story letters

It’s probably clear to some of you by now that I’m a persnickety reader. *Say it ain’t so, Kris!*

There are things (ie themes such as infidelity) I don’t like outright and there are things (eg 1st POV) of which I’m not a particular fan. Most times I’m willing to be convinced; that is, to see if they work within the context of the story or if any issues I usually have can be forgiven in the face of the sheer awesomeness of the work as a whole.

In the past week I’ve discovered yet another *NO! Really?!* device (I guess) that, while I don’t want to kill it dead, does make me feel ‘meh’.

What am I raving on about pontificating on now?? It’s the reproduction of a letter within a story. *Oh. Of course.* *rolls eyes*

Yes, letters, like diary entries, newspaper articles, etc are (mostly) used when they are relevant to the story or to highlight/ foreshadow/ whatever a particular event in the plot, blahdy, blah, blah.

What I want to know though, is how many readers out there actually read these letters, either in part or in their entirety?? Cos I generally don’t.

The question I ask myself when I come across them in a story is ‘do I think this will progress the plot?’ If the answer is ‘no, it looks like a piece of authorly self-indulgence to me’, I skip ’em… and usually thank the Book Goddesses that I did so as I flip through endless pages.

So, what do you do? Are you a skipper? Or do you read and then castigate yourself for wasting valuable reading time??

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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27 Responses to story letters

  1. Tam says:

    My god, how long was the letter? I don't think I've ever run across something more than a page or so. That really doesn't cut too much out of my day to read it. πŸ˜› I'm a fast reader and I suppose if it didn't seem all that relevant I would skim it to see if any part of it seemed very relevant. But I also skim other parts of stories sometimes. Long descriptions of places, I don't need every detail about pain color, carpet, artwork, vases on the mantle, etc. I'm content to say “green walls with a large rug and several paintings”. That's enough. Unless some detail in the room is particularly relevant to the plot I don't need a three page description of something.

    But I've never noticed anything with letters to date. Oh wait, yes I did, the history lesson. Umm, I skimmed.

  2. Sean Kennedy says:

    I don't know why I read you anymore. If it's not the blatant attacks on 1st person POV, I now come across this entry and realise that there is a letter in the first chapter of my next book. Oh, and in the epilogue.

    *runs off crying into the wilderness, never to be seen again*

  3. Tam says:

    Its okay baby, she didn't mean you. She'll read it, honest. *pats Sean on the head and gives him a cookie*

  4. Kris says:

    It was BLOODY long and don't even get me started about the length of letters, availability of paper, etc in ye olde days. It's that kind of little detail which pisses me off about historical romances.

    I speed read myself, but some stuff, well, I just can't see the value of reading if it doesn't really add anything to the story.

    Yeah, I skipped those letters and excerpts in that short story too… and they weren't even that long really.

  5. Sean Kennedy says:

    Tam, you're too nice to hang out here.

  6. Kris says:

    *Friggin' over-sensitive creative types, who better watch out how rude they are to very occasional reviewers!*

    *sigh* Sean, did I not say that I generally don't read 'em. You sound as though you are using the letters to set up and close the story, hence making them (I hope) relevant.

  7. azteclady says:



    I like them πŸ˜€ (well, the ones that I think sparked this post)

  8. Kris says:

    You did?? I handled the first one, but when I got to the second… meh!

    Me being a nitpicker about history stuff – I just think they're way too long for letters from that period.

    Also, it was a GUY who was writing them on a SHIP in the middle of NOWHERE. My believability warning sirens were going off like crazy.

  9. Ozakie says:


    Really, that must have been a very very long letter. I dont mind reading letters it switches up the pace of the story for me..

    For as first person pov, I really need u to at least try this novel I just finished reading, Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, which was AMAZING! The fact that the author is a straight man boggles my mind..Its so good Kris that I was sobbing and pretty much rarely happens to me if at all reading books..

  10. Kris says:

    *back after looking up “Call Me By Your Name*

    Dammit, Ozakie! What the hell are you doing giving me a recommendation like this when I'm on a book diet?! *pout*

    One letter was 6 1/2 pages and the other was just over 4 pages. It seemed endless at the time. πŸ˜‰

  11. azteclady says:

    Oh, see, I never once thought about the paper issue–and since the males in my family are all rather verbose both orally and in writing… well, that didn't get in my way either.

    But I'll save the rest of this for after July 1st, if I may? 'cause I have a ton of stuff to say… πŸ˜€

  12. Kris says:

    *g* Yes, now that I've reminded Orannia of her rules, we'd both better stop. LOL.

  13. K. Z. Snow says:

    The entire novel Dracula, I believe, is epistolary. (Don't have my copy handy at the moment, and if I creep into the bedroom with a flashlight, JLA will wig out…and not in a pink way). Quite a few classics were written in that form.

    Doesn't particularly bother me. I'd rather read some well-composed and relevant letters in a novel than, say, grating dialogue, especially if it's meant to mimic regional speech. (“Go find yerse'f some pretty wimmin, cowboy, and get off that thar stallion's goldanged tail!”) Eeesh.

  14. Kris says:

    I think there's a big difference between writing in the epistolary form or even consistent use of this technique throughout a book and the incorporation of one or two letters within the main body of the text. As with all techniques/ devices/ whatevers, relevancy is key.

    BTW, I'm with you on your preference of relevant letters to the use of accent in dialogue. Blech!

  15. Ingrid says:

    Too long is not good but a short bit is ok.
    Most of the time I like the short pieces at the start of a chapter from imaginary books. I see that more often in sci-fi though. I always feel proud of myself when I see the connection between that intro piece and the chapter.

  16. azteclady says:

    K. Z. Snow: I believe you are mostly right–Dracula was told as letters and diary entries by (if memory serves) three different characters. Mina, Jonathan and VanHelsing.

    Two of my favorite children/young tween books are written exclusively as letters: Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster. Oh sweet memories of childhood… πŸ˜€

  17. Tracy says:

    We were twins (infidelity and 1 ppov) until you said letters. I read them all. I read every word of every book – I'm strange that way. Now I can't say I don't roll my eyes if the letters are extraordinarily LONG but I do read them.

    Sean – I'm with Tam…Kris didn't mean you. Here's another cookie.

    Kris – what the hell were you reading?

  18. Jenre says:

    I don't mind letters too much if they add to the overall plot. I do agree though that my eyes start to glaze over if they are too long!

    Les Liasons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton is an extremely compelling epistolary novel. After a while you forget that they are letters at all.

  19. Ingrid says:

    Jen, I rather see the movie. And not the one with Michelle Pfeiffer but Valmont, the brit/french version with Colin Firth and Annet Benning.

  20. Jenre says:

    Hey Ingrid
    Haven't seen that version. Coin Firth, eh? Yum, yum.

  21. Ingrid says:

    A young Colin firth πŸ™‚

    The girl they seduce actually looks 15 and I love ms Benning in this movie. So mean while looking so sweet.

  22. Lily says:

    I don't generally mind letters but then again I've never seen such a long one in any book I've read.

    I'm with Tam, I'd probably skim thru some of the letter. I sometimes tend to do that if things get too descriptive and I don't feel it's necessary to the flow of the story.

    Btw, what on Earth were you reading?


  23. Kris says:

    Ingrid: I quite like that technique as well. Julia Quinn uses this very successfully in her Lady Whistledown historical romance series and there are a couple of others that I've come across too. I can't recall the name of the series at the moment but there is a one in fantasy that uses bits of a prediction at the beginning of each chapter to foreshadow what was to come. It was very good.

    Azteclady: God, I haven't thought about Daddy-Long-Legs for years. I just checked my shelves and I still have it. πŸ™‚

    Tracy: Broken Wing. 😦 We're not twins any more?? 😦 x 2.

  24. Kris says:

    Jen: I guess that was my main point. That letters, like all things, have to add something to the plot, but 6 1/2 or 4 and a bit pages?? Good lord!

    Jen & Ingrid: Didn't they do a US teenybopper version of that?? It had Buffy in it.

    Lily: Yay – another skimmer. πŸ˜‰

    It's a m/f historical romance called Broken Wing. Orannia made me read it.

  25. K. Z. Snow says:

    Thanks, AL! Yup, I forgot the diary entries. Haven't read Dracula in years but keep meaning to get back to it (hence its place in the TBR line-up on the shelf at the head of the bed.)

  26. Tracy says:

    How did I KNOW you were going to say that? See – we're still twins. If I remember correctly the letter in that was freakishly long. I wasn't a huge fan of the book. It was good but not great so I'm right there with ya.

  27. Kris says:

    Tracy: Phew! πŸ™‚

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