Exploring "fraudulent artifacts" as form.

Over 150 Extensive Artifact Forms for Fiction or Nonfiction


Note: This isn't exhaustive. And many could fall under multiple categories. 

How-to guides, instructions, and manuals

  1. Lorrie Moore's "How To Become a Writer"
  2. Lauren Schenckman's "A Guide to Fooling Yourself"
  3. Naira Kuzmich's "How to Date a White Guy"
  4. Laura Madeline Wiseman's "How to Measure Your Breast Size"
  5. Chelsey Biondollilo, "How to Skin a Bird"  
  6. Rebecca Bernard's  "How to Be Another Person in 5 Days"
  7. Lindsey's Palka's "How to Explore a Graveyard"
  8. Cait Powell's "A Manual for Surviving an Accidental Drowning" (safety manual)
  9. Lucy A. Snyder's "Installing Linux in a Dead Badger"
  10. Melanie Rae Thon's "Instructions for Extinction"
  11. Kristina Ten's "Confirmation" (religious instructional)
  12. Marriage manual (see Stanley Crawford's Some Instructions to My Wife...)
  13. Housekeeping manual
  14. Social story or social prompt
  15. Lauren Goodwin Slaughter's "After Your Milk Comes In" (sleep training guide)
  16. Manuel Martinez's "Travel Tips
  17. Chella Courington's "Parenting 101" (parenting how-to)
  18. Jonatham Lethem's "Elevator Pitches" (elevator pitches for movies)
  19. Tara Laskowski's "The Etiquette of Adultery"
  20. Rob Kenagy's "Prayer for Alien Abductees"


  1. Ron Carlson's "Single Woman for Long Walk on the Beach"
  2. Ben White's "Will Babysit for Little $$$$
  3. Patrick Madden's "Writer Michael Martone's Leftover Water" (Ebay listing)
  4. Frank Ferri's "Selected Personals from the American Psychiatric Association's Dating Website"
  5. Advertorials
  6. Missing pet flyer
  7. Missing person poster
  8. Obit 

Epistolary forms

  1. Fyodor Dostoevsky, "A Novel in Nine Letters"
  2. Sean Lovelace's "Letters to Jim Harrison
  3. Amelia Gray's "Diary of the Blockage" (diary)
  4. Michael Sheehan's "To Whom It May Concern"
  5. Alina Stefanescu, "Dear Committee for the Socialization of Illegal Aliens" (letter to government agent)
  6. Oyl Miller's "A Cover Letter From an Art Major Seeking a Job That Literally Requires Him to Apply the Skills He Learned in School" (cover letter)
  7. Raymond Carver's "Why, Honey?" (love letter)
  8. Amitava Kumar, "Love Poems for the Border Patrol
  9. Tiff Holland's "Letter to my love" (love letter)
  10. Break-up letter
  11. Recommendation letter
  12. Rejection letter
  13. David Shield's "Possible Postcards from Rachel, Abroad"
  14. Stephanie Dickinson's "Postcard from the Bum House" (postcard)
  15. Sympathy card
  16. Congratulations card
  17. Edward Hardy, "Apology #9: Not About the Toaster"
  18. Samantha Hunt's "Letter to Stephen Hawking" (fan mail)
  19. Amy Hempel's "Reference #388475848-5" (traffic ticket correspondence)
  20. Lydia Davis' "Letter to a Funeral Parlor" (customer complaint)
  21. Sea Sharp's "Shrinkology" (customer complaint)
  22. Joe Wenderoth's "Letters to Wendy" (epistolary series addressed to a business establishment)
  23. see George Saunders' "I Can Speak!" (product refund request)
  24. Kyle Brown's "Dear Fiction Editor
  25. Adam McOmber's "A Memory of the Christ by the Apostle John" (religious epistle)
  26. Stephen Yuan's "The Book of John" (epistle)
  27. Meg Favreau's "The San Diego Snake Company's September Newsletter" (newsletter)

School assignments or coursework

  1. Caitline Horrocks' "It Looks Like This" (high school essay)
  2. Joyce Carol Oates, "How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House Of Correction and Began My Life Over Again" (English class essay)
  3. Leigh Stein, "Writing Prompts for Girls and Women" (writing prompts)
  4. Ron Cohen's "The Varieties of Romantic Experience: An Introduction" (college course description)
  5. Jill Talbot's "The Professor of Longing"(syllabus)
  6. Amie Barrodale's "Prospectus"
  7. Jenna Le's "Book Report" (book report)
  8. Charles Yu's "Problems for Self-Study" (multiple choice test)
  9. Mike Topp's "Stuyvesant Bee #88" (high school newspaper)
  10. Peter Cherches' "Reading Comprehension" (assignment)
  11. Ian Frazier's "Have You Ever?" (assignment)
  12. Ani King's "Conjugate "to be", using complete sentences" (grammar exercise)
  13. School journal
  14. Science project description
  15. Will Slattery, "Impressions and Preliminary Maxims Gleaned From Teaching High School English"
  16. Tina May Hall's "The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #71 (flap of lichen preserved between two panes of glass)" (museum exhibit)

Academic and/or scientific documents

  1. White paper
  2. Fieldwork report
  3. Field guide (see Ben Greenman's “A Field Guide to the North American Bigfoot”)
  4. Elizabeth Wade's "Variant Table
  5. Eula Bliss's "The Pain Scale" (scale of measurement)
  6. Amie Barrodale's "Prospectus"
  7. Michelle Ross' "Key Concepts in Ecology" 
  8. Wendy Brenner's "The Instrumental Side of Human Communication" (conference presentation)
  9. Steven Zultanski's "Mouths" (statistical compendium)
  10. Description of medical condition (see Randall Billings Noble, "The Heart As Torn Muscle")
  11. Description of medical procedure (see Lish Troha's "Demonectomy")
  12. Notes (see Rick Moody's "The Preliminary Notes" or Will Slattery, "Impressions and Preliminary Maxims Gleaned From Teaching High School English")
  13. Editorial notes (see Orli Matlow's "Editorial Notes From Your Twitter Troll")
  14. Summary of a concept in philosophy or rhetoric (see David Jose Villaverde's "Zeno's Paradsox (of which he had several)")
  15. Math notes or theorems (see Chad Simpson's "Let X")
  16. Book review

Legal documents or official forms

  1. Matthew Vollmer's "Will and Testament" (will)
  2. Estate inventory
  3. Mieke Eerkins' "Vis a Vis Love" (marital contract or prenup)
  4. Divorce decree
  5. Police report
  6. Security incident report
  7. Noise complaint
  8. Suspicious wildlife activity report
  9. Suspicious activity report
  10. Nels Hanson's "Update" (medical history)
  11. Psych evaluation
  12. Immigration interview
  13. Medical discharge report
  14. Mike DiChristina's "Appeal" (legal appeal)
  15. Rich Ives' "Declarations of Attendance"
  16. Workplace employee assessment
  17. Nonprofit donor report
  18. Nonprofit request for funding application
  19. Business plan


  1. R. M. Berry's "History" (introduction)
  2. Ben Greenman's "Introduction" (introduction)
  3. Any one of Michael Martone's illustrious third-person bios
  4. Joanna Novak's "JoAnna Novak" (third person bio)
  5. Lance Olsen's "Table of Contents" (table of contents)
  6. J. Robert Lennon's "The Year's Best Fiction 2008: The Authors Speak" (anthology)
  7. Michael Martone's "Acknowledgement" (acknowledgements)
  8. Michael Parrish Lee's "The People Catalogue" (compendium)
  9. Elaine Chiew's "Compendium of Chinese Ghosts, Part I & II" (compendium)
  10. Jonathan Lethem's "Liner Note" (liner note)
  11. Ben Greenman's "A Note on the Type" (liner note)
  12. Michael Martone's "Contributor's Note" (contributor's note)
  13. David Means' "Disclaimer" (disclaimer)
  14. Jill Talbot, "Words for Snow" (lexicon)
  15. Temim Fruchter, "Glossary of Chain Accidents" (glossary)
  16. J. G. Ballard's "The Index" (index)
  17. Matt Bell's "An Index of How Our Family Was Killed" (index)
  18. Rick Moody's "Primary Sources" (annotations)
  19. Sean Brijbasi's "excerpts from a dictionary of coincidences, vol. i" (dictionary)
  20. Enclyclopedia entry
  21. Wikipedia entry
  22. Malcom Sutton and Francois Lemieux's "1001 Xanadus" (ancient text)
  23. Lauren Trembath-Neuberger, "Drug Facts" (drug reference)
  24. Shirley Jackson's "Dildo" (description or explanation)
  25. Steven Millhauser's "Phantoms" (case study)
  26. Ben Greenman's “A Field Guide to the North American Bigfoot” (field guide)
  27. Teddy Wayne's "Rules and Regulations for Benehmen!, the German Board Game of Discipline" (board game rules)
  28. Steven Millhauser's "A Game of Clue" (board game rules)

Web and social medias

  1. Rob Wittig's"The Fall of the Site of Masha" (website)
  2. Dinty W. Moore's "Mr. Plimpton's Revenge" (google map)
  3. Email
  4. Facebook post with comments
  5. Spam
  6. Robin Hemley's "Reply All" (listserve)
  7. Nextdoor.com post
  8. Internet banner
  9. Twitter feed
  10. YouTube comment
  11. Subreddit chat transcript
  12. Travel guide or intinerary
  13. Orli Matlow's "Editorial Notes From Your Twitter Troll"

Surveys, self-help and questionnaires:

  1. Dwaine Rieves' "The Animal; Questionnaire 1"
  2. Customer satisfaction survey
  3. Mary Kay Jordan Fleming's "Parent Readiness Quiz"
  4. John Yau's "Questionnaire"
  5. Claudia Cortese's “Origin Story” and “Answer Key to Origin Story
  6. Nancy McCabe, "Can This Troubled Marriage Be Saved?: A Quiz"
  7. Art Taylor's "Master the Art of French Cooking" (recipe)
  8. Wedding announcement
  9. Colin Nissan's "It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers" (seasonal advice column)
  10. Heather Murphy's "To Reduce Your Likelihood of Murder" (safety tips)

Transcripts or minutes:

  1. TV transcript
  2. Dictation transcript
  3. Informational video transcript
  4. Phone text transcript
  5. Neighborhood garden club monthly minutes

Interviews or profiles

  1. David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men"
  2. Elizabeth Syuckey-French's "Interview With a Moron"
  3. Claire Polders' "Office Women: Three Portraits and Thirteen Questions"
  4. Donald Barthelme's "The Explanation"
  5. Keynote speech 
  6. Political stump speech

Memoirs and bio forms

  1. James Bradley's "Artist Statement #64" (artist statement)
  2. "John Yau's "Unauthorized Biography" (informal bio)
  3. Captain's log
  4. Pilot's log
  5. Amber Sparks' "The Noises from the Neighbors Upstairs: A Nightly Log
  6. Travel diary
  7. Michelle Herman's "Tunings, Counterfactuals" (memoir)
  8. Dream journal
  9. David Shields' "Life Story"
  10. John Barth's "Life-Story"
  11. Eulogy
  12. Epitaph
  13. David Alpagh's "Poetic Template for Introducting a Featured Bard" (introduction)
  14. Kevin Brockmeier's "The Jesus Stories" (holy scriptures)
  15. Resume

Various lists

  1. Ingredient list
  2. Menu or meal plan
  3. Spotify playlist
  4. Kelle Groom's "25 Reasons to Attend the Gala"
  5. Lea Page, "Things I Did After Each of 32 Rejections"
  6. Kathyrn Lipari's "12 Things I Can Tell You About Cutting"
  7. Rich Ives' "Improperly Used Tools of Parenting"
  8. Matthew Williamson's "Discarded Notions"
  9. Meg Pokrass' "To-Do List"
  10. Sofi Stambo's "Lists" (shopping lists)
  11. Deb Olin Unferth’s “Things That Went Wrong Thus Far”
  12. Dennard Dayle's "Recent Activity" (credit card statement)
  13. Kristen Iskandrian's "Remarks My Immigrant Mother Has Made About Babies"
  14. Jack Pendarvis' "Our Spring Catalog" (publisher's catalog)

Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, Found Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer, is hot in my head right now.  Shields and Vollmer define “fraudulent artifacts” as “a text purporting to be a particular form of writing… which also tells a story, stirs thoughts and emotions, inspires inquiry, initiates action, and/or calls into question that which is—or has purported to be—real.”

Here's the frame:  An artifact is by definition an object constructed by a human being. Every artifact arises from a series of decisions taken by its maker. These artifacts are governed by social conventions and how we use or abuse them, how we fill the box. Conventions are nothing if not a way to create expectations. These expectations are a primary tool in the writer’s arsenal.

A fraudulent artifact infuses a received form with a story, thus creating an object “more authentic than the original upon which it was based.” The deceptiveness is self-reflexive as well as confessional.

Notice where risks can be taken in each form or genre and then "redraw the limitations." Use the form as vehicle to carry narrative. Make sure artifact reveals something about the narrator, generally the maker of the artifact. And, if you're smart, read the introduction to the book online in PDF for free, where the authors lay this out more cogently. 

Experimental fiction is the art of telling a story in which certain aspects of reality have been exaggerated or distorted in such a way as to put the reader off the story and make him go watch a television show. Another aspect of the experimental story is the innovative use of language.

The ending of an experimental story is very important. It should make no sense, thus disrupting the reader’s dominant paradigm. You, the reader, should just sit there, stunned, asking yourself, “Wait, am I missing the last page?”
— George Saunders, "Writing Experimental Fiction"
Breaking the rules involves risk. Risk produces tension. Tension produces energy. Energy produces momentum.
— David Shields and Matthew Vollmer

Other must-reads in my innovative fiction craft bible:



Random promptings

And a few things I've never seen which may possibly exist but would still be very cool to read at some point:

  1. Retirement community newsletter
  2. Application for political asylum
  3. Eviction notice
  4. Currency transaction report for withdrawal or deposit of large sum at bank
  5. Hobby Lobby supply room inventory
  6. Hobby Lobby secret abortion fund
  7. Hobby Lobby Recovery Group minutes
  8. GoFundMe profile
  9. Mall parking lot prophecy
  10. World of Warcraft guild rules
  11. Personal fitness goals questionnaire
  12. Ketosis and Halitosis report
  13. "20 epigraphs I almost put in a poetry chapbook before I stopped huffing bath salts"
  14. Notes from a Roy Moore sermon
  15. Conscious uncoupling announcement (see Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin for possible template)
  16. "Suspicious wildlife activity report from Lifeway in Nashville, Tennessee"
  17. "List of fortune cookie fortunes that actually happened"
  18. Product recall for specific translation of Bible
  19. "Why I didn't graduate" graduation speech transcript
  20. Amazon.com wedding registry
  21. "Writing Retreat That No One Can Afford" application
  22. 22 things you did instead of writing a memoir
  23. 21 things you did instead of telling your spouse the truth
  24. 20 ways to protest Trump while shopping for groceries at your neighborhood Piggly Wiggly



Where to submit

And, of course, it's always a tough call when deciding where to submit your innovative form fiction. Some literary magazines nurture a special affinity for formal and genre innovations. Take the time to learn more about the editors and the landscape. Then pick your best piece and roll the dice.