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Documents and Papers


A significant number of brief fictional texts mimic actual documents, both personal and professional. In an age when realism was a prominent and innovative aspect of literary culture, offering the evidence of documentary proof held real appeal. This practice could ground even fantastical stories in the realist mode.

Much like the early epistolary novels, a short story might take the form of several letters. In fact, the briefer length of a piece of short fiction lends itself more naturally to a grouping of several letters than does the length of a novel. In addition, stories could present themselves as diaries or memoirs.

Other stories take the form of notes, or narratives based upon notes, written by a medical, legal, or business professional. This is a technique that was particularly well-suited for the emergent genre of detective or mystery fiction. Prominent examples include Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ stories.

Significant Terms

Selected Examples