A discussion with P.E. and Mari.
P.E.: In 9th grade, I was given a peculiar writing assignment. It began with developing a story with characters and a typical plot chart. The surprise came when the teacher revealed that our storyline couldn't be linear. This doesn't mean that she wanted us to include flashbacks. She wanted the entire story to take place in different times. It was a strange assignment, and surprisingly effective because when you're not just focused on saying something the way you imagined it happened, then you can start focusing on affecting your reader in some way. The assignment opened my eyes to different writing styles and the fun it is to read something a little different.
Mari: Definitely, it's good to shake things up sometimes. Alternating perspectives, inverted story lines, keep the reader engaged. If done right they can be less confusing and more enjoyable. My first experience with alternating perspectives was Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry and that book has managed to hold on to its spot in my top reads since 2009. There are limitations to the amount of character development a reader can see and how much they can relate when the reader isn't in the character's head. For all the world, including Brittany, Alex was an insufferable no good gangbanger. But the alternate perspectives allowed the reader to see his side, see his family and how the things he said may not necessarily be what he meant.
Another example of alternating perspectives done well was in Legend by Marie Lu. We had two characters who were misinformed about each other and the reader got to have the best seat in the how as they watched the two develop their own opinions about the other. Also, alternating perspectives are especially appreciated when the characters aren't in the same place at a given time. This way we can actually see what's going on instead of Day went on a mission, he must've been successful that's why he is back in the same place as June.
P.E.: I've also always been a fan of alternating POVs. For me, it began after reading Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. The story had a lot of political intrigue and drama in general, so it was super useful to see what certain characters were doing because they all had different objectives and moral codes. That's when I realized alternating perspectives can be fun. So, I like different POVs and different sequencing. How about unreliable narrators? Have you read a story with one of those?
Mari: I think the closest I got to an unreliable narrator was in Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupula. There were various underlying current in this book. The main character had experienced a traumatizing event and though she would hint at the person who did it to her sometimes you weren't sure if she was telling the truth because she would incriminate herself as well. Those kind of stories make a fantastic fast paced and gripping read if done right.
P.E.: Liar by Justine Larbalestier was the most unreliable narration I've ever read. The main character promised to lie, and she would say something in the beginning and by the end she would say something completely different. It was so strange. I loved it. It's just that it was so different, which is refreshing.