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My novel is an epistolary à la Bram Stoker's Dracula and there are some scenes that simply have no one around to record. Modern epistolary stories, such as the trend of “found footage” movies like Apollo 18, tend to leave these undocumented scenes blank to add mystery.

I feel my story has expository scenes which simply can’t reside in an epistolary (largely because this is telling of true events in a fictional setting).

I am certain with enough effort, I could concoct some way to put the expository elements into someone’s journal, and then have that journal find its way to the narrator somehow. But it will be a large investment and add distracting pages. Because the protagonist journal exposes the central plot, I would like to know what value-add a story gets by maintaining a purist first-person POV.

The fastest way to get through exposition is a 3P Deep narrator. Will this tend to devalue an epistolary story?

Note: It is Vol. I of III; the sequel may well be 3PD straight through, but the world (literary universe–not the planet literally) essentially reacts to the events discovered in the footage.

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  • What do you mean by "3PD"?
    – user54131
    Feb 28, 2022 at 6:40
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    Third Person Deep - I'll edit...
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 28, 2022 at 6:50

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Does third person deep POV inside an epistolary novel detract from the suspense?

No. But, I don't think that is what you are really asking about. I am guessing you are looking at some of your ideas for scenes, and are thinking they can't rationally work in the epistolary form. So you are thinking of writing them in 3rd person.

While I am not a big fan of the epistolary form, nothing against it mind you, just not always impressed by its execution, you can represent any scene in some epistolary form, if you are willing to shift the medium. In Call of Cthulu, some pieces are letters written by an off screen character whom we never meet. Some scenes are delivered through news clippings. Mysterious Deaths. Pacific Islands Exploding. The stories are written in such a way that we can piece together the events and have a satisfying and engaging story.

In 'A Study in Emerald,' Gaiman uses plays as a stand in for epistolary story telling -- using the performances to show how the elder gods subjugated and now rule the British empire.

If your story, if you use it as part of your world's mythology or popular culture, then you can cut to performances of TV shows or plays of artists' interpretations of events that happened. They can even have things wrong, through ignorance or artistic embellishment.

You can have ivory tower intellectuals arguing facts -- some wrong and some right -- to share what happened in those scenes where it wouldn't make sense for someone to write it down.

You can even have regular people arguing about it and what it meant. Whether friends over a beer or Clergymen arguing the latest conspiracy theory. Everybody ignorant, embellishing and guessing, and getting some things correct and others not so much.

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  • “Ivory tower intellectuals…” I was thinking of Ender’s Game while writing this. Orson Scott Card skips to the brief closed-door dialogue every third or second chapter. But he folds them into the narrative eventually.
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:49
  • Good feedback. Stoker remains a master at the format, never once breaking to a narrator while vampires climb the castle walls in the middle of the night. I don’t know if an audience cares today because now it’s just “we found a camera in the woods and pressed play.” OK. That puts me off personally, as the artist.
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:55
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There is no rule that says you can't mix first person and other types of POVs. The only thing that might cause problems for you is if you have several first persons' POVs, but even that can be overcome, as long as each person has a distinctive voice.

With regards to adding more information to the story in other formats, check out The Cloud Atlas (book and movie) and The Winds of War and War and Remembrance (also book and TV show), especially the von Roon character/the narrator in the TV show.

These stories show that one book does not have to follow a given format or even be of a single type or genre. von Roon represented as a character/the narrator in the TV show was only represented as chapters from a memoir by Wouk in the books.

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