Please give me suggestions on how to improve this epistolary narrative based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  PART 2: Her Illusions and fraudulent wiles lead men to their...

Please give me suggestions on how to improve this epistolary narrative based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. 


Her Illusions and fraudulent wiles lead men to their demise, my father upon one of them. She was a woman who loved not chastity, her life she led in great wantonness, in filth and lust of lechery.

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gojsawyer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In today’s modern world of electronic communication, some of which does not even use full words and sentences (e.g. text messages), writing an epistolary narrative is a worthy intellectual and writing exercise that recalls the past, certainly before cell phones and even before television and radio. In the time of poets such as Tennyson, people communicated their innermost thoughts and feelings to each other in writing, through letters, and to themselves, through journals and diaries. Letters, journals, and diaries of people in the past were not necessarily meant for publication by their authors, who wrote as if for their eyes only or for that of the person to which the writing was addressed. As such, an epistolary narrative should express thoughts and feelings intimately and convey ideas as if there were no other way to communicate intense experiences. Contemporary readers of epistolary narratives should come away with a feeling that they are being told a secret, that they are stumbling upon what has been written almost as if by accident. Very little in the writing should be left to mystery or to the imagination, and thoughts, feelings and ideas should be expressed as explicitly as possible.

An epistolary narrative, means, quite simply, to write letter. The root word of the word “epistolary” is “epistle,” which describes a special type of letter to a person or to a group and connotes an intensity of the message contained in the letter.

As such, in reference to writing an epistolary letter in response to Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” the above is a good start. In Part II  of the poem, Tennyson describes the title character as having a “curse on her.”  Below are some suggestions for improving the epistolary letter relative to the so-called “curse”:

1. Specify innermost thoughts and feelings. A few of the phrases paint a broad-stroked picture that assumes that the reader should know what the writer means, and, as such, lack clarity and emotional impact.  For example, at the end of the first paragraph,  try writing more directly as to what “sins” and which “punishment” and relate that to the emotional impact of being punished for those sins.

2. Show, rather than tell, in writing descriptions with adjectives and verbs. For example, in first sentence of the third paragraph, the description “beautifully engraved” could reflect more detail. Try writing as if the reader has no idea what the necklace looks like and that this information is vitally important to understanding the emotional viewpoint of the writer. It seems odd that the writer would find something which curses her “beautiful,” yet also suggests a duality that is worth exploring in more depth.
An epistolary narrative is certainly not a common way to write given the modern tendency and, indeed, necessity to convey information, rather than depth of details and emotions in everyday writing. As an exercise, writing an epistolary narrative that reflects emotional depth and vivid descriptions may improve other types of writing. Good luck!

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The Lady of Shalott

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