There is a Narrative Trick in this Story

http://ncode.syosetu.com/n7931da/

(TL: I have a final Thursday, so I won’t be starting a Sevens volume. But I feel bad making an announcement without translating anything.)

There is a Narrative Trick in this Story

By Kusutani Tasuku


【Narrative Trick】

A trick used in the composition of mystery novels to cause the reader to misread. For example, a character’s gender or age, or even the chronology of events are purposely covered up. Like that, the reader uses their precognitions to misunderstand the truth, creating an unexpected reveal.


 

 

“You know, there’s something I can’t help but wonder about narrative tricks.”

Izumi suddenly spoke up. This childhood friend of mine always says things quite suddenly.
Kamioka Prefectural Highschool, a room on the first floor.
Winter break had only just begun, and unfortunate as it may be, there were supplementary lessons to be had.
But there were still more than twenty minutes to go until those supplementary lessons began. Izumi and I had arrived early as always, and as always, we were talking about mystery novels. Both she and I read into detective stories with considerable zeal, so our conversations meshed exceedingly well.
My childhood friend from elementary school, Izumi always spoke to me frankly without minding surroundings eyes. Personally, I did mind them a bit.

“In the first place, narrative tricks are tricks thrown in from outside the stories… is that, speaking to novel etiquette, really fair game?”

Said Izumi.

“Meaning?”
“In most cases, narrative tricks are only for the reader to fall for, and the characters of the story aren’t actually surprised, right? Let’s take an age misrecognition trick for example. The protagonist written to sound like a twenty-year-old was an old man the whole time~, something like that. But the people around that protagonist knew he was an old man the whole time. Meaning the only one whose world is inverted is the reader alone, and for the characters concerned, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary at all.”

Izumi said that with some force.
When she leaned herself forward, from the opening in her white shirt, I could see some chest of the same white, making me a little hurried in my words.

“You’re right,” said I. “But what’s the problem with that?”
“And I’m saying…”

Izumi leaned against the desk for emphasis.

“What would happen if you took out the narrative tricks from a novel that contained them? Just what’s left behind? Some artless physical tricks, some plain police investigation and identification, and a culprit who isn’t surprising or anything. Isn’t that all there is?”
“Yes, I’m sure there are quite a few novels like that.”

I recognized that.

“But isn’t that fine as it is? I mean, at the very least, for the reader, the narrative trick exists to do its job. It carries a form of surprise, and can become the centerpiece of the story.”
“And you’re right, but… In mystery novels that use narrative tricks, there exists one major rule. I mean to say…”
“The narrator can never lie.”

I said with a smile.
Izumi pointed at me, as if to say, ‘that’s it’.

“Like in a gender misconception narrative trick, the author has to lay this trap and that to make it work. To get you to think of a woman as a man, for example, they place them in an occupation with a female minority, or give them slightly masculine or largely neutral names, like Akira or Makoto. Right, Akira?”

She’s got me there.
Miraculous enough, my first name was Akira. But when Izumi entered middle school, she got around to calling me by my surname, Kouzuki. So it’s been quite a while since she called me something like Akira, and I was a tad flustered.

“My name has nothing to do with it, right?”

Or so I interrupted her.

“So what’s this about gender misconception narrative tricks?”

“Ah right,” said Izumi, her expression stiffening as well. “So the problem I want to pose is the same one as before, ‘the characters in the story have 0 surprise,’ ‘the narrator can never lie,’ is how it is.”
“Right.”
“So there comes another problem… ‘then what happens if the reader sees through the trick?’ is what I’d like to say.”
“That sounds quite possible.”

I nodded.

“They can’t write lies, so a reader with good intuition might notice there’s a lack of information, and see through the truth.”
“Right, right. And the truth that comes from that… the work becomes boring. The stronger the work’s tie is to its narrative tricks, the more boring it will be for readers who’ve seen through it.”
“I see, a fundamental dilemma.”

I said. After getting my thoughts together, I spoke again.

“But to an extent, I guess it’s something that can’t be helped. There’s no such thing as a perfect narrative trick. The more the author tries to play fair, the harder it becomes to trick the reader. Mystery authors should aim to trick as many readers as they can, but I’ll bet it’s impossible to deceive ten out of ten.”
“I see.”

Said Izumi as she put her hand to her chin.

“Then what should you do to trick as many readers as possible?”

That was a strange way to put it. The two of us were on the readers’ side.

“Let’s see.”

But I tried thinking over it.

“I think you probably have to write your novel under the assumption your readers will have their eyes blinded by the trick. The publishers want the books to sell so they put stuff like, ‘The impact of that one final page!!’ on the back. But that just tells the reader there’s a narrative trick already…
In a novel like that, a gender neutral character in a male-dominated occupation… was really a girl… would that ever work out? No matter how the author may wrack their brains to depict her a man, it can’t be helped the reader notice their gender.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“So if you want to make that individual look male no matter what, you’d have to use some more unexpected means to get it through.”
“For example?”
“For example…”

Some payback for the previous Akira.

“Your name is Izumi.”
“Yes.”

Izumi looked at me blankly.

“What of it?”
“So let’s say a character called Izumi came out in a novel. Depicted quite feminine throughout the whole thing, but she was really a man… is the big reveal. Izumi was actually his surname, is the truth. But if you get them to think Izumi’s his first name, it’s clearly a woman’s name, so the readers won’t notice Izumi=Man.”
“I see.”

Izumi nodded.

“So if we take your name Kouzuki. But we don’t give a reading for it, and spin it as a first name, perhaps we could get the readers to think you’re a woman called Katsuki.”
“That’s how it is.”
(TL: 香月 is more commonly read as Katsuki.)

 

Of course, reality wasn’t so.
My name Kouzuki Akira belonged to a bonifide man, while Utagawa Izumi was a bonifide woman.

 

“Ah, but…”

I turned it back to generalizations.

“With narrative tricks, no matter how pointless, no matter how easy they are for readers to see through, I think they have a value of their own. At the very least, in the entertainment that is narrative tricks, there’s a worth to be found in a different field.”
“And that is?”
“Have you ever heard of bias training?”

Izumi shook her head.

“Unlike you, I suck at English.”
“Oh right. Bias training is thought training to discover the unconscious prejudices and preconceptions inside of you. I heard it’s getting in fashion in the western world these days.”
“Meaning these narrative tricks work as bias training?”
“Right.”

I gave a strong nod.

“Gender-misconception tricks especially so. Let’s say there was a police officer named Makoto, and she was of the field’s sexual minority, a woman. A narrative trick to make the reader think she’s a man is placed on the reader. Certain readers will notice she’s a woman, while others will keep reading assuming she’s a man. In that case, a sort of effect is born.
The reader realizes that a ‘Police officer with a neutral name that happens to like women’ may just as well happen to be a woman herself. While we lead out everyday lives, there are some out there on whom difficulties come easier. It’s related to noticing all that.”
“I see. But how is that connected to works where a reader can easily see through the narrative trick?”
“Skeptical readers may notice the gender of aforementioned individual of their own accord. To us humans, who are a collection of prejudice, it’s a huge step forward.”

“Einstein.”
Said Izumi with a grin.

“Well that’s my field.”

I returned the smile. And I thought hers was quite a wonderful one. Her pale complexion, her lips slowly tracing an arc, it was fascinating.
Eventually, Izumi spoke quietly.

“But to those sorts of people… I mean, those minorities, even if it seems they’re living a special way of life from our eyes, to the people in question, it must feel quite natural for them.”

“You’re right,” I agreed.
“And maybe that’s what narrative tricks are there to teach us.”

She muttered.

“In the world of narrative tricks… of course, deceiving the readers is one thing, but… take the example from before, that individual doesn’t go out of her way to say, ‘even if I live this manly lifestyle, I’m actually a woman,’ and deny it. No matter how they’re reflected on another’s eyes, the officer is just carrying out her life as usual, and that may be a major thing the narrative trick teaches us.”
“Right.”

I gave a large nod.

“In that sense, even in the daily life we live, there may be a narrative trick hiding around the corner. In the domain we pay no mind to whatsoever, if looked upon from the point of view of a third person reader, there may be something we’re causing others to misunderstand.”

While we spoke, it became quite painful for me.
To shake off that feeling, I looked at the clock.
Around fifteen minutes until the start of first period’s review.

“What’s your first class…?”
“I start second period. All the science supplementary lessons are like that.”
“I see, I’m first period. Well, I’ll be off then.”
“Sure.”

I took the tote bag full of textbooks in hand, and stood. Returning a smile to Izumi’s grin, I turned my back to her.
That’s no good, no good.
She is a childhood friend, and a friend I often talk to. But that’s all she was. That’s all I could let her be.
Regardless of what I say, I have a need to continue this lifestyle I’ve gotten my hands on. To support my wife and child, I’ll keep teaching English to these high school students. And that’s all I need to do for now.
Is it even alright for a teacher who’s about to turn forty to speak of love? In the first place, Izumi has a husband and child of her own.
A little troubled, I left the quiet staff room.

About Yoraikun

A college student who really should be doing something more productive with his time. Also, he can read a bit of Japanese.
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55 Responses to There is a Narrative Trick in this Story

  1. GM_Rusaku says:

    ………..γ ̄ヽ………Thanks!…………
    …….r’-‘| O |…~……..Nepu!!……..
    ….….’ーゝ_ノ……~…..…∧__∧..…….
    …………| ,|……~…….(´・ω・`)……..
    ……..,,-/ ̄|、…………O旦と )……..
    …….ヽ__シ……….(__(__つ……..
    While reading this I was confused….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. woaahh, my mind is blown O_O

    Like

  3. Sazib99 says:

    Um You have a final on Thursday? So starting the new sevens volume is postponed until Thursday?

    Like

  4. mazeroc says:

    dang I fell for it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. roro says:

    Orz no sevens until thursday why why the world hates me

    Like

  6. Kryto says:

    Huh interesting. I saw through it as soon as they mentioned age and called attention to their genders, but a fun read nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. rennass says:

    We’re tricked to think they were students the whole time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. sasarasa says:

    g luk yorai

    Like

  9. Quiet guy says:

    I had the suspition that they were teachers but I totally didn’t think that they were both married with children…….kinda broke my heart a little bit…..oh well ,that’s life and it was an awesome trick. Thanks

    Like

  10. Reaper Phoenix says:

    Thanks 4 the translation, good luck on your finals!

    At the beginning I thought they were students, but as it goes on I started having doubts.
    School settings, mentioning that they’re childhood friends, you would assume that they’re currently classmates. Though calling the place they’re in a room instead of classroom was suspicious.

    Like

  11. Missdirecting with gender all this time but the trick was about age lol. As soon as they said childhood friends I assumed it was a typical conversation between kids or so.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 00 says:

    demit..couldnt see through…

    Like

  13. MrShingleBerries says:

    I’m honestly surprised that you’re starting your finals just now. I know that every college has its own schedule but its been about a month since I’ve finished mine and even some of the latest that I know of have finished theirs a week ago. Either way good luck

    Like

  14. thunderpace says:

    I didn’t expect that at all…
    This was fun to read, though, so thanks for translating, and good luck with finals!

    Like

  15. *slow claps* well ive been had…
    The hints for it are all there *coughIncludingNamecough* and i still missed it.
    This was lovely, its nice having something random like this from time to time, thanks for the heads up.
    Good luck in finals

    Like

  16. Harukaze says:

    I. F**ING. CALLED IT! This is why I like mystery works, cause I can have moments like that. xD

    Like

  17. Thefallen says:

    hope you do well in your exam and make sure to rest well before it, don’t want your brain to lag during the exam.

    Like

  18. rlackbabbit says:

    called it, as soon as i read the title i stated looking for the possibilities, i thought it would be gender at first but job was next

    Like

  19. Bloom-san says:

    This is kinda educational, reminds me of Zero Escape. I think the gender trick would be less effective in English and Romance languages and whatnot. For example, in English, there are words like “he/she”, “man/woman”, etc. and it might seem weird if the narrative avoids gendered words.

    I find the trick clever although I wasn’t actually looking out for it. When Izumi brought up their daily life, I just thought there’s some kind of sexual tension there heh. The narration somehow reinforces the idea.

    Like

  20. popeye says:

    It got me. I thought they were college students. At childhood friends i felt they would already be in their adult life. just wasn’t sure how far into adult life they were.

    Like

  21. Fadiel says:

    Shit damn you narrative trick

    Like

  22. Anon says:

    I already suspected that at least one of them was a teacher (the protagonist in this case), but I was surprised to find both of ’em were middle-aged people with their own families already.

    Like

  23. visunoriva says:

    I already suspected that they’re teacher … since this is talking about this narrative tricks , so I think there must be some ~ the only thing left to get people tricked is their job and age right? but to think that both of them already have family of their own eh ~

    Like

  24. lenyekpenyek says:

    Their discussion, topic and contents, are both a little bit too mature for high school students.

    I had a feeling they are adults. But man, I never expected that last reveal they were not together despite being childhood friends.

    Guess I’m biased towards childhood friends which are attractive must be coupled with MC.

    I learned something from this, and thanks for the good read. Your effort to give us something to read even in an announcemnt post is truly appreciated.

    Like

  25. Dusty says:

    Oof that cognitive dissonance hurts, in a good way. Didn’t expect that at all. x_x

    Like

  26. Countrymage says:

    As they say hindsight is 20/20, they kept playing up the names and mentioning how occupation affects preconceptions, and I was still convinced to picture them in multiple different gender combinations as students. Embarrassing, even up to the last lines I was convinced at least Izumi was a student…

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Seink says:

    Great narrative trick😄
    Got me 100% unprepared😄

    Thanks for the translation!

    Like

  28. Aoitenshi says:

    Ooh, I totally fell for it.

    Saint’s Disciple also threw a narrative trick at the early chapters, and it immediately disinterests me from continuing the story, lol.

    Like

  29. Not gonna fall for it, im already advised, not gonna fa… have your like T.t

    Liked by 1 person

  30. NZPIEFACE says:

    I think one of the obvious things that mislead you is the white shirt.
    You always see people wear white shirts in school anime.
    But it’s winter, where there should a different uniform from the summer one……

    We should’ve noticed it😐

    Like

  31. Fortune says:

    Good luck on your final Yoraikun! Thank you kindly for the interesting chapter

    Like

  32. asadlinguist says:

    Right before the end, I knew that they must have not been kids. This story almost got me, but I’m barely qualified to be smart enough to not be fooled by Japanese tropes. Whew, thank you school for making me smarter. Thanks Yorai for an interesting read.

    Like

  33. Cain says:

    You guys are watching too much anime

    Like

  34. darkamethyst says:

    I didn’t expect married and kids part…

    Like

    • Rune says:

      I only half expected it. I expected one of them to be in a relationship and the other to secretly pine over that one.

      Like

  35. I was fooled!!

    Thanks so much for all your hard work and I hope there’s only easy questions that you know the answer to on your exams!!

    Like

  36. Anonymous says:

    Yay! Guessed it! Specifically, after reading the beginning I put it aside until a convenient time when my mind was clearer, then returned to it and thought about all possible assumptions when continuing. When the age matter was mentioned I considered ‘oh, so it’s probably something else then, but I’ll keep it in mind anyway’.

    Umineko no Naku Koro ni (which spends a large portion of the time taking about mystery novels) came to mind repeatedly: for example, seeing through a trick before it’s revealed (in this case, or deducing a culprit before the detective’s announcement) is a challenge and a source of joy for the reader, and the author wanting to create a surpassable challenge–one where the reader doesn’t think “Yes, it was obvious” or “That was impossible, there’s no way that could have been seen through”, but rather (when not seeing through it) “So that’s it! That’s where I have a mental blind spot! Next time I won’t fall into that trap..!”.

    That is to say: If you’ve made a good enough challenge, then the feeling of accomplishment at seeing through it can be as or more enjoyable than the surprise after not seeing through it… granted, if one gets so experienced that everything becomes blase, then the occasional surprise becomes even more valuable.

    Like

  37. reader says:

    Narrative trick-ception😄

    Like

  38. weirdo says:

    I also at first thought that they were college students, but only because I had missed important information. “Kamioka Prefectural Highschool” – I totally missed the fact that they were in a high school. Thus, when I got to “‘Well that’s my field.'” I thought it meant his area of study, as in what he was getting a degree in. But if you put these two facts together it is very easy to see that both of them have to be teachers. However, there is not enough information to lead you to age or the fact they both have families, which was probably thrown in by the author for shock value (the problem with first-person narration is reliability/unreliability) and him liking her is a pretty big red herring.

    I don’t know anything about Japanese high schools, but I know that Chinese ones (at least in the north where I’m from) would never have you attend supplemental lessons right after winter break starts (at least, not at the school you attend–go to a cram school instead), and that most kids have private tutors so that can also be a giveaway that the two aren’t students and thus have to be teachers.

    Like

  39. KuRuuRuu says:

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Ooh..I managed to guess it right~!
    I think that the MC is a teacher, but I never thought that they are both teachers, have family, and will soon turn forty O_O

    It’s a fun read where I hone all of my detective sense (lol) in searching for the inconsistency😄

    Like

  40. xenocross says:

    realized the trick 2 pharagraph before it revealed. YAY

    Like

  41. Pingback: Ada trik narasi didalam cerita ini | Takarir Ampas

  42. damian00e says:

    Yay^^ I saw through it^^

    Thank you^^

    Like

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