Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thoughts and the Unreliable Narrator

I've been thinking a lot about my writing lately and about teaching because my first two classes in the graduate program where fiction writing workshop and creative writing pedagogy. I had to write a huge paper (okay, huge meaning 8-10 pages and mine turned out to be about 10 pages) about my statement of pedagogy. Before this class, I didn't even know what the word pedagogy meant, but I learned quickly. I finally got around to reading Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and found it to be a great read. I think every fiction/creative writing class should be required to read this book. And one day, if I ever get to teach creative writing, I will make it required in my class. I learned a lot about myself as a potential teacher and myself as a student of writing during this class. I will definitely post my paper to my website, if anyone is interested. (Also, a kind of funny side note: I wrote a paper for the AWP Forum about students blogging as a means of learning creative writing.)

So, with a new class starting up comes new exercises. This class uses a book called 3 AM Epiphany. It has a series of interesting writing exercises meant to help one write critically as well as creatively. They are fantastic exercises. One day I wish to write a novel with an unreliable narrator in third person who is believed to be reliable the entire time, but ends up being unreliable.

[READER INTERACTIVE] Please feel free to try this exercise. It involves 500 words written in third person, intimate and must be written in a way that makes the narrator seem reliable, but actually is not. Post your version in the comments or post a link to it.


  1. This is a difficult exercise. I read a mystery novel once about a woman fleeing a murderer with her baby and the detective trying to find and save her. You start to assume the detective is the bad guy because he keeps having black-outs and people keep conveniently showing up dead. But it turns out to be the mother who is whacky and she doesn't even have a baby - it's just a doll. I would struggle with that exercise, well done.

  2. Nice story/exercise. It's hard to maintain a central narrator that's unreliable without breaking the illusion too soon or hiding so much that it becomes obvious that there's something askew with the narrator's perspective.

    Nicely done.