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Short story masterclass: You can trust me

Whip unreliable narrators into line by studying the masters with Helen M Walters

From Amy in Gone Girl to Rachel in The Girl On The Train, unreliable narrators have proved very popular over the last few years. But in this article I want to look back a bit further and examine what writers can learn about the use of an unreliable narrator from the authors of some classic short stories.

The stories I have chosen this time are The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, Daniel Keyes’ novella Flowers For Algernon, and The Friends Of The Friends (originally called The Way It Came) by Henry James. As usual, you will get the most out of the article if you read the stories for yourself (Read the short stories here, http://writ. rs/wmjan17), and if you don’t, beware spoilers ahead.

Unreliable can mean useful

Before we begin to look at the stories in detail let’s have a think about the issues raised by the use of unreliable narrators. Firstly, why would you want to use an unreliable narrator?

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About Writing Magazine

• STAR INTERVIEW WITH LEE CHILD, the multi-million selling creator of the Jack Reacher novels • Writing wisdom from the great Greek thinkers – rules that have stood the test of time • How to make your historical fiction stand out, and top tips on the genre from author Nicola Cornick • Study the short story masters to learn the art of the unreliable narrator • The magazine sleuth - how every magazine tells you exactly what its editor needs

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