1. Keith Trimm
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    Keith Trimm Banned

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    How to write in 2nd person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Keith Trimm, Jan 16, 2013.

    I know what it means to write from the "first person" and from the "third person." How do you speak from the "second" person.

    Thanks.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's kind of an odd POV, and very infrequently used. It's when you address the reader as "you." Junot Diaz did this in a couple of the short stories in his most recent book, This is How You Lose Her. It can be used either sporadically, addressing the reader directly, or it can be used throughout the whole story, basically referencing the character as "you."
     
  3. Keith Trimm
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    Keith Trimm Banned

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    That makes me dizzy thinking about it. I thought maybe the "second" person would be the person your character is talking too, from their perspective as if you were reading their mind.
     
  4. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    I agree it can be very annoying.

    Back in the late 1980's, a lot of music groups liked to write lyrics in second person POV. Stuff like "you got to ask her out." And my reaction to the song was "no, I don't got to."

    I could see where it would make a very unique novel, but it would take someone with a lot of creativity to pull it off.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a lot easier to write a good song in 2nd person than it is an entire novel. I know it's been done, and I am sure many consider some such works of literary merit. But the idea of it really doesn't appeal to me.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it would be a very annoying read to most people, including me... forces the reader to be a particular character, giving them no choice in the matter...
     
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  7. blenderpie
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    blenderpie Member

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    I read a book this summer (I can't remember the title for the life of me) written in the second person. The book started as a letter, so the narrator was addressing that character as "you." It took a chapter or two to get used to it, but it wasn't that bad, but I wouldn't write that way. When I was sixteen or so, I checked out a book from the library which addressed the reader as "you" and had them participate in the structure of the story. I couldn't get through it because it was so awkward for me.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like the idea of using second person to narrate a story. If an author is telling me about something he did (he's speaking in first person), then I'll be entertained. If he's telling me about something somebody else did (he's speaking in third person), then I'll also be entertained. But if he's telling me about something I did, or am doing, or will do (he's speaking in second person), then he's being incredibly presumptuous and I'll probably find myself rejecting everything he's saying.

    Second person doesn't work for me.
     
  9. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's some books that use the second person well. I'm quite fond of If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. I had a go myself once and I think it turned out OK, but it was just a 2000-word short story, not a whole novel.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't care for it, either. It seems many folks feel the same way, hence it's lack of popularity. I think the most famous book written in second person is Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City.
     
  11. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    First person = "I," "me," "we"
    Third person = "They" "she," "he"
    Second person = every single "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" book ever written.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Second person is best suited for How-To books.

    "After you have joined the edge pieces to form a corner, you use a router to cut a groove for the offset assembly. That way, you are assured the grooves will align properly."

    Using this technique for fiction is about like treating the reader like a ventriloquist's dummy. And no one wants a hand reaching up there. It's a real pain in the--

    Well, you get the general idea.
     
  13. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Some people are into that... :eek:
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's reaching...
     
  15. Jon M
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    Jon M Member

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    Unless you don't know how to properly read and understand First Person, you wouldn't assume the "I" character is the same as the author. So it makes no sense to me why a reader should believe the "you" of Second Person refers actually to them. It oftentimes doesn't. You = a character in the story.

    So ... maybe the problem with Second Person isn't the technique per se, but the people who don't know how to read and properly interpret it.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't try to bludgeon the reader to your writing style. Choose a writing style that reaches your readers.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It all depends on how it's set up. The reader won't be confused if the story starts with:

    Dear Sir Snobberbottom,

    You have sent me your slaves as part of our arrangement, but neglected to inform me of their lack of skills. This is most annoying and I must ask that you try to recall that time in Havanna in 1867 when we were dining with Daisy. It was a cold evening, if you remember, and the larks were nestled by the fire and wrapped in my scarf made of silly putty. You talked for hours about your new boat, and how you installed a small tea caddy in the head so that you could do your business at any time of day and not have to neglect your other daily rituals. I scoffed and abused you for not including a slice of cake, but you inisisted that would be in bad taste. You were planning to sail around the southern islands of Chile, and were most excited about the chance to see ducks that could both talk and bake cookies in the shape of small animals.
     
  18. Jon M
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    Jon M Member

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    Good advice in general, I suppose, but it has nothing to do with the current conversation.
     
  19. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I've read one book where the chapters written from the murderer's perspective were in 2nd person. It was a pretty irritating read, and I found it jarring enough to prevent any immersion in the story. It didn't help that the whole reason for using 2nd person was to avoid revealing the gender of the character, so there could be a 'shocking' reveal at the end. Perhaps 2nd person has its place somewhere in fiction, but I'd rather avoid it - if my lack of enjoyment is due to my inability to read & interpret it then so be it!
     

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