The Unreliable Narrator….

Brett: You could just call this “Ethan-is-full-of-shit.”

Ethan: Hey!

JM: *sigh*

This post is sorta kinda about unreliable narrators in horror. Sorta because it came down during the seemingly neverending edits of The Fishing Widow that the main narrator has, um, truth issues… Kinda because it’s also about what we remember and what we forget. Like, forgetting to post my second Coffin Hop offering and getting around to it in the mid-afternoon Alaska time, but at nearly 7pm for those on the East Coast…



Yeah, well, so, that doesn’t look like Ethan, but that was the vibe we all got off him when edits started, and the edits started the moment I first smiled and wrote, “THE END.” and Brett said, “He’s so full of shit.” Really? Really?? HOW FULL?? I spent months on this thing and he’s WHAT? Dragging a story out of an unreliable narrator or uncooperative character may be a pain in the butt at times, but it does lead to some pretty interesting conversations in your head….and sometimes, they’re conversations that you’re not even PART of. And, you have to be careful. Some readers HATE unreliable narrators to the point that they’ll toss down a book because they believe the WRITER is the unstable idiot who’s telling the story…not the idiot IN the story. And that can lead to some interesting conversations OUTSIDE your head that, in retrospect when the person you’re talking to backs…away…slowly … you WISH you hadn’t been part of.

“That part there.” She flips open the book. “Here.” She points. “That seems so out of character.”

“But, that’s what he said happened,” you say. You smile apologetically. “But, you, know, sometimes he IS a butt.”


Awkward silence.

It’s stretching…..

“Uh … huh…”


I wouldn’t change any of The Fishing Widow crew, but I wish I HAD known, before that first ending, that I was dealing with a guy who was desperate to not make himself look slightly more clueless than he is…

So … Comments? Do you LIKE unreliable narrators? Are they the type of people who add to the story or that should be the first against the wall when the zombie apocalypse comes? Leave a note below and you could win …. this…. (and I’m leaving the comments open until noon tomorrow because I was a forgetful blogger and should be flogged .. BUT NOT HARD! .. for that).

A handful of ceramic skull beads, ghost chile chocolate, and a Hei matau. A hey what-the-hell? It’ll protect you on the water. Yeah. It would come in handy, like, if we ever went, I dunno … fishing…. (bwa ha ha)

8 Replies to “The Unreliable Narrator….”

  1. For me, as long as the story keeps me captivated I could care less if a narrator is a bit unreliable.

  2. I’m a huge fan of unreliable narrators! It gives your imagination so much room to interact with the story and try to piece together “the truth”. Sounds intriguing.

  3. Want, want, want! The Hei matau is for my selkies. ^__^ You see, I have this shit planned. I NEED THE PRIZES, AMY. I NEED THEM!

    1. *cough* Okay, so I got over-excited… hey, it happens to one in five!

      As for unreliable narrators… It depends if they’re consistently unreliable, if that makes any sense at all. (Don’t worry, in Ethan’s case he is. XD) If the character is just being a bit all over the place because that’s how they are, it works. If they say one thing and do the opposite, I’m gonna get confused.

  4. I like unreliable narrators to an extent, but for me they usually have to be done in the first person. Why? Because a lot of folks when they tell stories (in life, not on paper) they tell it in the first person and so often they are unreliable narrators in and of themselves, and honestly, those are usually the best stories.

  5. I’ll go for the ride with an unreliable narrator up until the end when they look over their shoulder as I’m about to close the book and say…”Just kidding”. Then I will chuck that book so hard!

  6. As long as everything makes sense in the end and the story holds my interest, the narrator can be anything he likes.

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