Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Unreliable Narrators

Unreliable narrators are a huge trend right now, and have been since Gone Girl swept the literary stage.

I love suspenseful novels. Some are really well done, and I love feeling my heart pound just from reading words on a page. It's powerful! But unreliable narrators are pretty much the worst character you can read or write about.

I remember being warned against unreliable narrators in my writing workshops. It can be done, and it can be done well, but in current mainstream fiction, I don't think it's being done well. I don't think *I* can do it well, either, to be fair. I'm not trying to be holier-than-thou. I know a lot of people enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train and all of those other books almost exactly like those. They're bestsellers and movies so clearly something works!

But for me, I can't stand unreliable narrators. I think mental illness is something that should be explored in fiction, but using it as a deus ex machina is a cop out. Same with alcoholic characters, like The Girl on the Train. Suspense is one thing, but leaving out sections of story because the character blacked out, only to miraculously remember them at the end of the book to solve the mystery is a big hoax. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like the author conned me when that's the sad resolution to a story.

The worst part is, there are so many of these! All of these new books are being compared to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl and, like I said, I understand they are bestsellers - but that doesn't mean they're good. It frustrates me that these books are touted as good literature when other books are tossed off as "chick lit" or "romance" or "fluffy" because they're not as "heavy hitting".

How do you feel about unreliable narrators? Have you read the books I mentioned? What did you think? Have you read books that seem to have the same "formulas" as each other?

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