1. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    2nd person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by squishytheduck, Apr 8, 2013.

    Hi, I was wondering about people's opinion of writing in the second person: when does it work/not work, and why?

    I'm asking because I find that for certain kinds of stories, I feel like it is really appropriate, but most of the people who read them find this POV to be detrimental to an otherwise decent piece. How does one go about writing second person effectively?

    Additionally, I've been told that it is because the 'you' over and over again is grating, or they don't like being told what to think, but what if part of what you want to convey is this uncomfortable, subjugated tone?

    Thanks!
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there are several threads on the site dealing with writing in the second person... instead of starting from scratch again, i suggest you do a site search and see what's been said on the subject already...
     
  3. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Personally I wouldn't read a 2ndperson POV piece. After reading Bright Lights, Big City and dozens of p&p game manuals, my opinion is that second person narrative is only good for giving instructions and hence only appealing in manuals and instruction books. It is though only my personal opinion.

    One other problem I find in it is the lack of a relateable or likeable character. You are telling "me" that I am doing all that stuff, but after a while the thought processes, actions and reactions you describe will differ from the ones i would follow. Also the gender will differ for many of the readers. That would make me think "this character is not me" (unrelateable). But if this character is not me, and he/she is not someone else either, who is the character i am rooting for?
     
  4. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    It's terrible, and doesn't really make an sense in the novel format.
     
  5. WhenIt'sDark
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    WhenIt'sDark Member

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    Like Xatron said, it makes me feel like reading a manual. I also find that you can't give your main character a personality because the reader feels like he ís the main character. I wouldn't use second person for a novel, or actually any piece of fiction.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It certainly can work, though like anything else it depends on the writer's skill.

    My advice would be to read more pieces written in second person, but they tend to be rare. I can think of maybe 4-5 good stories I've read in the past few years that used second person. I don't remember the names of the stories, but they were in various magazines I used to read back then. So that's the first place I'd start. Look for magazines that are known to publish unique styles.

    You can still convey this tone without using "you" a lot. It's sort of like using "I" or "he" a lot. There are ways to get around this by rephrasing the sentence.

    By the way, I should mention that when I read a story written in second person, I don't automatically assume that "you" is referring to the reader. The "you" could very well be referring to another character.
     
  7. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    Maia. If you know them off the top of your head, could you please be so kind as to direct me to them? My search for "2nd person POV" yielded only threads relating to 1st to 3rd person transitions and multiple POV's, as well as pages upon pages of completely unrelated threads. Thanks!
     
  8. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Even the best writers can not maintain 2nd person for very long. It is tedious and irritating for the readers. And many will put the book down and likely never read another novel from that writer again. The only place for 2nd person is in dialogue and correspondence within the narration: letters, E-mail, text messaging, post-it notes...but by all means go ahead and bang your head against that wall if you must.
     
  9. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Val McDermid's The Mermaids singing, has several passages in 2nd person--though she dropped it after awhile: which was a good thing. It is still however an interesting read and is the first of the Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series.
     
  10. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    In that case it is not POV, it is dialog.
     
  11. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yeah. That's right. Leave it there: where it feels natural.
     
  12. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    Choose Your Own Adventure books and little else.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to edit for a magazine/ezine and we'd occasionally get 2nd person POV stories. They almost never worked. I think we ever only accpeted two, by the same author I think. Even then, the stories were not as popular with the readers, on average.

    There should be a very compelling reason to select 2nd Person POV, especially for a novel. And then, as has been indicated, it's very very difficult to pull off well, especially over an extended piece like a novel. There's a reason there are so few out there, and mainly because it's usually not the best way , on balance, to relay the story to the reader.

    If you do decide to try it, study the works you're able to find written in that POV, then apply what you learn to your writing style and the story being written.
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't personally like it and there aren't a lot of examples of it out there. The best known novel written in 2nd person is probably Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City. Also, a few of the stories in Juniot Diaz' most recent book, This is How You Lose Her are written in 2nd person.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Save second person for How To books. In fiction, second person narrative is like ventriloquism, and I really don't want the author's hand there.
     
  16. JayReader25
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    JayReader25 Member

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    2nd person seems to be awkward for a novel or short story, but nothing is impossible in my mind if you have the drive you can make any story great.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sure. By not using second person narration, for starters
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    In one of Australia's best literary awards, one of the short listed manuscripts was in 2nd person. The author cleverly created a 'choose your own adventure' style narrative exploring child abuse and sexual exploitation. It was incredibly well executed and really pressed home a sense of empathy for the character. So when done well, 2nd person can really drive home a solid point.
     
  19. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    Ok, thanks for all your suggestions. I'll definitely think more about this.
     

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