‘My will shall shape the future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no one’s doing but my own. I am the force. I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice. My responsibility. Win or lose; only I hold the key to my destiny.’ Elaine Maxwell
Elaine Maxwell is an American author. These are powerful sentiments in a modern, westernised society but entirely meaningless in a misogynistic one. The Smile explores how legitimisation renders any such thoughts impossible for subjugated females. Should such thoughts begin to surface no action would be possible in any case.
Multiple narration with unreliable narrators.
In Following Meltdown I have used multiple narrators with two of them being to some extent, unreliable. This is a dystopian, apocryphal tale which by the nature of the genre, has traumatised characters.
One of my unreliable narrators is a weak man with an outward self-image of being both clever and, prior to the disasters, socially important. Tragic circumstances force him to face the reality of his personality and successive global catastrophes have him narrowing his thoughts, hopes and plans to such a degree that the reader cannot be sure they’re being presented with an account other characters would recognise.
The second unreliable narrator is one taking advantage of such characters. The reader cannot, at first, be aware of the duplicity of a man with very little conscience, whose aim develops into a new, huge ambition: to oust the person only he knows is in the process of taking supreme power in a decimated world. Personal tragedies lay in his wake. The reader has a need to see justice of some kind, being brought to bear.
Mentally unbalanced? Or not? Interesting questions to consider when writing a story from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. This could be anything from a serious genetic condition or a short-term reaction to trauma. No spoilers if you haven’t yet read The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, only that the narrator, Frank, has issues. Banks also employs this device in Transition. In fact, the novel begins: Apparently, I am what is known as an Unreliable Narrator. In both these cases the narrator feels unstable but for many readers, including myself, the conclusion is drawn that their accounts are accurate in all things that matter. Thus, there can be something of a double twist in the use of this device. I recommend these books to everyone who likes something thought-provoking and out of the ordinary.
A narrator suffering from a condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease might provide a valid, though unreliable narrative. I would consider using this if I wanted my narrator to fail to recall a crime s/he committed or perhaps an unpleasant act that resulted in damaging, long-term consequences. Then again, the narrator might not yet have been diagnosed and false ideas could be expounded by a narrator trying not to appear ‘mad’, or in a detective story fail to report something vital to the police. Because this state of mind is often not consistent, the author might choose to create a narrator who deliberately shows forgetfulness over, say, past actions they wish to keep secret, whilst also actually forgetting some truths shown to the reader by another narrator or in a prologue, for example. The excuse of loss of memory could result in the narrator lying to the reader. This is an example of the device that I would like to experiment with.