Two weeks ago, when I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, I sat on a panel where a speaker was reading from his up and coming book. I was excited. I love moments where authors can come and read a few lines of their work to give an idea of a point they want to make. Anyone can talk about anything but if you have nothing to back it up, i.e. proof, your words tend to fall to the waste-side. Anyway, he starts reading from his book and subconsciously I’m ready to hear the pronouns he, she, they. Ignorant of me, I’m sure, but at the same time I also knew that I could also hear I and me as well. Third or first person, either one I was certain I was about to hear.
You, Your, Yours
I was suddenly the protagonist. For a second my mind paused. You? What is that? But just as quickly as I pondered what I was hearing, it clicked. This was second person. The author decided to write his novel in second person.
My initial reaction was that of surprise. When I first started writing, back when I lived, slept and breathed fan-fiction, I had a friend who defied the odds and wrote in second person. He was very good at it. Other than that I can count on one hand the number of books I have read in my lifetime that use the second person motif. I doubt I’d even use one finger to calculate the total number.
My second reaction was a question, internally of course, wondering who uses second POV. Majority of the time people use third and their are those who use first. Again, back to my fan-fiction days, I used to write in first and I would have people come, review and say that they hated reading any stories in first position. I always figured it is a person’s preference what they like and don’t like to read but now that I am on a different platform of expressing my creativity I often look back at that and wonder how that’s possible. That’s an idea for a different post.
Second person is not widely known like its popular counterparts and with third point of view garnering different avenues of its own, second continues to get further and further behind the curve. Despite it dipping in the popularity contest, there authors out there with books written in second position such as: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and Booked by Kwame Alexander (who spoke at this years Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)
A simple search on Google or on Goodreads can give even the most curious writer a sense of what second person is all about.
Listening to the passage he read, it made me appreciate this point of view a lot because he didn’t fall into the traps that most people probably would using this point of view. Starting each line with the word ‘You’ could grow old very fast but if you can incorporate it (see what I did there) into your writing then you will have readers call in love with your style of story telling.
I have never personally used this point of writing but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to try it out. The challenge of the second-person is to get into the reader’s thoughts without forcing said thoughts. It should have a natural feel. The last thing you want to do is pull your reader out of the story.
If you are interested in writing second person and don’t know where to start then my suggestion to you is to read works that use this as their way of story telling. Yes, I’m sure there are how to books on the market for this exact purpose, but I feel none of them would be able to give you a complete understanding of the best way to use second person. If interested, the two books listed above can give you an idea of how second person is used and there are plenty more out there.
Have you ever read a book written in second person? Have you written in second person? Let me know in the comments below.