Reader Expectations

Readers have expectations, including that your first person narrator will tell them the truth. Lies and deceit are possible but not easy.
  • Telling Titles.  Sometimes these expectations come about because of your title.  The Secret Staircase speaks of sliding doors and hidden passages.   Aliens Ate My Homework sounds like a science fiction story.  Love Lost and Found suggests a romance.  Readers who pick up your book expect one thing and find something altogether different may or may not stick around.
  • Character Consistencies.  Whatever skill your main character needs to solve his or her problem needs to be planted from the start.   If he needs to speak French or she needs to know how to pick a lock, give them these skills, at least in passing, earlier on in the story.
  • Likable Lies.  It’s okay to mislead your reader.  That’s what you do when you plant red herrings in a mystery or toss in two love interests, one who seems sure to get away, in a romance.  But hiding information, and even lying to your reader, is really hard to do especially in a first person story.  If your narrator knows something, then you can’t lie to your reader, except in very special circumstances.

Read about how to break this contract for truth in today’s post at the Muffin.  David Levithan has created a top-notch unreliable narrator in Every You, Every Me.


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