Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deconstructing the Unreliable Narrator

My Website: 
                                            The Speed of Dark – Available at

                            by Leigh M. Lane

The unreliable narrator, best exemplified by one of my biggest influences, Edgar Allan Poe, is an excellent choice of trope for writing horror and dark fiction.  Used in conjunction with first-person narration, it offers readers the opportunity to speculate beyond the provided information.  The narrator might be deceptive, misinformed, or delusional, but regardless of his or her motivations or frame of mind, the reader often draws more from what is missing from the narration than what is included.

Deconstructionism is a method of literary analysis that, among other techniques, looks between the lines to determine important plot points or themes.  When deconstructing the unreliable narrator, one might consider the reasons behind the skewed or omitted information.  For example, is the narrator in denial over an event, or perhaps trying to divert the reader from a sense of guilt or judgment?  How does this add to the plot?  Using Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” as a model, we might conclude that the narrator is petty or prone to exaggeration when he lures Fortunato into the catacombs; moreover, we can deduce that Fortunato is an innocent party and the victim of a senseless murder.

The unreliable narrator often portrays the point of view of a person of unsound mind.  By presenting a story that is clearly twisted or unreal as though it were undisputed truth, the author can offer great details about his or her characters.  Poe’s narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a great example of this.  Poe is able to portray the narrator as a tormented soul without ever offering any direct description of the person.  We don’t even know if the narrator is a man or a woman.  We do know, however, that he or she suffers from psychosis—but also possesses a sound conscience.  His or her response to the glass eye shows a tendency to project delusional attributes to inanimate objects.  The eye no more stares at the narrator than would a doll placed in the corner of the room, and yet it takes on dark, possibly even somehow harmful, attributes through the narrator’s unreliable filter.  The perceived heartbeat relays the guilt he or she feels over killing the kind, honest man who has opened his house to a person in need.  Thus, we can deduce that the narrator is a moral person who, due to a defect in perception in this one circumstance, has committed a terrible act.  What might have been Poe’s statement behind creating such a character?

I use the unreliable narrator in my short story “Plastic People,” using her psychosis to make a statement about petty, superficial people and the impact they can have on those around them.  The word “plastic” takes on a double meaning: the mannequins the narrator perceives to be tormenting her and the people who tormented her in real life.  Deconstructing her encounter, we can determine that she has somehow stood out since childhood and was left traumatized by her childhood bullies.

“Plastic People” is the closing story for Chase Enterprise’s new release, The Speed of Dark, which is available through the publisher’s website and Amazon.  It depicts a woman’s mental breakdown after learning she has lost both her husband and son in a car accident.


It all started on a warm summer evening. I was sitting on my porch, watching the stars emerge one by one in the dimming sky. There was a full moon that night, so big that it looked like it hovered right over town, looming just overhead like a spaceship from Hell, just waiting to swoop down over the unaware and the unwitting. On a night like this one, I think it very well could have done just that.

I was trying to spot constellations in the sky. The Dippers are the only ones I really knew, although I'm pretty sure I had found the Zodiac belt. Anyway, I was stargazing as Alison Franco came up the sidewalk with her stupid cocker spaniel. I hated the bitch with a deep passion, but I smiled politely. She smiled back, taking my gesture as an invitation to chat. She walked up the path to the house, keeping to the stepping-stones as if my lawn were molten lava. Her dog was not so courteous.

Her smile grew the closer she came to me. It was that nosey, I'm-still-better-than-you smile. I'm telling you, I cannot even put into words how much I hated her. . . .

Further reading:

You can find another example of the unreliable narrator in Lane’s traditional Gothic horror novel, Finding Poe, which was a finalist in the 2013 EPIC Awards in horror.

About Finding Poe:

When reality and fiction collide, there's no telling what horrors might ensue.

In the wake of her husband's haunted death, Karina must sift through the cryptic clues left behind in order to solve the mystery behind his suicide--all of which point back to the elusive man and author, Edgar Allan Poe. 

Karina soon finds that reality, dream, and nightmare have become fused into one as she journeys from a haunted lighthouse in New England to Baltimore, where the only man who might know the answers to her many questions resides.

But will she find her answers before insanity rips her grip on reality for good? Might a man she's never met hold the only key to a truth more shocking than even she could have imagined?

About Leigh M. Lane

Leigh M. Lane has been writing for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and twelve published short stories divided among different genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the beautiful mountains of western Montana.
Her other novels include The Hidden Valley Horror, inspired by Barker, Bradbury, and King, World-Mart, a tribute to Orwell, Serling, and Vonnegut, and the allegorical tale, Myths of Gods.  For more information about Leigh M. Lane and her writing, visit her website at

You can also find Leigh M. Lane on Facebook, Twitter, or her Amazon author page.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Coming Out Bisexual and Coming Out Different

                                                        by John B. Rosenman

I just read a letter in Dear Abby about a "woman who is happily married to a man, but who now realizes she is bisexual and wants to come out."  It is written by a happily married man who is married to "an out bisexual woman."  For legal reasons I can't quote too much of the letter, but the writer makes the point that you can "be bisexual without having acted on it, as people are not defined solely by the partner they have."

Wow.  As I read this, it seemed to me that he had it exactly right.  It's a new honesty of these changing times, and although some folks won't approve, it would have been difficult or impossible to say such things a few years back.  More and more often these days, people want to come out of their closets, stop living a lie, explore who they are, and present their total selves to the world.

This opens up all sorts of possibilities.

Perhaps a great former NBA basketball player like Magic Johnson can embrace and publicly love and accept his gay son.

Or Brittney Griner, a six-foot, eight-inches tall basketball player from Baylor University can actually become the first female to break the all-male club of the NBA.

Think that's impossible?  Well, Danica Patrick, all 5'2" of her, recently made history in several ways, one of which was to finish eighth in the Great American Race in the Daytona 500.  And she's far from being the first female racer.

My general point is that these days, stereotypes are changing and breaking down, and no longer are our friends and neighbors playing true to type the way they used to.  It's hard to be anti-gay when just about every family has one, as Senator Rob Portman discovered two years ago.  It's hard to be dogmatic and cling to traditional conservative views when this country and others are moving toward the legalization of drugs, same-sex marriage, and more inclusive, more accepting attitudes toward society.

I'm a writer, and I've noticed that to a marked degree, many of the changes I've suggested here have already taken place in fiction and literature during the past few decades.  In Romance, for example, you have gay, transgendered, ethnic, interracial, etc. relationships, and in science fiction you continue to have a radical, sometimes shocking openness to new ideas.  Nowhere, I believe, is this willingness to be daring and to push limits more evident than in the small and independent publishers that readers and writers find here on the Internet, where the new frontier of the written word flourishes and is vibrantly alive.