Have you ever read a book with a narrator, where they didn’t tell you everything, or where they got things wrong for some reason?
How did it make you feel? Intrigued… frustrated… cheated… awestruck by the author’s clever use of an unreliable narrator…?
Unreliable narrators can be a useful device for exploring ideas of perception, reality, honesty and madness but they come with certain limitations.
The most obvious limitation is, of course, that there has to be a narrator. You either have to be telling a story in first person or you need to have an omniscient narrator telling your story.
Adding to the difficulty of using a narrator, is then the challenge of how to not let the reader suspect too soon that your narrator isn’t reliable. Preferably this needs to be done without making the reader mad.
On a personal note: If you’ve read any books with a ‘successful’ unreliable narrator, I’d love to hear about it. A potential future project for me will require I use one to pull off the story, so I’m open to suggestions of good examples!