Write Club Meetup 36
Exercise #1 Write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry to any of these titles • Time Which Made a Monkey of Us All • Dreamer in a Dead Language • A Conversation With My Father • A Man Told Me the Story of His Life
Unreliable Narrator An unreliable narrator is a first-person narrator that for some reason has a compromised point-of-view • Narrator serves as a filter for the events • Narrator’s point of view or opinion about the world and him/herself stands in contrast to the evidence presented • Reader has reason not to trust what the narrator is saying
The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe A murderer carefully conceals his crime and believes himself unassailable, but eventually breaks down and reveals himself, impelled by a nagging reminder of his guilt.
The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe The story is presented as a first-person narrative using an unreliable narrator. He is a condemned man at the outset of the story. The narrator tells us that from an early age he has loved animals. He and his wife have many pets, including a large black cat named Pluto. This cat is especially fond of the narrator and vice versa. Their mutual friendship lasts for several years, until the narrator becomes an alcoholic. One night, after coming home intoxicated, he believes the cat is avoiding him. When he tries to seize it, the panicked cat bites the narrator, and in a fit of rage, he seizes the animal, pulls a pen-knife from his pocket, and deliberately gouges out the cat's eye.
The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe From that moment onward, the cat flees in terror at his master's approach. At first, the narrator is remorseful and regrets his cruelty. "But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS." He takes the cat out in the garden one morning and hangs it from a tree, where it dies. That very night, his house mysteriously catches fire, forcing the narrator, his wife and their servant to flee.
The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe The next day, the narrator returns to the ruins of his home to find, imprinted on the single wall that survived the fire, the figure of a gigantic cat, hanging by its neck from a rope. At first, this image terrifies the narrator, but gradually he determines a logical explanation for it, that someone outside had thrown the dead cat into the bedroom to wake him up during the fire, and begins to miss Pluto. Some time later, he finds a similar cat in a tavern. It is the same size and color as the original and is even missing an eye. The only difference is a large white patch on the animal's chest. The narrator takes it home, but soon begins to loathe, even fear the creature. After a time, the white patch of fur begins to take shape and, to the narrator, forms the shape of the gallows.
The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe Then, one day when the narrator and his wife are visiting the cellar in their new home, the cat gets under its master's feet and nearly trips him down the stairs. In a fury, the man grabs an axe and tries to kill the cat but is stopped by his wife. Enraged, he kills her with the axe instead. To conceal her body he removes bricks from a protrusion in the wall, places her body there, and repairs the hole. When the police came to investigate, they find nothing and the narrator goes free. The cat has gone missing. On the last day of the investigation, the narrator accompanies the police into the cellar. Completely confident in his own safety, the narrator comments on the sturdiness of the building and raps upon the wall he had built around his wife's body. A wailing sound fills the room. The alarmed police tear down the wall and find the wife's corpse, and on her head, to the horror of the narrator, is the screeching black cat. As he words it: "I had walled the monster up within the tomb!"
How is the narrator unreliable? Some of the typical scenarios are: • The narrator may be of a dramatically different age than the people in the story, such as a child attempting to explain adult actions • The narrator may have prejudices about race, class or gender • The narrator may have low intelligence • The narrator may suffer from hallucinations or dementia
Exercise #2 Choose plot and reveal (beginning or end) Use first person narrative Appear sincere, try to gain reader’s trust Avoid historical plots, speculative fiction, and clearly delineated dream sequences
Exercise #2 Options • Monologue in which character describes self/someone else • Recount a scandal • Telling on a friend • Inappropriate relationship • Create a character with a secret. What is the secret? Why does the character have this secret? Place this character in a scene with someone who is trying to expose that secret. Is it a family member? A friend? Why does this character want the main character to tell the truth? What happens when this character confronts the main character about their secret?
Exercise #2: Option #2 Pick an event from history, perhaps one you lived through, and write about what you (or some characters) were doing at the time. Where were you (if you're old enough) when Kennedy was shot? How about when the World Trade Center went down? What was happening in your life (or your characters' lives)? Was it influenced by the historic event or in contrast to it?