In our most recent Young Writers workshop, we considered the trope of the unreliable narrator.

We set up a scenario where guests had gathered at a stately home for a New Year’s Eve party in 1929. All the guests retired, and many woke with sore heads the next morning, but one would not wake again.

Who was the culprit?

We began by explaining the four types of unreliable narrator: the picaro, the madman, the naif and the liar…and what might contribute to their development. We then gave our participants a list of characters to choose between, ranging from the Lady of the House to the Apprentice Gardener. Each writer chose a character that they would adopt (and write as) for the duration of this workshop.

Character development is crucial to believability when writing an unreliable narrator, so we provided a list of questions about the characters’ deepest desires, a secret that they hold and a possible motive for the murder.

Then came the interviews with the detective where we asked our participants to explore the night of the incident in meticulous detail. They began by exploring their relationship to the victim before commenting on how they felt upon waking, the tension at the dinner table and their memories of the party – hazy or otherwise.

By this time, we had informed the perpetrator of their identity, which they were instructed to keep secret for the duration of the workshop.

To close the session, we invited the writers to share their work aloud or paste it into the chat if they had used a computer.

As the scenario unfolded, all the fingers seemed to point in one direction. When it finally came time for him to own up, he had fled the scene due to technical difficulties…but soon returned to say his piece.

Our next Young Writers workshop will be held on Saturday 13th April on Zoom, between 10:00am and 12:00pm. Booking information can be found here.