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 on: July 23, 2014, 10:16:17 PM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by KatieC
This is a fascinating idea. I hope you write it, Kate! And I think I'm going to be checking out these other books...

 on: July 23, 2014, 11:36:37 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by ColoradoKate
Oh, now, that could be interesting and fun to write--a story where all the major characters are living a lie! A puzzle for the reader... what is reality?

I wonder if most books with unreliable narrators are for teens and adults. WALK TWO MOONS is middle grade, but is it an exception?

 on: July 23, 2014, 11:16:15 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by jfields
That's something Belzhar does as well -- it removed the characters from their normal situations and sends them off to a special boarding school. So no one knows the REAL story about anyone. All you know is what the characters tell one another and what the main character tells herself as well. But because of the situation, you realize any of these kids could be unreliable since they're in this place because they're basically broken people.

 on: July 23, 2014, 10:35:01 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by ColoradoKate
Oh, drugs! Well, there ya go...

One advantage to using first person, I guess (I'm looking through WALK TWO MOONS) is that Sharon Creech was able to use a rather "telly" voice, where the MC is essentially talking to the reader, and also lots of short flashbacks, so there aren't so many scenes where the people who know the truth might reasonably be talking about it only aren't allowed to, for the sake of the plot.

She also has a huge subplot, or maybe just a second plot, in a story that the MC is telling her family throughout the road trip, and that moves things along without having to avoid land mines, too. ("Land mines" being situations where a secondary character who obviously must know the truth would logically give it away, but as the author you can't let them do that.)

I vaguely remember reading another story where the MC had done something awful, some crime, and wasn't lying to herself about it, but successfully lied to the reader throughout most of the book. Nobody else knew she'd done it, so that made for easier writing, I would imagine.

 on: July 23, 2014, 10:01:08 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by jfields
There's a new book coming out Belzhar with a similar sort of unreliable narrator. She tends to be very much avoiding certain areas...but you think you know why because it seems really obvious. It's not until fairly far along that you're likely to guess what's really going on.

I also read a book, though I cannot remember the title of it, that was in first person, present tense where the main character talked to her dead brother all the time. You didn't realize for quite a while that he wasn't really there and the book never came out and TOLD you, I don't think...but you figured it out. Most really successful unreliable narrators tend to be lying to themselves as much as to everyone else, I think.

I read another book where the character was actually having hallucinations...so one whole character in the book simply isn't real. Everyone thinks she's just encouraging the coping mechanism of a little girl, but in reality she's actually created this whole person from her hallucinations. The main character is also doing a lot of drugs so that was a really trippy book.

 on: July 23, 2014, 09:53:30 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by ColoradoKate
I'm toying with writing a story with an unreliable narrator. (That's one where the MC is lying, perhaps even to himself and certainly to everyone else, including the reader, about something important to the plot. The reader learns the truth at some point in the story, maybe gradually, maybe suddenly... maybe because there's a big "reveal," or maybe because the reader is led to intuit it.)

*SPOILER ALERT* If you haven't read Sharon Creech's WALK TWO MOONS, and you don't want it spoiled for you, quit reading now...

It's the story of a girl whose goal is to get to see her mother, who is in Idaho. A road trip is involved, and there are all sorts of events and subplots which aren't germane to the point I'm making, which is that, at the end of the book, we learn that her mother is actually dead, and the MC knew that all along, though she was in denial.

There are hints you pick up on if you read the book for a second time, but I think it's pretty clear that Sharon Creech didn't intend for the reader to guess ahead of time. I liked the book, but there are many readers who were angry at the ending and felt cheated.

Okay, my questions: WALK TWO MOONS is in first person. I've discovered it's really, really hard to write a first person unreliable narrator, because of course with first person we're seeing everything through the MC's eyes. We're in his brain. How could we not know something he knows? Denial, avoidance, psychosis, living in a fantasy world...?

In the story I'm playing with, the MC has a sister. She's actually an imaginary sister, because his real sister is out of reach. He has conversations with her and everything. I could make it so that he only does this when no one else is around, or I could make it so that everyone else knows he talks to himself. I could make him imagine other people's interactions with the imaginary sister, but I think I would be getting too dishonest with the reader by doing that...

Any thoughts?

 on: July 23, 2014, 09:32:42 AM 
Started by judyr - Last post by ColoradoKate
Yeah, most people who aren't writers couldn't tell you what POV a book was in. I notice that in my book club all the time--I'll say, "I wonder why the author decided to use first person," and someone will say, "Oh, it was in first person? Yeah, I guess it was!" (And these are teachers, so they understand what POV is... )

 on: July 23, 2014, 08:44:06 AM 
Started by judyr - Last post by jfields
Rules of thumb:

Use them ALMOST never in dialogue. Real people (who aren't trying to sell you something) rarely say your name when conversing with you. Your characters should follow the same rule of thumb.

When creating characters, make them each unique enough so that you can have at least one "short hand" phrase for the person. Such as "the lanky artist" or "her nervous friend." You don't always have to use a proper name as designation as long as your characters aren't all identical.

The more people you have interacting in a single scene, the more you'll need to use names because it will quickly become confusing otherwise. THAT is one reason why authors almost always isolate dialogue -- one character pulls another side for a quick conversation at a crowded party or two characters duck behind a tree to talk. Limiting number of people in a specific moment of story time helps you cut back on name use.

Purposeful dialogue (especially dialogue with a touch of conflict) can sometimes be written nearly without tags. If one character strongly believes they need to engage in a course of action and the other character strongly believes they should not -- then the things they say will be easily placed in the correct mouth without constant tagging. It's often the kind of vague conversations that create the most dialogue confusion. So when writing dialogue, give each person a clear stance on the topic.

The more vague your characterization, the more you'll simply have no choice but to use a lot of name tags to keep things sorted out. So make your characters specific and, whenever possible, conflicting. Yes, in real life you might have three girls who look mostly the same, but in story life, opposites make for much easier writing and much clearer and more exciting reading.

 on: July 23, 2014, 08:21:10 AM 
Started by judyr - Last post by judyr
Okay, limited third person is drastically different for me than first person, but I think I like it. However, without using the pronoun I all the time, I feel like I'm mentioning the characters names a lot for clarity. How do you know when it's too much?

 on: July 23, 2014, 08:20:14 AM 
Started by judyr - Last post by jfields
I don't think it's a big deal, unless the different POV isn't done as well. Really POV tends to be invisible to the reader unless it's confusing or falls short in some way.

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