sofiaviolet: Auriel: illustration of sun and stars (Auriel)
[personal profile] sofiaviolet
requested by [personal profile] blnchflr

Unreliable Narration in Auriel, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Protagonists' Issues

Background: When I refer to Auriel as a body of work, I refer to a group of unfinished (and, in some cases, unstarted) novels and stories about several characters, tied together in some cases by relationships between characters and in other cases simply by all happening in the same city around the same time.

I write almost exclusively in tight third-person: Protagonist thinks foo, feels bar. Other characters seem to think baz and feel quux, based on Protagonist's observations.

Some of my characters make fairly reliable narrators, but most don't. I do this on purpose. It's particularly handy when two characters want to relate the same event; by giving multiple memories/interpretations/experiences of the same event, I don't have to write the same thing twice, and my hypothetical reader doesn't have to read the same thing twice, and the differences can say important things about the characters.

(It also (and this is cheating) helps me to smooth over certain kinds of worldbuilding gaffes and discontinuities. If I can somehow imply that one or more characters is misinformed, misremembering, or flat-out lying about what roads one can take to Livony/whether Annabell's serves eggs/how many books are in Argent University's alchemical library/whatever, then I can stop waiting for all of the worldbuilding to be done before I finish any of the stories.)

Some examples of protagonists, of varying degrees of unreliability:

* Lissa seems like she ought to be hugely unreliable. She has a very alien understanding of the world and she communicates mostly in poetry; she reads as crazy. But her observations are factual, her memory is clear, and she doesn't hide things.

* Marcus is unreliable about himself and people very close to him. He's an addict with a raging case of impostor syndrome. His observations about other people get progressively better, more or less as he does, to the point of "fucking uncanny."

* Gwyneira is perhaps the least reliable of all my characters. She retcons everything: her suicide, her family, her everything.

* Joe is unreliable-by-omission about his body, which he deliberately avoids thinking about, and he's also unreliable-by-retcon about his past.

(The twins, Gwyneira and Joe, actually provide checks on each others' unreliability. They have both "been there" for many things, and they each want to forget/cover up different elements of their lives.)

So, in short, I love the idea of characters who pass incomplete, flawed, delusional, or false information to the reader, and I love writing them.
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April 2014

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