The Unreliable Narrator
I understand why they write like this because dialogue is much trickier if it isn’t straight forward. One character asks a question (Did you eat the last piece of cake?) and the other character:
Lies. No. Zoey did it.
Asks another question. There was cake?
Answers with an apparent non sequitur that is somehow revealing. I don’t even like chocolate.
This type of dialogue is crucial if you are writing a story with an unreliable narrator. In a limited third person point-of-view, you can create an unreliable narrator by giving us a character who lies and never letting us in on his thoughts.
In a first person novel, it gets much more difficult to accomplish, but David Levithan succeeds in Every You, Every Me (Alfred A. Knopf 2011). Levithan handles it by giving us an insecure character who can’t bear to think about what he has done and what it might all mean.
Because Evan is a tortured soul, he waffles back and forth about exactly what happened. In one line of text he reveals what he is really thinking, strikes it out, and tries again. Other times, he reveals more than he meant to let us know and then tries to take it back. Here is an example:
“I only knew it was morning because I was so tired.
"I hadn’t really slept.
Creating an unreliable first person narrator is a tricky balancing act. Reveal too much too early and you lose the tension that you need to build in your story. Lie and you risk losing the reader over this betrayal, unless you can create a narrator who isn’t even sure he can trust himself.
It’s a tricky task but one Levithan pulled offed in an amazing way. It won’t work with every story, but maybe you’re working on something that would benefit from an unreliable narrator. Do you think you’re up to crafting some tricky dialogue?
Read more of SueBE's posts at her blog, One Writer's Journey.