1. Home 
  2. Introduction
  3. On Our Glossary and Taxonomy
  4.     Glossary of Terms
  5.     Taxonomies of Creative Nonfiction
  6.             Central Questions
  7.             Dramatic Design
  8.             Forms
  9.             Genre and Veracity
  10.             Imagery
  11.             The Mind
  12.             Language
  13.             Narrative Energy
  14.             Narrators
  15.             Scene
  16.             Topics
  17.             Truth
  18. The Central Question Podcast
  19. Contact the Authors

Taxonomy of Narrators (Chapter 11)

Narrator is the guiding consciousness on the page, and one version of the writer. The narrator is not the living, breathing human being doing the writing, but a constructed consciousness created by that human. The narrator guides readers through the situation and is also, often, the main character involved. 

Narrator, Types of, 

Dramatic narrator only reports on a situation and is not a participant, as is often seen in journalism. The writer keeps the reader outside of all characters’ thoughts (since the writer doesn’t have access to any thoughts of those involved in the situation) and, often, out of the narrator’s thoughts. Normally, the dramatic narrator only reports on character actions and words. There are two types of dramatic narrators. They are the observer and commentator narrators. The dramatic observer narrator is not involved in the situation physically or emotionally. The observer narrator reports rather than experiences. We do not hear this narrator’s thoughts. Instead, the observer narrator allows the characters to solidify the central question through words, actions, and research alone. A more engaged narrator that also uses dramatic distance is the dramatic commentator narrator. Again, this narrator is not engaged in the situation but does offer internal scene about the situation. So, here, the reader sees the situation through other characters’ actions and dialogue but also receives commentary on those actions from our narrator, who seems to be standing off to the side of the situation. 

Interior Narrators offer readers access to the thoughts and emotions of the narrator, especially concerning the situation. Most first and second person narratives use interior narrators.  There are two types of interior distance narrators: secondary narrators and protagonist narrators. The secondary narrator is involved in the situation but is not the main character. With a secondary narrator, we often feel as if we are hearing a second-hand story. The most intimate interior distance narrator is the protagonist narrator. Here, our narrator is a main character. The reader feels as if they are experiencing the situation through the narrator’s point of view.

Narrator, Reliable and Unreliable, 

Narrator, Reliable, is someone the reader trusts to be honest in our creative nonfiction. 

Narrator, Unreliable is untrustworthy. There are two types of unreliable narrators in creative nonfiction. The intentional unreliable narrator and the unintentional unreliable narrator

Narrator, Intentional Unreliable, is a narrator who cannot be trusted, yet the reader understands that the writer can be trusted. With these narrators, the writer intentionally highlights a deceitful/confused/or otherwise untrustworthy narrator because the writer recognizes that the narrator (a version of the writer) cannot be trusted in and the context of the narrative’s particular situation. 

Narrator, Unintentional Unreliable is untrustworthy, but the reader carries that distrust over to the writer as well. With the unintentional unreliable narrator, in the writer’s mind, the narrator is credible. But in the reader’s mind, the narrator is untrustworthy. In this instance, both narrator and writer lose credibility, and the reader disengages with the piece.  

Narrator-situation Distance is the narrator’s proximity to the situation. Narrator-situation distance affects where in time, emotion, and space the narrator stands in relationship to the situation. This distance controls how close the narrator feels \, how long they have had to reflect, and, often, but not always, how close the reader feels to the situation. 

Narrator-situation Merge is when a writer is too close to a situation, temporally and emotionally, resulting in little to no narrative distance, which leads to little or no internal scene.