Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#2
Do: 

-Show the world through your character's eyes. Ignore details your character would miss, and focus on things her/she would notice.
-Use first-person instead of third, at least if you're going extreme and omitting important things, or exaggerating/lying to the reader. As Sanderson said in one of his lectures regarding unreliable narrators, it's better to have people be annoyed with your character than be annoyed with you.
-Think about who your character is writing to. Who does he/she want to read this story? This might give you a hint aa to your characters's motivations for being unreliable in the first place.
-Make your character likable. Being unreliable could be points against him/her, so you'll want to balance it out with something with something like competence, humor, a strong character voice, etc.

Don't:

-Make the readers feel stupid and/or left out of the joke. It's okay to be clever sometimes, but your readers won't appreciate it if it's at their expense.
-Neglect to show your character's flaws. True, an unreliable narrator wouldn't be inclined to reveal weakness, but no one wants to read about a Mary Sue.
-Neglect foreshadowing. Even if your narrator knows a plot-twist is coming and doesn't want to share it with your reader, it still won't feel satisfying without proper setup.

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#3
One thing that's important to remember is that there is no such thing as a reliable narrator. Even in truly omniscient, third person narration, what the author chooses to show or not show will shape the reader's understanding of the events in the text. (And nonfiction, as well, or even especially, will be colored by the author's biases!). Experiencing the worldview and ideas of another person, which is the core of unreliable narration, is a feature of storytelling, not a bug.

Personally, I write a very close 3rd person perspective (the character's thoughts are embedded into the narration). See below as an example 

Quote:Sid realized exactly what Halen was about to make him do. The fear hit him like a truck, then. Halen was standing so stiffly, there seemed to be no chance that he would relent, and Sid was going to end up standing here, pulling out his own eyeball.

Sid panicked, bringing up the power and slamming it futilely against the cage of his own body. Nothing happened. Nothing happened! He couldn't do it! He would have screamed, if he could have.


Just here, as an example, I highlighted in red the areas that are thoughts, rather than "regular" narration. One important thing is that the tone of the narration shouldn't change between thoughts and plain text. I think the most important thing while writing an unreliable narrator is controlling the voice. If it's clear to the reader that you are inside the character's head, from the way the text reads and flows, then the reader will be more able to pick out what the character's specific thought patterns and biases are.

If you have multiple POVs in your story, it can be helpful and interesting to contrast the different characters' particular unreliabilities against each other. You can use shift in perspective to reveal information that might otherwise be hidden. Even if you don't have multiple narrators or perspectives, use other characters to contrast with your narrator/main character-- reveal their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies by making them clash with others. 

Let me know if this makes sense or if you want clarification on any of this. It's mostly an instinct + practice thing, though.

As for chapter posting, better to spread it out so that you maximize front page exposure.

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#4
David Musk Wrote: Do: 

-Show the world through your character's eyes. Ignore details your character would miss, and focus on things her/she would notice.
-Use first-person instead of third, at least if you're going extreme and omitting important things, or exaggerating/lying to the reader. As Sanderson said in one of his lectures regarding unreliable narrators, it's better to have people be annoyed with your character than be annoyed with you.
-Think about who your character is writing to. Who does he/she want to read this story? This might give you a hint aa to your characters's motivations for being unreliable in the first place.
-Make your character likable. Being unreliable could be points against him/her, so you'll want to balance it out with something with something like competence, humor, a strong character voice, etc.

Don't:

-Make the readers feel stupid and/or left out of the joke. It's okay to be clever sometimes, but your readers won't appreciate it if it's at their expense.
-Neglect to show your character's flaws. True, an unreliable narrator wouldn't be inclined to reveal weakness, but no one wants to read about a Mary Sue.
-Neglect foreshadowing. Even if your narrator knows a plot-twist is coming and doesn't want to share it with your reader, it still won't feel satisfying without proper setup.

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#5
javert Wrote: One thing that's important to remember is that there is no such thing as a reliable narrator. Even in truly omniscient, third person narration, what the author chooses to show or not show will shape the reader's understanding of the events in the text. (And nonfiction, as well, or even especially, will be colored by the author's biases!). Experiencing the worldview and ideas of another person, which is the core of unreliable narration, is a feature of storytelling, not a bug.

Personally, I write a very close 3rd person perspective (the character's thoughts are embedded into the narration). See below as an example 

Quote:Sid realized exactly what Halen was about to make him do. The fear hit him like a truck, then. Halen was standing so stiffly, there seemed to be no chance that he would relent, and Sid was going to end up standing here, pulling out his own eyeball.

Sid panicked, bringing up the power and slamming it futilely against the cage of his own body. Nothing happened. Nothing happened! He couldn't do it! He would have screamed, if he could have.


Just here, as an example, I highlighted in red the areas that are thoughts, rather than "regular" narration. One important thing is that the tone of the narration shouldn't change between thoughts and plain text. I think the most important thing while writing an unreliable narrator is controlling the voice. If it's clear to the reader that you are inside the character's head, from the way the text reads and flows, then the reader will be more able to pick out what the character's specific thought patterns and biases are.

If you have multiple POVs in your story, it can be helpful and interesting to contrast the different characters' particular unreliabilities against each other. You can use shift in perspective to reveal information that might otherwise be hidden. Even if you don't have multiple narrators or perspectives, use other characters to contrast with your narrator/main character-- reveal their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies by making them clash with others. 

Let me know if this makes sense or if you want clarification on any of this. It's mostly an instinct + practice thing, though.

As for chapter posting, better to spread it out so that you maximize front page exposure.

Thanks for the advice! I think being careful to always use the narrator's voice and make it clear is kind of hard, just because sometimes my readers don't always pick up the bits of information I leave in there...any advice on how to deal with that? 

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#6
I think that part of that comes down to trusting your readers to be both intelligent and paying attention. Don't try to dumb down your story or narration in order to make things too clear. Sometimes it's alright if readers miss things the first time, or if they have to do a little work to figure out that a character is deliberately obscuring information. As long as you're doing it purposefully, it shouldn't be an issue.

If you're concerned about people missing small hints, one thing that you could do is use repetition (bring up the same information in multiple contexts), or by deliberately emphasizing whatever the hint is. A reader is less likely to miss something you spend a paragraph on, rather than a sentence, or that you describe using contrasts to previously known information. Hard to give more specific advice without knowing your particular situation haha.

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#7
your question is too vague, because there are several different types of reliable and unreliable narrators.
Your decision has to be what kind of narrator your want, because nothing will your readers put off more than unexplainable changes in the way of the narration.

Your first decision has to be if your narrator is a person with a point of view or something other than a person.

a factual narrator describes what can be seen in a room and how the room reacts to the people in it. Download a free adventure for any PnP-RPG on the market - the Dungeon Master is supposed to be a factual narrator, and those adventurer books usually contain room descriptions that are divided into what is easily seen in the room (factual narrator), what can be seen after the players take certain actions and what secrets there are to find and reveal.

an all-knowing narrator would be able to give the reader those secret parts while the people still need to take certain actions to detect those secrets. It is a writing style where the reader might know that the hero missed the hidden safe behind the wall picture because he never looked behind, but that is a style that is very difficult to pull off without booring or alienating the reader.

if that all-knowing narrator is a god in a fantasy world you might even color the description with its personal opinion, but in that case you need to develop it as a character.
And that gets to the other types of narrators: The ones that use point of view.

This basically means that the descriptions are from the opinions of a character that has its own interest. It will add the ability to read the mind of that person only to the reader (not of the other people in the room), but it also means that the narrator can ignore descriptions that are of no interest to the person. If for example a group enters a library that has several showcases for ancient weapons, then a narrator with the PoV of the warrior will probably describe "some bookcases, but with a number of interesting weapons in showcases. One looks like a historic ..."
That is an unreliable narrator (especially if the real point is a hidden rare book) that will not reveal what's really going on, but neither offsett the reader because he expect the warrior to focus on the weapons.

This form of naration can be colored in a lot of ways, including from the viewpoint of a traitor in the group (only after it has been revealed to the player that this is a shady charactor or traitor) or even by having the narrator be the boss enemy that watches the heroes stumbling about through hidden cameras or the like in the room.

Re: If you using an unreliable narrator...

#8
javert Wrote: I think that part of that comes down to trusting your readers to be both intelligent and paying attention. Don't try to dumb down your story or narration in order to make things too clear. Sometimes it's alright if readers miss things the first time, or if they have to do a little work to figure out that a character is deliberately obscuring information. As long as you're doing it purposefully, it shouldn't be an issue.

If you're concerned about people missing small hints, one thing that you could do is use repetition (bring up the same information in multiple contexts), or by deliberately emphasizing whatever the hint is. A reader is less likely to miss something you spend a paragraph on, rather than a sentence, or that you describe using contrasts to previously known information. Hard to give more specific advice without knowing your particular situation haha.


No, that's plenty! 
For some reason I never thought of repetition.