Why You Should Never Live With An Unreliable Narrator

We all know what it’s like to have difficult roommates.

Insomniacs. Musicians. Drug Addicts. Botanists.

It’s not like they say on the telly, where fictional flatmates are witty and delightfully quirky. But what if you lived with a modern grip-lit heroine from the likes of Girl On The Train, Gone Girl, or Before I Go To Sleep ?

I don’t think I was the only one who, when reading these books, thought, “Christ on a bike. Who’d live with these people? Nobody with a streak of sanity, that’s who”.

But what if you did? What would happen when you arrived home?


Why You Should Never Live With An Unreliable Narrator

You are at your door.Your key fits perfectly in the lock, but doesn’t turn. The door is opened from the inside. Your unreliable narrator flatmate appears.

Unreliable Narrator: Oh. You’re home.

You: I am indeed. How was your day? And is there something wrong with the door? My key wouldn’t open it –

Unreliable Narrator: I awoke this morning without having slept. Were you there? It doesn’t matter. The important thing was that I couldn’t be late for my doctor’s appointment. He was to tell me why I’ve been getting these headaches. I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to find out. The important thing is that I was about to. Which is all that matters.

You: So what did the doctor say?

Unreliable Narrator: What? I forgot to tell you, someone came to the door earlier. They called your name through the spyhole. They sounded upset. It was a woman. Or perhaps a 12-year-old boy with curly hair and a head cold. I can’t remember. I didn’t open it. I couldn’t. Not after the last time when— never mind. I picked up your dry cleaning. You never told me you were wearing purple again.

You: Eh. Okay. Tell me, have you been out of the house today at all? Or this week?

Unreliable Narrator: At lunch today I remembered being happy. Back when nostalgia was everything. Remember when we ran, laughing, down the beach? You, me, and the child we almost never refer to anymore? Her hair was going through that really long and curly stage – it shone golden in the early evening sun, like her spirit was woven right through it – and you cooked sausages with a disposable lighter and a spray can. We laughed all the time once. Everything glowed. Do you remember?

You: Um. No. I don’t think that was me, actually.

Unreliable Narrator: Your sister stopped me on the street. She wanted to know why they hadn’t seen you in a while. I got so confused. Didn’t you see them just last week? I asked after your father, and she got a funny look in her eyes before she turned away. She said she had to make an emergency stop at the lost property office. But she never got there.

You: My sister? My sister lives in Texas and hasn’t been home in eighteen months. What the hell are you talking about?

Unreliable Narrator: You got a letter this morning. I didn’t open it. It was nothing you need to worry about. I wish you’d talk to me sometimes about what’s on your mind. We never seem to talk any more. Not like before. When everything was sepia-tinged and the moon was full and high as you cooked sausages improbably. Things were much simpler then. No threatening letters to worry about. No trust issues.

You: Listen, I didn’t want to bring this up now, but there’s no other way. I want you to move out.

Unreliable Narrator: Oh! Just listen to me, babbling on. You only asked me how my day went. It was fine. Tell me about yours. Can I make you some coffee? Or something stronger?  Did you ever speak to anyone about the knife in the stuffed elephant?

You: …

Unreliable Narrator: Why won’t you answer? Why don’t we talk anymore?


Unreliable Narrator: Is it because of… oh, never mind. It doesn’t matter.

Why You Should Never Live With An Unreliable Narrator

  77 comments for “Why You Should Never Live With An Unreliable Narrator

  1. March 3, 2016 at 8:42 am

    She sounds like fun😂😂 Hey that sausage cooking thing with the lighter and spray can sounds like something Jimmy did back in ’78 in Salthill ….omg,is your flatmate called Bridget 😞

    Liked by 2 people

  2. March 3, 2016 at 8:48 am

    You’re right. It all makes pefect sense now. The credit card, those weird petrol pumps. Don’t know why I didn’t realise it at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. March 3, 2016 at 9:17 am

    This was just fantastic, love it. Imagine! Although I quite liked all them books now, I mean what they say in their head is different to what they say to me. I’m quite mad in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Oh, we can enjoy these characters all we want, banivani, as long as we don’t have to live with them!


  4. March 3, 2016 at 9:41 am


    Liked by 1 person

  5. carousel1234
    March 3, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Made my morning this did. I love your flatmate. 😍 As long as she’s yours and not mine. 😧 Wait till you go into your bedroom. She’s cut out the last page of every single book on your shelf. 📚

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Cut herself on them, you mean… There’s a dreadfully masochistic streak to today’s unreliable narrator isn’t there?


    • March 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Evil Carolann…pure evil. It sounds like Bridgie alrigh’ but’ Jimmy is sayin’ nuttin’.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. March 3, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Reblogged this on helenjnoble and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. March 3, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I know the flatmate!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. March 3, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Ha ha ha – brilliant!!! 😀

    Off to make some sausages using a rubber strainer and some lava. Just like we used to, remember?

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      No, Nick. Stop browbeating me into misremembering, or I’ll lock you in the closet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

        Please don’t. Coming out of the closet is real hard. I already did it once when I came out as a writer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm

          Well, you can’t come out of a closet twice, unless you went back in in the meantime. But we’ll discuss logistical improbabilities in the editing process later.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. March 3, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Brilliant! 🙂 She doesn’t commute to Cork by any chance? I think I work with her.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. miladyronel
    March 3, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I live with her! Oh, no – wait… That’s just another voice in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. March 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Hysterical, Tara, as well as creepy. The problem is they don’t move out – ever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      They do if you write about them, Diana. Nothing shuts up an unreliable narrator like a bestseller.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        Oh, yeah. A best seller. I’ve lived with a couple sociopaths, but they leave when the book is done…no best seller loitering…yet. I can hope.

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 4, 2016 at 4:30 pm

          You’ll have to make it so that it is a bestseller. After all, with unreliable narrators, it both is and isn’t what you say it is… (all very quantum, isn’t it!)

          Liked by 1 person

  12. March 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Beautiful. No, wait, ah.. never mind.


  13. March 3, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Hilarious!!!! It’s quite fun when it’s within the confines of a book, but gosh one of these days the book is gonna have a completely sane and respectable character strangle the unreliable narrator from sheer frustration. Gahh!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. March 3, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I know quite a lot of people like this. I thought everyone did? Is this not – like- normal?

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      OMG, like, no. Totally no way. You should like, like other people.


  15. Todd Duffey Writes on Things
    March 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    You have just summed up every roommate I’ve ever lived with in one fell swoop! (Or was I my own roommate and don’t recall?) (Oh Charlie Kaufman, get out of Tara’s head/my own internal reading voice) Great writing, as always, you awesome writer lady!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. March 3, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Not having read any of these books (novels?), I find that I have no idea about this topic. I also never lived in a flat, except for a short time after our house burned down. That is another story that I may share with you and Mark over more pints.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. March 3, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    And at night times they’re either drunk, arriving in covered in blood or scratches from they don’t remember what, or you’d hear eerie sounds coming from the room, and you’d lock your door and sit on your bed, back to your pillow with your hands over your ears as you rock back and forth trying to drown out the crazy coming from the other side of the wall where she’s … (three dots for effect;))

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Oh, my Blog. I was worried there for a minute, that your house had been overrun by unreliable narrators, and then I saw the three dots for effect… which can only mean YOU ARE ONE.

      Well played, my friend. Well played.


  18. March 3, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    You’re a bad woman Tara Sparling – making me click on the black rectangle to see what it looked like in ‘big’… Dystopian Landscape my ars…. oO 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Sue Bridgwater
    March 4, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Reblogged this on Skorn and commented:
    This is why I’m afraid to try new fiction…. but this version of it is wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      The fictional version of anything usually is, Sue! Although does that apply to fictional fiction…?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue Bridgwater
        March 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

        I often feel I’d hate to live with some of my characters, they seem to turn out less likeable than I’d thought they would…

        Liked by 1 person

  20. March 4, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    A drama lecturer I know insists people rarely answer the questions of others, or if they do it’s often not a direct answer. But this is taking it to extremes. Mind you, with a flatmate like that you would never be short of things to write about or of ideas for books and film scripts. Writer’s block would be relegated to the dark days of the past before Unreliable Narrator moved in. So it could have its upsides, though stress levels might soar and nerves jangle like the percussion section of an orchestra.Gave me a good laugh on a drench Friday afternoon, but something to think about too when considering character traits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      ‘A drench Friday afternoon’. I love that. To me that’s as evocative as the notion of an unreliable narrating flatmate. And I see what you mean regarding writer’s block – I suppose one of the benefits of having an unreliable narrator is that they can surprise even the writer with what they do and say!


  21. March 5, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    And I thought two Great Danes (one giving birth) and another sculptor as flatmates were a challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      I’m sure they were, Hilary, but I suppose it depends on what stories they were telling you at the time.


  22. March 6, 2016 at 11:30 am

    You’ve been watching me more closely than I realised. You really shouldn’t be wasting your time doing that. Now get on with those sausages

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Funny you should say that, Graeme, because when you wrote that comment, I was in fact eating sausages. I also ate all of them, so I hope that makes you happy. You can put down the knife.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. March 7, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Tara, I can’t but wonder how it would be to share a flat with Mr. Darcy ~ I’ve wondered about him for a long, long time now …

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2016 at 8:08 am

      I’m reliably informed that he leaves the toilet seat up and never washes dishes, Jean. Probably best left to your imagination.


  24. September 12, 2016 at 8:21 pm


    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 12:32 am


      Liked by 1 person

  25. Liberty On the Lighter Side
    September 20, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Thanks Tara, loved this – so funny! My poor husband, I understand his bafflement now. The improbable sausages are the best though, sooo many times I’ve aarghed my way through a book, how do editors not explain that there’s a limit to our capacity for fictional fiction? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Well, for starters, Liberty, I’d imagine because they’re not engaged in the first place in some instances, and aren’t doing more than a copy edit in others. Cutbacks – not that there’s ever an excuse for a lack of professionalism.

      Liked by 1 person

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