:''' I know what you're thinking, Alice. "This is intentional avoidance." I don't have to explain myself to you. But I will.