Unreliable Narrators

I’ve been hearing more and more about “unreliable narrators,” so I was curious when Deb Caletti, an award‑winning writer, chose to write a column called “8 Tips to Writing Unreliable Narrators”. Why would I want to do that? It’s an odd concept. . . . . . Or not.

Her suggestions for “turning it up a notch” were to:

  • make your MC a liar,
  • let him/her lie “by omission” too,
  • “muddy” his/her motivations,
  • make that protagonist more clever than s/he seems,
  • “catch” this person in his/her lies by letting a secondary character catch him/her at it (it may also
  • help to have the secondary character doubt what s/he is seeing and so “catches” a narrator in a lie, or even show that s/he has been the victim of the MC’s lies),
  • throw in a MC’s unpredictable act,
  • make that MC the “bad guy” (or not!),
  • but, somehow amidst all that, keep it believable ! ! !

WOW. With just these short “headline” suggestions, I can see how unsettling such a MC could be. It would certainly keep me wondering, questioning, as I read. What could it do for YOUR MC? What could it do for ‑‑‑ or TO ‑‑‑ your readers?

Ooooh! THAT sounds like fun.