Unreliable Narrator

I’m in the process of editing pieces for an anthology that I’m putting together with a group of other writers and editors in the Los Angeles area, and one of my accepted submissions has an author who is struggling with unreliable narrator, which is a requirement for this anthology. (More on the anthology itself in a future post, I promise.)

Hi,
I am having a lot of difficulty making the narrator more unreliable. Do you have any suggestions? I am really struggling with this, it is my first time going through this process.
Thanks,
Ted

I wrote him a note and then thought it could be useful to share my answer here, too.

Ted,

Honestly, I have had a lot of trouble writing unreliable narrators, too, so don’t be discouraged. The easiest way to make a narrator unreliable is do one of three things:

1. make him/her too young to really understand what’s going on (Huckleberry Finn and, in the case of mental youngness, Flowers for Algernon)

2. have him/her purposefully lie or not tell whole truth (The Usual Suspects and, because it had multiple conflicting narrations, Rashomon), but make it apparent to the reader that your narrator is lying

3. give the narrator a physical problem that affects his/her memory or brain (Memento and Fight Club)

A word of caution on the last one, though: having an insane and/or mentally ill narrator (or character, for that matter) does not automatically make him/her unreliable. In real life, mentally ill people tend to tell the truth more often because they know they’re unlikely to be believed anyway, and that in itself is enough of a hurdle.

Even though I dislike “it was all a dream” narratives, they’re not implicitly unreliable, either, because the narrator is telling you the story in good faith. S/he would be unreliable, however, if s/he knew it was a dream and presented it as fact anyway. The point is that, usually, in the context of the dream itself, the narration is true. Likewise, high fantasy stories (The Lord of the Rings and the King Arthur legends) are not usually unreliable because the narrators tell the truth in the context of the story. That is to say, the stories are internally consistent.

The way to make a narrator unreliable is to make what surrounds them (what’s actually happening) and what they’re saying surrounds them (what they’re saying is happening) internally inconsistent.

I hope this helps. If you need more specific suggestions, let me know.

Sincerely,
Viannah

A lot of writers have trouble with unreliable narrators (and unreliable characters more generally speaking), so I hope this helps some of you who want to tackle the unknown in your writing.

It’s Winterthing again!

The gift-giving season is upon us, and here’s a little list from me to help you this year. ^_^ Please, let me know things you’d like, too, in the comments or by email.

I would like
—unused stamps (USPS), any denomination
—movie money (that is, certificates redeemable at “a movie theater near you”)
—a binder/folder/holder in which to store business cards
Supernatural, Season 1
Sherlock (BBC), Season 2
Merlin (BBC), Season 3
—funky socks (I wear size 10 Women’s shoes)
—nice-smelling bar soaps
—your favorite book of all time (and a letter telling me why you love it!)
—money $$$

and my longshot wish is
—a better paying job that I would actually enjoy doing

Winterthing!

Hello, everyone and all my readers! The purpose of this post is two-fold.

First, I am officially opening up requests for a holiday card from me, if anyone would like one. From a previous post:

#4 This is my official (if not a bit half-assed) call for anyone who would like to receive a Winterthing card from me this year. I’ve got some special cards and I want to share them with you all ^_^. So, if you’re interested in receiving a card with a yearly update from me, email me (see my contact page for the email address) or leave a note here with you[r] address (if you’re comfortable with that). I like sending out real mail to people, so the more, the merrier. I hope you’d like a card from me, so let me know if you do!

Second! I’ve been asked by various people, on the internet and otherwise, what I would like in my stocking (so to speak) this year. Seeing as today is my half-birthday, I thought I’d make a Winterthing list for myself just in case anyone needs inspiration. Here’s what I’d like:

long-shot wish: a new laptop computer (or funds earmarked for said)
everything else:
—unused stamps (USPS), any denomination
—movie money (that is, certificates redeemable at “a movie theater near you”)
—a binder/folder/holder in which to store business cards
—Khaos Komix Steve and Mark and Amber and Nay from Poser Ink
Sherlock (BBC), Season 2
Merlin (BBC), Season 3
Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined), Season 4.5
—your favorite book of all time (and maybe a letter telling me why you loved it!)
—something that you saw and it made you think of me
—money $$$

A real live post?? Never!

Hello, lovely readers!

I just wanted to let you know a couple things that’ve been going on recently in my life.

#1 I’ve got a creative nonfiction (feminist!) piece up at Flyover Feminism called “Getting My Grandmother to Vote” (also featuring my mom ^_^). I hope you all check it out and comment if you so desire.

#2 No, I have not abandoned this journal or website, but life is getting in the way of writing, and I’m trying work out my priorities to fix that. Hopefully there will be more than just tweet updates soon. Hahaha. ^_^;;

#3 Speaking of writing, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again this year! If you’d like to follow my word count progress through the rest of the month, check out my page!

#4 This is my official (if not a bit half-assed) call for anyone who would like to receive a Winterthing card from me this year. I’ve got some special cards and I want to share them with you all ^_^. So, if you’re interested in receiving a card with a yearly update from me, email me (see my contact page for the email address) or leave a note here with you address (if you’re comfortable with that). I like sending out real mail to people, so the more, the merrier. I hope you’d like a card from me, so let me know if you do!

#5 Hopefully I’ll have a more substantial update soon, but I’m done for now since typing on my iPhone is (relatively) torturous. Love you all! Thanks for sticking with me.

Ten Years

I’ve had this journal online, in some form, since 12 December 2001. That makes today my tenth birthday. I’m double digits, guys!

I really wish I’d thought of this ahead of time because I would have commissioned some art or something from one of my artist friends to post here as a birthday present to myself. It’s not every day a website turns ten years old, after all. ^_^

Unfortunately, I didn’t plan anything, so: here, have a clip art birthday (cup)cake instead. (I couldn’t even find one with ten candles haha. One candle, yes, obviously. Five? Yes. Even seven and eight candles, but not ten. Oh well.)

I’m ancient, in internet time.

Here’s to ten more years! I’m sure they’ll be as interesting as the last ten.

holiday_wishes 2011

holiday_wishes post here

I think I may have skipped on this project last year and that’s just plain sad for me, since I really like gifting things (especially things that are basically brand new but have been sitting in my room taking up space for heaven knows how long).

In any case, I’m going to try to fulfill a few wishes this year—I’m pretty stressed out at this point, but I really think I should at least give as well as I (potentially) get AND sometimes giving things (making people happier) helps the mood, anyway. We’ll see.

But, there’s no giving without at least having a list for myself, too, since I also like getting things in the mail!!

1. Mail from other parts of the world. Like, real mail. Honest-to-God letters and holiday cards (Pagan ones, if you have them!) and postcards and whatever. It’s just nice to get something in the mail that’s not a bill, you know?

2. Unused United States Postal Service stamps in any denomination. I send a lot of mail and I will use the stamps you send me. Doesn’t matter if they’re “H Rate Make-up stamps” or “Forever” or whatever as long as they’re not cancelled out (y’know, so I can still use them!). If you’ve had a bunch of old stamps sitting in your drawer because you just don’t want to bother looking up how much they’re actually worth, send them to me!

3. A new battery for my Mac. (I have a 15-inch Macbook Pro.) A long shot, I admit, but I’m just throwing it out there.

4. Anything related to Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, especially Duo Maxwell, Heero Yuy, or Trowa Barton. I actually own the entire series itself (including Endless Waltz), so I don’t need that, but I would love GW icons, fanfiction, fanart, etc. (And I ship 1×2 pretty hard /cough*otp*cough\, just in case you’re looking for inspiration haha.) Also, I cosplay as a Preventer when I attend anime conventions, but my jacket has been worn so much that it’s fraying at the seams… Hahaha ^_^;; I would love for someone to give me a decent pattern for a new Preventers jacket, since the one I used for the first jacket is lost to the sands of time.

5. I really, really love retellings of old fairytales, especially Beauty and the Beast, so if you could point me in the right direction of any versions of fables/fairytales you’ve heard of/know about/have written yourself (!!), I would be very grateful. I already have a lot of versions of my favorite (so many that I can’t name them all), but I’ll happily take repeats. But, just in case you collect retellings, too: the more rare/unknown, the better.

6. I’m visiting New York City in January and I have some decent cold-weather clothing, but I don’t have any good gloves. I’d really like someone to give me some cold-weather gloves that fit my hands. I’ve been told I have long fingers, and it turns out that most gloves I’ve tried on almost fit. I don’t know how difficult it is to make gloves (or find/buy ones with longer fingers), but I thought I would ask just in case someone on this community is a master glove maker or something.

7. My all-time favorite theme park is Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California. I don’t get to go very often (I’ve never had a “year pass” or anything, for example), but I really love saving the park maps from the times I’ve been. I have park maps from the last couple of years, but I didn’t start the tradition of saving the maps until recently, so I don’t have any from the 90s and early 00s (and before!). If you just happen to have a Six Flags Magic Mountain (Southern California) theme park map from any year before 2008, I would be happy to take it off your hands. I know this is a different kind of long shot than #3, but still… If I don’t ask, I’ll never know, right?

8. An image of your favorite tattoo and why you got it (or, if it’s someone else’s, why you like it). I know some people are really protective of their tattoos, so if you’d rather not post your response for the whole community/world to see, please email me at iwasborninjune[at]gmail[dot]com (correct symbols, of course) with “holiday_wishes tattoo” or something similar in the subject heading. If the tattoo is someone else’s (and you know whose it is), please get permission from that person before sending the image to me. I really love tattooing and sort of collect meaningful and unique tats because it’s like a little window into that person’s world; it helps me know them better. I will never post your image—what you share with me will stay with me.

9. My little not-that-little sister is an artist (see her deviantart); she just opened an etsy shop and is anxiously awaiting her first orders. She doesn’t have a lot of stuff up yet, but I think it would really boost her confidence if she got more views and maybe even a couple people to buy some of her work. I humbly request that you click through and see for yourself is her jewelry is your style, and—if it is—please buy something! If you have a friend who likes jewelry, please pass the link along. I’d really appreciate it.

…and, last but not least…
10. Anything from my Amazon.com wish list
non-book | writing
fiction/poetry | nonfiction
words/maps | fairytales
feminism | natives
religion/spirituality | self-help
socio/psych | shoes/boots

In shoes, I wear a US woman’s size 10 M. (It’s in sections because I organize like someone with OCD, but if it’s not kosher to have more than one link, let me know and I’ll fix this post.)

Thank you so much, guys and gals!

Here’s my address:
[REDACTED]

Also, if you grant a wish of mine, please feel free to link to your list so that we can all share the love! Thanks very much again.