The unreliable narrator: definition and uses in literature

Literature offers writers and readers alike the opportunity to experiment with things that in real life usually lead to a series of unpleasant consequences. No, I’m not speaking of explosives wired to fast-ticking timers, of psychopaths on a killing spree, or of alien hordes devastating our already half devastated world–not necessarily at least. What I’m speaking of here has to do with the well known literary trope of the narrator, or rather, the unreliable narrator. This might look like a literary device of secondary importance, especially considering the gazillion super explosive things that authors can cook up in a book. However, the unreliable narrator is one of those essential tools that any writer must learn to master. Indeed, to realize this is enough to remember that many of the most acclaimed works of literature worldwide exploit this literary device.

Stylistic devices – how to end a story

We humans are a bit strange, to say nothing of the dog… Sorry, sometimes I mix what I’m reading — Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) — with what I’m writing, or should be writing. Anyway, I was saying we’re strange. For example, we tend to give a lot of importance to the way things end. I mean, if we go on a vacation for a fortnight and then the last day it rains, we’re bound to feel a bit cheated and depressed. Instead, if it rains the first day of our vacation it rarely is a big deal. The same goes when we have to sit through a dental procedure. Even if the dentist is a sadistic jerk, it’s not a big problem. Really, all he has to do is to let the last five minutes of the procedure go without any discomfort on …

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Photography and writing — how you can use the universal language of creativity to improve your art

Wow, this time around I managed to write a title that’s almost as long as a post. I know they say to keep it short and sweet, but I wanted to make my title as descriptive as possible. So to hell with SEO and crawlers. A post should be written for readers, not for digital spiders of the web. Some days ago I was on Twitter doing some research for a story I’m writing. Well… to be honest, in reality I was loafing about, I was wasting time, postponing, putting things off. You get the idea. This even if some time ago I wrote an extremely erudite and effective post–I hope not too riddled with spelling mistakes and strange turn of phrases–about how to avoid procrastination. In any case, surfing and twitting away I came across a couple of interesting quotes. Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what …

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How to find the theme in your stories–and turn them into T-rexes

That of theme is an essential concept in creative writing. In fact, it can give a work of fiction depth and resonance beyond belief. However, it is important to make sure we know what a theme really is. In particular we must pay attention not to confuse it with the subject of a story. For example, in the Lord of the Rings Frodo must travel to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, the only able to rule the other Rings of Power. We can therefore say that the battle for power is the subject of the story. Instead, the main theme of The Lord of the Rings (or rather one of its main themes) has to do with the inherent ability power has to corrupt who wields it. To make things clearer, just think of a book about the war. In such a case the war would be the subject …

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Describing characters in fiction – literary techniques

In a previous post about memorable characters in fiction I wrote that writers must offer their readers many occasions to get to know the characters populating their stories. In fact, just as in real life the more we know about someone the more intense our feelings can grow for that person, the same happens in a novel. However, given that any work of literature, even the lengthiest one, is always an heavily edited and condensed version of reality, we must choose with care which scenes to include in our stories and which are instead better left out. For example, if in our book we describe Ms. Jones going through an endless series of only relatively trivial incidents, we can rest assured our readers will put down our book and find something better to do. Of course, if we really want to write some experimental book full of meta language and …

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