The Tell-Tale Heart


Your Turn (Unreliable Narrator)

In this lesson, you're going to write an anecdote from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. (An anecdote is a very short story that doesn't necessarily have a beginning, middle or end).

In her article "8 Tips to Writing Unreliable Narrators", Deb Caletti offers the following ideas.

  1. Make your character a liar.
  2. Lie by omission, too. (Give hints that your narrator is leaving out important information).
  3. Muddy the motivations. (Is your narrator being honest about why she really wants something?)
  4. Make your protagonist more clever than she seems. (Is your narrator pretending to be dumb?)
  5. Use your secondary characters. (Have another character catch your narrator in a lie).
  6. Add in an unpredictable act. (If your narrator does something unexpected, the reader will question whether the narrator has been telling the whole truth.)
  7. Make your protagonist a bad guy . . . or don’t. (Not all unreliable narrators are evil people; some may be struggling to keep a secret for any number of understandable reasons).
  8. Keep it believable. (Small lies can be as effective as large ones).

Still out of ideas? Try this:

Image that you are being interrogated by the police. The detective who is asking you questions suspects that you are guilty of muder; after all, you were caught at the scene of the crime, with a bloody knife in your hand.

Explain to the police why you are actually innocent. At the same time, drop enough hints so that the reader of your story can figure out that you are probably guilty.

Lesson Steps

  1. In your portfolio, tell a story from the point of view of an unreliable narrator.
  2. When you are finished, return to this page and take the quiz.

Instruction for the Quiz

Answer the questions.