On Tuesday 7th March we welcomed Sally Craythorne (S. E. Craythorne), author of How You See Me, to give a talk on reliable narrators.
Her talk was informative and fun and everyone learned that no narrator can truly be trusted.
“We want things to make sense. So if something doesn’t make sense we kind of pull it into the schema of our knowledge … Memory is an active process and can be therefore unreliable. If you’ve got a first-person narrator recounting a story, it’s their story, it’s probably not truth, even if you’re making it up. They will be fallible.”
– Sally Craythorne
Sally went on to describe the five main types of unreliable narrators:
1. The Picario:
A narrator who exaggerates and brags.
Example: Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
2. The Madman
A narrator with a mental impairment.
Example: Before I go to Sleep by S. J Watson.
3. The Clown
A narrator who does not take narration seriously and deliberately plays with the subject of the narration.
Example: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
4. The Naive
An immature narrator with a limited POV – this could be a child.
Example: Until I Find You by John Irving.
5. The Liar
An in-tune narrator with a sound knowledge who deliberately lies and misrepresents events, usually events or actions they don’t want to reader to know about.
Example: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
“… traditionally all narrators are unreliable to some extent and that’s part of the joy of reading them – that you get carried away with the story and then you go ‘hang on, do I know this person at all?’. But … if you do want to make your narrator unreliable, which is really good fun, you have to believe in them. You have to think about the fact that your reader has to read that book all the way to the end … Their unreliability is to make them real rather than to make them completely unreadable.”
– Sally Craythorne
With this in mind, we then discussed our fourth competition of the year: The Ivy Ferrari Cup. Traditionally, this contest was for romance fiction but in recent years it evolved to focus on strong, central female characters.
So, what is Sally looking for in winning entries?
First, all entries must follow the theme of motherhood. This can be a mother, either biological or foster/adoptive. It could follow somebody with motherly qualities who cares for another person who does not have to be a child or even related. This person could be a grandmother, or friend, or even a nurse. It is up to you to explore and bring out the fullest of this theme – the only stipulation is that the character must be female.
Sally is specifically looking for:
- Believable characters
- Good story
The story must also be fiction but it can be any genre. Although Sally is looking for realism, she is happy for any genre ranging from contemporary to sci-fi.
Your narrator does not need to be unreliable either.
As the word limit is only 2000 words, it is advisable to stick to a minimal cast of characters.
The deadline for the contest is 4th April. Entry is free to NWC members, or £3 for non-members. For full details of the competition, please visit the competition page.
The NWC would like to thank Sally for her thought-provoking talk and excellent advice. We would also like to thank everyone who attended.
Our next meeting is Tuesday 21st March at the Anteros Arts Foundation. Phyllida and Gill will announce the winners of the Impressing the Publisher competition.
We hope to see you there!