1. DozerZigashi
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    DozerZigashi New Member

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    Tips for writing in the 2nd person?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DozerZigashi, Jun 9, 2010.

    I did search the forum to see if there was any information already posted relating to the 2nd person POV. My searches did turn up some results, and I was slightly surprised at how the 2nd person POV was seemingly hated with an intense passion by some.

    It seems to be hated because it is very often poorly done, this I can understand why. But when I hear that something is very often poorly done, I usually try my hand at it because I just seem to learn skills and techniques better when I try to strive at something difficult to do. That is why I am currently interested attempting to write a short story in the 2nd person. Well, another attempt, I already tried once and rather enjoyed the challenge and how I needed to change my mindset when I wrote it.

    Now my reasons for attempting this are simple:
    1. To try and improve on writing techniques.

    2. To force myself to pay closer attention to my target audience because in 2nd person POV your MC is your target audience.

    3. The story in itself has a point to it as well. It is about the alaskan wolf hunts (politically debatable topic, I know, but thats not really the point here. is it? :rolleyes:) and places the reader in the mind of a hunted wolf struggling for survival.

    So now I ask if anybody here has any tips or advice for writing in the 2nd person correctly? Or am I completely barking up the wrong tree by trying to improve myself by attempting this and am going to hear a lot of people try to disuade me from doing so? Either way, I would like to hear some feedback
     
  2. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Before I start, I should give my number one tip on writing in the 2nd person:

    Don't.

    Yes, you can quote me. Ok, now let's continue with the rest of the post.

    That is correct.

    Among other reasons, like being used for the sake of it rather that for reasons of need.

    Congratulations, you quickly found the second reason why not to do it.

    Sadly, you didn't recognize having a motivation to write a story not related in any way with the story itself, as a reason not to write it.

    The second option seems to be the right one.
     
  3. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    Don't write in the 2nd person - it just feels unrealistic in a sense, if you want my opinion.
     
  4. Diablo Robotico
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    Diablo Robotico Member

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    I think you should write in 2nd person, just once or twice, as an experiment. I don't see what's so wrong with attempting something in that POV, and even if some people hate it (look above) you should try it if you want to.

    I don't have any tips, but we had a chapter on 2nd person in my writing class I took last semester. We read "How to Become a Writer" by Lorrie Moore: http://www.ninetymeetingsinninetydays.com/lorriemooore.html which I believe is well-written. Then we did an exercise where we had to each write a story in 2nd person, and I found my creativity flowing fairly well when writing it. It also seemed to be my most well-liked story in that class (got an A on it). So I don't know where the negativity comes from, and I didn't know it existed until this thread.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why in the world would you want to, unless you are writing a How To book?

    I have NEVER seen any fiction written in second person that was worth the read. There are a few people on the site who disagree, and that is their prerogative. I despise it, and urge you to not write in second person other than to convince yourself how godawful it is for fiction.

    I mentioned How To books. For those, you are explicitly walking someone through a process, so second person is an appropriate choice. But if I'm in a work of fiction, don't try to tell me what to do!
     
  6. DozerZigashi
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    DozerZigashi New Member

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    I did write in 2nd Person once, and rather enjoyed it. It may not have been as well written as my other 1st person and 3rd person stories. But the new way of thinking made an improvement in my writing, which is why I strive to do it again. I know there is a lot of hate against the 2nd Person, and expected that when I started this thread. But I choose to ignore it, because in the end it is their opinions and nothing more.

    I love to write, and I love everything about writing including 2nd person. In my experiences it forces you to think differently, which is something people struggle with. But thinking differently creats better writing. I also want to be a Creative Writing teacher one day, so I need to inform myself on everything that has to do with the craft of writing. So I thank you for your time and information.
     
  7. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    From the responses, most are against second person. I haven't actually read any published fiction that is in the second person so I'm not sure how commercially successful it is. However, I was told to write a story in the second person (I study Creative Writing at university) and I was surprised at how well it worked with my story and how enjoyable/easy I found to write it. I'd say go for it, there's no harm in it. Some stories suit second person.
     
  8. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I'm with the people against writing 2nd person, at least, if we're talking about fiction writing, especially novel length. At least, most of the time.

    2nd person is fine for technical writing.

    If you're writing the book, "How to build a closet," 2nd person might seem natural. (First, you need to take your measurements...)

    Or cookbooks. (Break two eggs and beat them vigorously.)

    But 2nd person in fiction is almost certain to create confusion.

    Also, having your reader as the main character ("you") means, either you can't develop the character (how do you know who's going to read your novel?) or, in developing your character, you risk alienating your reader, if your reader is a twenty year old thin light skinned male and your main character is a sixty year old heavy set dark skinned female, added to about an infinity of other characteristics you might want to describe in your main character. These obstacles, among others, severely handicap your ability as a writer to formulate a good story.

    You might be able to use second person in combination with other persons. This was done effectively by Stephen King in his fantasy novel "Eyes of the Dragon," which actually combined first, second and third person in this manner: A narrator (first person) was relating a story (perhaps around a campfire? I don't recall an actual setting for the "outer" story, the story of the storyteller) to "you" (second person) but neither the narrator nor "you" were participants in the third-person story the narrator narrated, only occasionally returning to the "campfire" so that the narrator could tell "you" things, all relating to the characters in the third-person story.

    This method, while creating some "author-intrusion" (which some frown upon) turned out to be effective in this case, but only because neither the narrator nor the second person "you" had anything to do with the actual story. The framework simply provided a means for writing in third-person omniscient.

    The only other example that comes to my mind of fictional use of the "second person," at least, I believe it might be considered second person, was not a novel at all, but a television program. Certainly, though, someone had to write the script.

    I don't remember much about it, but it was an episode of ER. The episode was shot from the point of view of an accident victim who could see and hear everything that was going on, but was paralyzed. Even then, the "second person" was minimal, except that every scene was shot through the eyes of the patient. Only rarely did anyone actually start talking to the patient, who they might call "you." (The doctor might say, "We're bringing you into surgery now.") But, as I recall, most of the story involved the interaction observed. I think there may have also been a voice over of the main character thinking... but if so, that would be first person!

    Naturally, screenplays, which I believe would be the format of a television script, are a different type of writing than standard fiction, almost never having a "narrator's" voice (unless done as a voice-over, generally in first person) but instead, having nearly every word spoken by the characters. This particular episode gave the "feel" of second person, that is, that you were the paralyzed person observing all these things going on around you.

    Still, for a novel... I can't see it working well.

    Charlie
     
  9. roseberryse
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    roseberryse Member

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    I agree wholeheartedly. Sure, it may be fun as a writer, but as a reader...no way.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    BE the transgendered retired sumo wrestler...
     
  11. DozerZigashi
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    DozerZigashi New Member

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    On this, I completely see where you are coming from, but that is part of writing a 2nd person short story is picking the right kind of story for it to fit in. You can sort of develop a character in 2nd person, but what you are really "developing" is the the readers "sense of self" so to speak. (from what my reasearch has turned up anyway) Using the 2nd person in fiction is difficult when you try to develop a character from scratch, because that is like completely rebuilding the readers "sense of self" when what you should do is use a knowledge of human psychology and put the reader in situations where you can predict how they would properly react. And that is how you attempt to devolope character. From what I have gathered anyway.

    But what I am thinking about doing is making a 2nd person from the POV of an animal, this isn't telling the reader what they are doing and placing them in the story as the MC. But it is taking the reader and placing them in the mind of the animal (in this case a wolf) and having them react to the conflict (being hunted) as the animal would.

    And I do agree, a lot of readers do not like 2nd person. But some do enjoy it, and that is my target audience. You write for your target audience, no matter how small. (This isn't comercial writing I remind you, I have a multitude of other ideas for comercial writing.) This is more for fun and to improve my skills, and also to have the people who actually enjoy 2nd person to read.
     
  12. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    If your mind and heart are set on it, by all means, go for it! Let us know how it all turns out!

    If you write an amazing, incredible story that makes an agent say, "Wow! I'd better sign this guy up before someone else snatches him," and makes a publisher say, "This is the best thing I've ever read... I want you to sign a three book deal," and makes the reviewers rave, and makes the best sellers list, and brings you fame and fortune...

    If you do those things, I will most certainly be in your cheering section.

    If it doesn't work out, hopefully, you'll have learned from the experiment and become a better writer.

    Don't let me discourage you for a minute.

    I personally would love to be proven wrong by another person's success.

    In fact, I hope you're really mad at me.
    Get really angry, say, "I'll show him!" and get writing!

    The best tips for this or any other type of writing are:

    1. Write.
    2. Write.
    3. Write.

    And, if I forgot to mention it, Write!

    I think that's especially going to hold true for this type of writing, because it's so seldom done the tips and advice are going to be sparse. So you might as well get started...

    So...

    What are you doing still reading my post, when you should be writing?
    ;)

    Charlie
     
  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito. Don't do it. It's difficult to get into a seond-person POV book that's telling me that I'm supposed to be a 74-year-old German woman hunting down the latest fashion clothes in Berlin to make myself look twenty-years-younger. How can I possibly relate to anything? I'm not seventy-two, German, or a woman and why would I care about the latest fashions?

    There's a reason first-person and third-person POV are much more liked than this. We're not supposed to be that 74-year-old woman. We're reading about her, yes, but she's her own character with her own opinions and we get to keep our right to have our own opinion.

    I think that's the key reason: It takes away our ability to form our own opinion and instead we have a book like the one I described shove it down our throats saying, "YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT THIS!!!"

    But, like CharlieVer said, if you want to write it, if you have the will and drive to write it, write it! Say to yourself, "I will show that Link the Writer, Cogito, and the other folks that they're WRONG!" and write it. I will be more than happy to be proven wrong.
     
  14. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    I agree with a lot of what's been said; however, I have to mention Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. I really, really enjoyed that book and it was written in second person.
     
  15. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Actually, I think jacklondonsghost should write a second person novel about Jack London's Ghost. I've always wondered what it would be like to be Jack London's Ghost.

    Do that, and I'll write a second person story where you can experience falling down trying to kick a football as your dog acts like a World War I Flying Ace.

    Charlie
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't buy for a second the argument that its any more difficult to relate to a character in second person than it is in first or third. The pronoun doesn't change how you relate to a character. It simply means that instead of being invited to observe a character from the outside, you are being forced into the mindset of that character. If the writing is good, there is no reason at all that that would be any more difficult than any other perspective.

    There is also no reason that it would be any more difficult to characterise in second person than any other perspective. You are still telling the story in very much the same way as first person, except that the reader is embodied by the character, rather than the narrator.

    I'm gonna put the (entirely unreasonable) hatred of the mode down to the fact that there simply isn't very much of it, and most people have probably never read anything other than choose-your-own-adventure novels written in second person. Nonetheless, plenty of very successful and technically innovative examples of fiction in second person do exist. I recommend particularly Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveller, Beckett's Company and McInernay's Bright Lights, Big City, and wikipedia has a pretty thorough list if you need more.
     
  17. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    That which, apparently, is a virtue for you, is a flaw for me.

    So my hatred for such works is entirely reasonable while yours wouldn't be.
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    That's a very, erm, unique view, but yes, if you hated originality, you probably would hate second person.
     
  19. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    "Original" != "technically innovative"

    I very much love story originality.

    Technical innovation is something I want in electronics, not in novels.

    Just like I don't want technically innovative foods like flower petals and sand covered bark (no, I'm not making that up), while I do welcome better tasting food.

    It's not that I consider technical innovation in writing to be bad per se; it's nice to have writing techniques evolve every couple hundred years or so. I just won't be the one to read the huge pile of technically innovative crap that must exist for the art to evolve.
     
  20. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    1 person likes this.
  21. Shadow Reeves
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    Shadow Reeves Contributing Member

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    As far as publication, R.L Stein wrote several goosebumps "choose your own demise" type stories where second person was really the only way to do it. i have read a full novel in second and although i cant remember the title, once i wrapped my head around the idea it made me much more involved in the book, character, and his decisions.

    give it a go, and discover for yourself why it is never done well.
     
  22. ilocar
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    ilocar Member

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    Unless you're writing one of those choose-your-own-adventure books second person is not appropiate.

    I don't understand why anyone would even consider the idea more that two seconds. Seriously, I write one sentence with the word 'you' in it and I go: ugh. definately agree with cog and everyone else, don't waist your time
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Something just occurred to me:

    There is one place you might get a lot of practice writing in second person.

    Message board postings. Take, for example, the above sentence. ;)


    Edit:


    Mr. Wiffet convinced me. It can be done well. :)

    Charlie
     

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