Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Unreliable Narrator in YA

on October 11, 2012

Today, I’m teaching a one-day workshop at the Muse On-Line Conference entitled, “The Unreliable Narrator in YA.” The workshop is based on my YA novel, WEAVING MAGIC.

 WEAVING MAGIC is told in alternating viewpoints between sixteen-year-old Christopher who loves magic and is trying to stay sober and fifteen-year-old Shantel who loves romance and is struggling in the aftermath of her mother’s death. In the story, there is a crime which is committed and everyone assumes it has to be Christopher who is the criminal. However, things are not as they seem, and as the story unfolds, it’s revealed that Shantel has a little more to do with the crime than first believed and it’s soon discovered Shantel is not quite telling the truth.

You  can find out more about WEAVING MAGIC on my website here.

What are Unreliable narrators? An unreliable narrator is a narrator who has a lack of credibility or understanding of the story. “An unreliable narrator works under the constraints of limited knowledge to convey information that may seem justifiably suspect to the reader.” Some factors may include mental illness, personal involvement with the situation, or lack of morality. Unreliable narrators may be written in first or third point of view.

If you’d like to learn more about Unreliable Narrators in YA, feel free to download the handout here:

Unreliable Narrator Handout

Here are some writing exercises for you to try with unreliable narrators:

  • From your character’s point of view, write about a lie you tell out of loyalty to your family, your friends, your community, your society, etc.
  • From your character’s point of view, write about a time when someone lied to you. How did you feel? Where were you? When did you find out they lied? How did you find out they lied?

Family themes/secrets writing. 

Create a family secret for your character Is there a secret in your fictional family? How has this secret created anxiety in the life of this family? How can this secret affect your story? Who are the family members who bind the secret? Continue to keep the secret going? Who are the family members who try to break away from the secret? Why does the family have this secret? When did it start?

Secrets might include: Abuse, addictions, missing persons, financial problems, pregnancies.

Write a scene where two characters from the family are at odds about this theme. Have one character try to convince the other to make a choice that will allow the character to break free from the theme. Have the other character resist.

Look at the family secret again. Is there an unreliable narrator lurking in that secret?  Can he/she tell a story



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