Monday, January 21, 2019

Lessons on Epistolary Writing

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Hey, Night Writers. I've been wanting to write an epistolary style novel for a while now. This is a style of writing where the story is written out as a series of documents or in various forms of communication. Finally, the right story has come along for me to apply this and I thought I'd share some of the key lessons I've learned.

1. Choose Forms of Communication. Once you know what story you want to tell, start to consider the different forms of communication that will best convey it. Think about the time period your story is set in. You don't need to limit yourself to letters and diaries. There are newspapers, telegrams, invitations, emails, texts, shipping logs and manifests, police and doctor reports, and the list goes on. If it is set in the future, imagine of all the ways we could communicate then. The possibilities are endless. However, each entry has to have a purpose and move the story forward. Too many types and the reader may become confused unless clearly connected.

2. Create a Timeline. Once you decide what types of documents you want to add, you needed a timeline for them to be compiled in. Letters, for example, need time to be received, read, and responded to. Having a timeline will help with pacing and tension, as well, showing you what details need to be revealed and when.
Tip: If you are including any true historical events/dates, start there and work your way back and/or forward along the timeline.

3. Write Distinct Character Voices. Consider who the narrator is. Is one person writing? Two people communicating back and forth? Or a compilation of many forms of documents. In each case, the character's voice should be distinctive. Even if there is only one narrator, their voice should be appropriate for the form of document you are writing and for their intended audience. What one writes in their diary is very different from what they might write in a letter to their mother or text to their lover.

4. Tell not Show.  This form of writing gives a feeling of realism because it is conversational. And we don't normally speak like a novel, we eliminate things like body language and mood setting when we are telling another or writing down an event. The challenge here is to not give details that a character wouldn't naturally give. To do so pulls back the curtain and reveals the author, breaking the illusion of reality.

5. Read. Here are a few examples of epistolary style novels. You can find many more at 100 Must-Read Epistolary Novels. The best lesson is to read as much as you can.
  • Classic - Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Contemporary - Carrie by Stephen King
  • Futuristic - Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Have you written an epistolary style story? Do you have any other tips for writing in this style? Have you read epistolary style novel? What did you like or not like about them? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Stay beautifully haunted, Night Writers,
🖤 Shadow.

Stay Connected! 
Subscribe to Author Shadow Leitner's Newsletter.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Wicked Writer Workouts

Today is about getting physical. Now, I'm far from what you would consider athletic, coordinated or even inclined to venture outdoors. However, if I didn't plan some kind of physical activity in my daily schedule I would petrify like an ancient bloodless vampire by being sedentary for too long. Let's face it, writers spend A LOT of time with their butt in a chair and the only thing getting a workout are their fingers.

While I'm not liable to run out and join a Monster Cycle spin class (though it sounds incredibly cool, it would probably kill me) I do need to move. My requirements for said movements are that it is fun, easy, and not too time consuming, because, I've got books to write. I'm sure you do too.

So here are some wicked good ways to get moving, no fancy equipment required.

1. Lazy Ghoul Workouts. There are a lot of quick and easy workouts for lazy ghouls like me. Here are a few great links and videos to check out.

  • They have a lot of fun, quick workouts with fun names and PICTURES. Pictures are key because some of us don't speak Exercise. Hell, if the instructions only TOLD me to do 12 burpees, I would've probably grabbed a soda and hoped for the best. (Yes, I know. You can put me in yoga pants, but you can not take me to the gym.)
  • Christina has several different Lazy Girl workouts focusing on different parts of the body. She also has pictures, videos, the works. 
  • Love, Sweat, Fitness has a great Lazy Girl workout video and is probably the one I do the most. 

2. Yoga. Both Yoga and Meditation are important to me as a writer and I highly recommend adding them to your routine. Yoga to stretch out those kinked slumped shoulders and Meditation to help you figure out what the hell is wrong with your second act. Here are some poses to get you started.

3. Dance. Make like a witch and dance under the full moon, sans nudity, of course. Actually, I'm a huge fan of living room dancing, nude or otherwise. (Mostly otherwise, because I have kids and that would be . . . um . . . awkward.) My suggestion is put on your favorite dance music and just go with it. Better yet, pull out those glow-in-the-dark sticks left over from Halloween and that neon makeup (ask your teenage daughter), turn off the lights and you'll have a rave going on in your own living room. My kids love this one, we have a blast. Family time, check. Workout, check.

4. Walk.  This one you will have to leave the house for (unless you have fancy equipment), but I promise it will be well worth it. Some ideas to make it easier are, put on an audiobook, speak to your muse, join a virtual race (I use and love Yes.Fit), drag friends or family along, get a dog. Oh wait, I said easier, didn't I?

And finally, don't forget to Reward yourself. Positive reinforcement will help keep you motivated. Set a goal and once you've reached it, reward yourself. Buy yourself some bath bombs (and actually take a bath with them), eat chocolate, buy yourself cool ghoulish workout clothes, eat more chocolate, drink wine that comes from a bottle, then eat more chocolate. Okay, maybe that's too much chocolate, but you get the point. Love yourself and don't forget to move your body. If I can save one writer from becoming an ancient petrified vampire, my job here is done.

Bonus: Here is my Wicked Workout Playlist on Spotify to get you started. Add to it, use what you like, discard the rest. And have fun!

Stay beautifully haunted, Night Writers,
♥ Shadow.

Note: I'm not affiliated with any of the companies or links I've provided in this post.

Stay Connected! 
Subscribe to Author Shadow Leitner's Newsletter.