Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write What You Know: Unreliable Narrator

Show me a reliable narrator and I have a Nigerian Prince with a cashflow problem I'd like you to meet.

I have a somewhat broader view of unreliable narrator than literary (etc.) criticism usually uses[1]. Without going so far as to say that all fiction is a lie, so all narrators are unreliable, I might note that no one is omniscient; that all narratives are edited; everyone has biases; and radical honesty is not popular or commonplace. Omission from a narrative is at least as important as what is actually said. My second drafts usually lose about a quarter of the sentences, although I then replace about half of the removed word count either within sentences or adding new ones (often brief bridging sentences replacing fully descriptive passages). What I cut out is just as necessary as what I leave in.

[1] Their definition is, of course, narrow enough to be useful for their purposes. Mine is broader for my purposes; story options.

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