Avoiding ethos in a short story (or trying to)

Aristotle’s pillars of argument include ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos has to do with the credibility of the narrator. Basically if you trust what the narrator is saying, if you think the narrator matches certain ideals like honest and integrity, the narrator has a better chance of persuading you.

I thought it would be fun to apply this to fiction. In Pectoral Claspers, a Month 2 of 12 Transient Visitors Very Tiny Tale, I created a narrator with an unclear ethos. At least in this story, what seems to happen when I employed that technique, is that the other two modes of persuasion- pathos and logos- take over. The reader is forced (or at least I hope they are forced, as that is what is intended) to decide how they feel about the story as a whole without reliance on the credibility of the speaker i.e., without ethos.

I take some issue with what I set out to do because of a potentially flawed premise. That is to say, the ethos of a work of fiction cannot entirely detach itself from the writer writing the story, regardless of the credibility/lack of credibility of its fictional narrator(s). Ultimately the actual author’s ethos, whatever it may be, seems inextricably linked to the story. So maybe ethos wasn’t entirely taken over by logos and pathos after all.


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