An Unreliable Narrator

I learned a phrase this past Saturday at a writing workshop: unreliable narrator. As regards a storyteller in one of my novels, I learned that this can be a useful tool. In my Work-In-Progress Gladstone, old Travis is at least midway into dementia. He has moments of clarity among his days of woolly wandering, never quite remembering if he’s milked the cows or eaten lunch yet.

It takes a ‘light touch’, the experts this weekend say, to use an unreliable narrator to make a story stronger. They gave examples of writers who do it well; Stephen King and Celeste Ng, to name the two I remember. I wouldn’t presume to think my work will come close to theirs.

I think I’m going to try it, though. After all, since I’m the writer, I think he deserves a voice.

Can you think of examples you’ve read – or movies you’ve seen – where you just can’t trust the storyteller?

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