Unreliable Narrator Exercise

In an effort to sharpen and fine tune my writing, I am taking an Advanced Fiction Writing Course as part of my MFA in Writing. So far this course is great! During our in class sessions, we are each given a writing exercise to complete. Here is one we did called, “The Unreliable Narrator.”

The Exercise from E.L. Doctorow: to write a self-deceiving portrait in which the narrator is not the person she thinks she is-either more or less admirable.

Here is my Example:

Is there really a right or wrong way to fold the laundry? I ask myself when I’m reminded to flip the jeans upside down and begin the fold at the ankles. Am I always screwing up the most menial tasks or is everyone else being picky? Put the dishes in that way, hang the sweaters this way, and don’t put the sweatpants in with the jeans. Got it, I think. I do my best to follow these simple set of rules. Even a six-year-old could pull this off, right? Load one of laundry, done.

Mother always said, “Keep the house clean and always greet your husband with a warm meal.”

I run the vacuum over the rugs, taking care not to break the stitching. I suffer a fit of the sneezes after dusting all the hard surfaces in the house. I forget to open the window when I use Clorox to clean the toilet, and now I feel a headache coming. I dusted, I vacuumed, I swept, I scrubbed and I scrubbed for nearly thirty minutes. I’m tired and I need a break.

Logging in to my work e-mail, I check my phone and see that no one has contacted me. Ding. I turn my attention back to the dusty computer. Note: clean the computer. The first e-mail is from my boss. He wants to know the status on a proposal he assigned me. Crap! How could I forget to send it after I spent the entire morning on it? I see that I’ve already missed the deadline by two hours. I click reply.

Tom, 

Please see the attached document. 
I finished it this morning, my sincerest apologies for the delay. 

Thanks, Sue.

I frown at the sent e-mail. Ok, so I forgot to send an e-mail. Big deal! The other two e-mails are from my sister. We are planning a surprise party for our mother’s 60th birthday. She’s panicking because we forgot to send Great-Aunt Martha an invitation. Well, I forgot to send the invitation since that was my responsibility. I respond by telling her that I will just call Great-Aunt Martha and personally invite her. Problem solved. Another ding to my inbox. It’s my boss.

Sue, 

You might want to actually attach the document. 
You’ve had a week to work on it. Not sure why I’m just now 
getting it. 

Tom.

I laugh as I click reply again and attach the document. I’m a hard worker. I can’t help if every now and then I make a few mistakes. I glance at the clock. Dan will be home soon. I pop open a few cans of Campbell’s Vegetable Soup and dump them in a large pot on the stove. I add water just as the can describes. I stir as the contents begin to boil.

“Do you like it?” I ask eagerly.

He nods his head before answering, “Did you make it?”

“I did. I know how much you like soup.” After a pause, I continued, “I cleaned the house today. Scrubbed top to bottom.”

So, I lied a little, at least my heart is in the right place. By the look on his face, I could tell he knew I was lying. I decide not to bring more attention to it.

After a quick inspection, I didn’t actually push start on the dishwasher, I only finished one load of the laundry, and I forgot to clean the bathtub. I also, failed to dust the pictures on the wall, and somehow there were hairballs on the floor still. Maybe I did sleep in a little too late. Perhaps I did waste a bit too much time sipping on coffee and watching Lifetime when I woke up; but he’s so picky and there’s no satisfying that man.

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