Writing an Epistolary Short Story

So I just finished the first draft of a short story done entirely as a text chat group conversation. This technically makes it an epistolary short story, though many of those are letters–ONE person writing at ONE time, usually but not always to ONE other person. This short story? Nine people writing to each other all simultaneously. It was a bit maddening.

As I wrote I realized I’d started forgetting about the “main” character, who I’d originally come up with mostly as a way into the more important characters. The problem with that, I realized, is there can’t really be such a character–you don’t see anything from their point of view. You just see the words on the screen. You get no insight about it, only what they literally say. While this “main” character is notable, it’s mostly at the beginning, and I could probably merge them into someone else. Other merges and cuts could ease up on how many characters are here, because it’s probably a bit overboard right now. (I mean, realistically it’s probably a bit below average, but realistically we’re not reading real people’s chat messages unless we’re the NSA or something.)

The major thing I plan to do while editing this though is to read it repeatedly, each time from the point of view of one of the characters to get a better idea of what and how long they might be thinking and typing to make it flow more naturally. Then in places where I kinda forgot about them in the first draft I can have them chime in more or have them send a brb message to explain the disappearance. This is kind of the idea I probably had when I came up with the “main” character, but it’s not how anybody will actually be reading it.

This whole story is in part a test, too. Some years down the line I’d like to write an entire epistolary novel in this chat text program style. But dang, it’s pretty difficult when you’re juggling a lot of characters! I think I have a new respect for Andrew Hussie (Homestuck) now.

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