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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories discusses...

Dead Narrators

with James Shaffer

Dead Narrators and Ghosts” appears in issue 625.

Dear Don,

I think your reason you mention for enforcing the “dead narrator” rule is valid.

However, what about stories depicted in films such as Sunset Boulevard and, to a certain extent, D.O.A., though it’s told from the point of view of a dying person?

Both are expertly written, convincing stories. They are different in that one is a tragedy of character and circumstance and the other, a crime mystery to be solved, but I believe both are convincing and complete in their own rights.

Kind regards,

James Shaffer

Quite so, James; I agree with you. And I think you speak for many other readers, as well.

Please remember, though, that the “dead narrator” rule applies almost exclusively to the “I” point of view.

In Sunset Boulevard, for example, the narrator is a ghost. The story doesn’t end with “Bang, I was dead”; rather, it begins at the end with, “Bang, I’m dead. Let me tell you how it happened.” It’s as though the story of Hamlet were told in retrospect from the point of view of Hamlet’s father’s ghost.

The distinction can be a little tricky to make between a “dead narrator” story and a ghost story. To sum it up in a kind of fortune cookie: A “dead narrator” kills a story; a ghost begins one.

BwS makes the distinction because every story must have a meaning beyond itself. And to have that meaning, a story must, like Hamlet, reach a conclusion.

Thanks for the feedback, James. I like to think you’re keeping us in touch with reality, be it ghostly or otherwise!

Don Webb
Managing Editor
Bewildering Stories

Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer
and Bewildering Stories

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