Bushnell’s thoughts on unreliable third-person narration

Interesting comments on narrative voice from J.T. Bushnell in the current issue of Poets and Writers. He stresses that narration can be unreliable in any point of view as long as it’s limited, and gives these guides for pulling off an unreliable third-person narrative voice:

“…you have to know not only who your characters are, but also who they pretend to be, not only what they care about but also what they say they care about, not only what ideas they live by but also how those ideas are false. You have to figure out why your characters are blind, and how they’ve managed to maintain their blindness. And you have to signal these disparities to the reader without revealing them to the character, or straining credibility by making the characters too blind. This creates other dynamics that are necessary in good storytelling, for example, character limitation and unrecognized truth, and moving between the former and the latter helps shape a story’s meaning, or theme.”

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