Emily Ruth Verona | Tor.com
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Emily Ruth Verona

Eight Incredible Examples of Epistolary Horror

“I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”

—excerpt from Mina Murray’s diary, Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

The epistolary format weaves a powerful illusion of authenticity, framing fiction as real-life, firsthand surviving documentation. In the same way the warning “based on a true story…” sends a chill through the spine at the start of a scary movie, the voyueristic sense of realness sets the stage for epistolary horror to unfold. Letters, diaries, phone records, emails, police reports—these are all dated or even time-stamped in epistolary fiction, presented in very specific and sometimes extremely official-looking ways. It makes the story feel real, as if the reader is discovering an old box of loose papers that they shouldn’t be looking at—it seems excessively personal and fascinates us almost in the same way that true crime can fascinate. The reader gets pulled into the details, wrapped up in the cleverly crafted reflections and echoes of reality…

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