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Old 05-29-2012, 07:31 AM   #1
K. Molen
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Books where the main character keeps a secret from the reader?

I'm about to start a project where the reader is misled about the main character's motivation for doing what he does throughout the book, only to reveal the true motivation towards the end.

As I'm planning this project I find myself with the challenge of how to execute this without being too obvious and coy. What I want to do is make the reader think they know exactly why the main character does what he does, only to be thrown for a loop at the end and have a kind of "Oooh, yeah, that makes sense too..." moment.

So, for ideas on how others have approached this, I was hoping to read a few books that does something similar, but am not having much luck Googling for such books. Any recommendations?

I suppose any respondent should keep book titles within spoiler tags, since what I'm asking could very well ruin the experience for people who haven't read the book.

To make a spoiler tag, do this: [spoiler]Book Title[/spoiler]

Which would result in this:

Spoiler:
Book Title


Thanks in advance for any recommendations.
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Old 05-29-2012, 12:10 PM   #2
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What you're looking for is the concept of the unreliable narrator. Google that and you should find a treasure trove of resources to choose among.
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Old 05-29-2012, 12:18 PM   #3
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There was a recent thread discussing favourite books with unreliable narrators: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...75#post2045575
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:50 PM   #4
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A classic:

Spoiler:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie


Recent, genre, unexpected:

Spoiler:
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh. Actually has 2 unreliable characters, very clever. It's a romance.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:25 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input, much appreciated. You learn something every day.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:42 PM   #6
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Have not read the other thread, but the OP seems to be asking for more than just an unreliable narrator. A deliberately deceptive narrator? If so, a recent bestseller was
Spoiler:
Life of Pi
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K. Molen View Post
I'm about to start a project where the reader is misled about the main character's motivation for doing what he does throughout the book, only to reveal the true motivation towards the end.
It's a common twist in short stories, less so in novels.
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:02 PM   #8
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Okay... so having read up a little bit about unreliable narrators I think I can better articulate what I'm looking for:

A story with an omniscient 3rd person unreliable narrator that doesn't outright lie to the reader.

An example of what I'm hoping I can find:

Sally loves dogs but her parents are allergic and so naturally Sally can't have one. One day a new family moves in next door, and along with them a very friendly golden retriever. Sally starts to befriend Janet, the daughter in the new family, so that she can be near the dog and play with it as often as possible. Or so the reader is lead to believe, maybe by omission but certainly not by anyone telling an outright lie.

As the story goes on Sally and Janet become better and better friends, and one day Janet asks if Sally could take care of the dog while Janet's family goes on vacation. Sally agrees. However, instead of caring for the dog, she kills it. When a heartbroken Janet asks why, Sally explains that her parents are oh so very allergic, and Sally just couldn't allow a dog to live right next door to them.

I'm sure there's plenty examples of this when it comes to 1st person POV or limited 3rd person POV, but what about omniscient 3rd person POV? Or am I asking too much?
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:12 PM   #9
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My 2nd recommendation is 3rd person (tight 3rd, but more than one character, not sure whether I would call it "omniscient" or not).
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Old 05-30-2012, 07:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
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My 2nd recommendation is 3rd person (tight 3rd, but more than one character, not sure whether I would call it "omniscient" or not).
Cool. Thanks again. I'll check it out.
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Old 05-30-2012, 08:46 AM   #11
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What you're looking for is the concept of the unreliable narrator. Google that and you should find a treasure trove of resources to choose among.
Yes this. I've used it in stories. As Elf says, it's less common in novels.
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:08 PM   #12
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Fight Club immediately comes to mind. (And yes, it's a novel.)
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:18 PM   #13
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Fight Club immediately comes to mind. (And yes, it's a novel.)
ya i agree with you thanks for your suggestion.
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Old 05-30-2012, 10:45 PM   #14
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I can't think of an example, but one possibility would be having the main character unaware of the true motivation. The character need not be a liar to be unreliable. Folks often fool themselves.
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Old 05-31-2012, 03:12 AM   #15
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I'm wondering if Shutter Island by Denise Lehane would fit.
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