U is for Uhh….

Yeah. I was at a loss again. What was I going to write about for U? I didn’t have a clue (hey that rhymes) what to do, but then I knew (okay I’ll stop). This A to Z Challenge is starting to have an effect on me. I’ll let you decide what kind.

Anyway, let’s talk about unreliable narrative.

UU is for Unreliable Narrative

What is unreliable narrative?

Unreliable narrative occurs when a character describes his experiences, but misinterprets the true nature of events. It’s accurate from his perspective, but distorted for reasons such as the following:

• Naivety
• Ignorance
• Prejudice

The author will often provide clues, if it’s not already obvious, that the narrator’s viewpoint is off.

Why use unreliable narrative?

Unreliable narrative can make your character more believable. A good example of this is a story told from a child’s point of view (naivety). If the child sounds like an adult, then the character doesn’t ring true to the audience.

Unreliable narrative can reveal the true nature of a character, be it the twisted mindset of a villain or the naive benevolence of a mentally challenged protagonist like Forest Gump.

In fact, let’s look at Forest Gump as an example of unreliable narrative. He is one of my favorite characters played by one of my favorite actors (I don’t know any actor except Tom Hanks who could pull off this role).

Here is Forest Gump’s perception of the following events:

On being named Forest:

“Now, when I was a baby, Momma named me after the great Civil War hero, General Nathan Bedford Forrest. She said we was related to him in some way. And what he did was, he started up this club called the Ku Klux Klan. They’d all dress up in their robes and their bedsheets and act like a bunch of ghosts or spooks or something. They’d even put bedsheets on their horses and ride around. And anyway, that’s how I got my name, Forrest Gump. Momma said that the Forrest part was to remind me that sometimes we all do things that, well, just don’t make no sense.”

On Jenny’s father:

“Was some kind of a farmer. He was a very loving man – he was always kissing and touching her and her sisters.”

On Jenny hiding from her father:

“Mama always said God is mysterious. He didn’t turn Jenny into a bird that day. Instead, he had the po-lice say Jenny didn’t have to stay in that house no more. She was to live with her grandma, just over on Creekmore Avenue, which made me happy, ’cause she was so close. Some nights, Jenny’d sneak out and come on over to my house, just ’cause she said she was scared. Scared of what, I don’t know. But I think it was her grandma’s dog. He was a mean dog. Anyway, Jenny and me was best friends all the way up through high school.”

On serving in Vietnam:

“Now, they told us that Vietnam was going to be very different from the United States of America. Except for all the beer cans and the barbecues, it was.”

“I got to see a lot of countryside. We would take these real long walks. And we were always lookin’ for this guy named Charlie.”

On being shot in the buttocks (you must pronounce that but-tocks):

“They said it was a million dollar wound. But, the army must keep that money, cause I still ain’t seen a nickel of that million dollars.”

On John Lennon’s assassination:

“Some years later that nice young man from England was on his way to see his little boy and was signing autographs – FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON AT ALL – somebody shot him.”

On John F. Kennedy’s assassination:

“Sometime later – FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON – somebody shot that nice young president when he was riding in his car and a few years after that, somebody shot his little brother too – only he was in the hotel kitchen. Must be hard being brothers.”

On purchasing IPO shares of Apple stock:

“So I never went back to work for Lieutenant Dan, though he did take care of my Bubba-Gump money. He got me invested in some kind of fruit company. And so then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more.”

On Jenny angrily heaving rocks at her father’s abandoned house:

“Sometimes I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Do you see how unreliable narrative shows the true nature of Forest Gump?  Can you think of other examples of unreliable narrative? Have you written a story from that perspective? If not, would you consider writing a story using unreliable narrative?

Now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from the movie. Actually, they’re all good. Maybe I’ll go watch it again.  🙂

 

 

To see what other A to Z participants are blogging about this month, please click here to link to their blogs.

Advertisement

From the Archives – Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

In my former career as a “bean-counter,” I rarely allowed myself to read anything other than business books. Books were merely tools utilized to further my career. The payback period had to be short and the return on investment had to be high. I needed to see an immediate benefit, in the form of increased knowledge, from the time I had invested in reading. Time was money and I didn’t have the luxury of wasting it on nonsensical stories.

Somewhere along the way the joy I felt from spending lazy afternoons curled up with a good book was replaced by the notion that fiction held no value. Reading fiction had become a guilty pleasure. It was as if I had adopted an ascetic lifestyle, sworn an oath akin to celibacy, abstaining from the joy of reading, not because it was what I wanted but because it was expected if I were to grow intellectually. A work of fiction was just an invented story about people who never existed; and therefore, useless information. Nothing could be gained from it so naturally it held no merit. “Thou shalt not read fiction,” became my mantra.

On the rare occasion that I allowed myself to read a work of fiction I typically couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. I’d become completely wrapped up in this “sinful” pursuit, reading late into the night. These transgressions were worthy of a good self-flogging which often took the form of force feeding another business book. I never got much joy from reading a business book so it was  an appropriate punishment. I usually had to force myself to finish it and would skim pages just to get through it.

Then I’d come across a favorite quote, gaze longingly at the words, and marvel at how a single sentence could stir my soul. The longing to read good fiction would be rekindled. I found that despite my efforts to suppress my affection for fiction, abstinence made the heart grow fonder.

Now, I never miss an opportunity to read fiction. It transports you to different worlds that you may not get to explore otherwise. It allows you to see life through someone else’s eyes, to be exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. It can deepen your life experiences.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin

Reading fiction does have merit. It gets the creative juices flowing. It stimulates the imagination.

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...
English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ~ Albert Einstein

Now, it seems I always have a book in my hand, and undoubtedly, it is fiction.