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  1. AnonEMoss
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    AnonEMoss Member

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    Writing In Second Person Present Tense...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AnonEMoss, Aug 16, 2010.

    You find yourself in a room that feels strangely familiar. The smell of old books and warm colored furniture atop wooden floors triggers within you a memory that you can't quite place. You've been here before...

    Yes indeed. Second Person...

    Risky I know, but the theme of my novel centers around the book being written in this way. What are your thoughts? Difficult to read? Do you think it plants the reader firmly in the shoes of the protagonist? Bad idea? Good idea?

    Would you consider writing an entire novel in this way? I'm really curious!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't even consider READING a novel in this horrible style ever again.

    Yes, I have waded through a couple short novels of this sort.

    Why in the world would you want to inflict this on your readers? What do you expect to accomplish with it?

    Don't choose am unusual perspective to be different. Choose it because it provides something you cannot achieve as well any other way.

    Oh, and good luck getting a submissions editor to read past the first sentence before the manuscript lands in the Reject pile.
     
  3. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I am never going to read it. Period.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't be averse to reading it, necessarily, but it certainly wouldn't be a point in favor of it. There would have to be some compelling reason for me to take a chance on it and read it (like it won some great awards or got a lot of great reviews).

    I also agree that it's a quick ticket to the rejection pile for many agents and editors.
     
  5. MedleyMisty
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    MedleyMisty Member

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    My first thought was - what does warm colored furniture smell like? And how does being on a wooden floor affect the smell? And what does warm colored mean anyway?

    :)

    I write a story in second person present tense. But it's for fun on my blog and it's audience participation - the readers comment with suggestions for the story and I use them in the next update.

    So it can be done. And my husband is a huge sci fi/fantasy fanboy and he told me about a novel written in second person recently that he really liked - it was by Charles Stross. You could look that up for an example.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Palimpsest, by Charles Stross.

    From what I've read and heard, it is very good. I haven't got to it yet, but I intend to.

    The whole thing isn't in second person, though. It opens with second person, and wraps up with second person, but the bulk of the novel is not written that way.
     
  7. AnonEMoss
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    AnonEMoss Member

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    I expected this kind of reaction :D Can't say I blame anyone who feels this way.

    It is honestly an essential part of the story, otherwise it never would have entered my mind. Luckily I haven't written the entire thing yet, so I still have time to back out. Normally I tend to stick to first person on nearly everything I write.

    I've written three chapters in Second Person to test the waters and to me it doesn't feel too awkward considering the story, but I'm probably a horrible judge.

    I think what I'll do is write up a short story written in a similar style, with a similar theme and gauge your reaction to that.

    I really wouldn't mind switching to first person as I am much more comfortable writing that way, I just think it adds something that sets it apart from everything else. (i think you would agree. the question is for better or for much much worse?)

    I guess I'll see what you guys say about the short story before I make my decision.
     
  8. AnonEMoss
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    AnonEMoss Member

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    Wow, I just skimmed through a free version of Palimpsest and it is actually a very similar idea to my own...

    I guess it's like they say, there are no original ideas. haha Although mine starts in first, shifts to second, and ends back in first, it does have alternate timelines, and parallel universes, the works.

    Don't get me wrong, Palimpsest is a very different book, but the core idea is very similar. I'll have to sit down and read the whole thing. Awesome example, thanks for bringing this to my attention!
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quite like reading second person, I like the old fashioned point and click computer game feel. But to be honest until I started writing my book and I just read the tense and person it was written in had no baring on my enjoyment of the story.

    Right now after a few months of obsessively writing in first person present tense I am finding third person bit flat and keep correcting ]past tenses:) That I suspect is because I have to do it with my own work.

    I am also wondering if most people don't care have just spoken to some friends about the last four books I have read, I'm the only one that noticed they were first person:)

    Have just read two first person, past tense books and I really just kept editing them:)
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Second person for me, I find difficult to read because I find it rare that the author can identify how I feel or react to something in the story. When I have a different opinion, it 'throws me out of the story'--which isn't a good thing.

    As an editor, I've seen quite a number of attempts at 2nd person, so it's really not that unusual in the attempt. Rarely does it seem to work well enough and get published. I think I've recommended acceptance of such a piece once.
     
  11. -NM-
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    Works well for game books (Choose your own adventure things), but not so much for general fiction/books.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My immediate initial reaction to reading anything like "You (any verb) (any object)" is to say, "Oh, no I don't".
     
  13. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Hey AnonEmoss,

    I don't think second person is too difficult to read at all. I've read the "Make Your Own Adventure" series by Julius Goodman, and they are very entertaining. Any book that puts me smack dab in the MC's shoes is a good read.

    I personally wouldn't try to write in second person, however. It is a brain cramp. But if you can do it (the introduction you had on your first post was hooking) then do it. Every new side to writing is worth trying.

    T
     
  14. Karl C. Lewis
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    Karl C. Lewis Member

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    I think that you should really look at what you are writing and decide for yourself if it works. What is your reason for writing in Second Person? I do agree thought that you will probably be rejected by publishers and agents.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You should be aware that writing in second person almost inevitably forces the reader out of the story. Many authors use it for precisely that reason, and with great success, but unless what you are writing requires that kind of reflexivity, it's probably a poor choice. Certainly for straight-forward, mainstream narrative fiction, second person is generally not a good idea.
     
  16. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    The greatest second POV ever :D

    Wonders how many people know of what i am referring too :D
     
  17. AnonEMoss
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    Let the rabbits wear glasses!
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is very dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

    Although it is called interactive fiction, it does not stand well on its own. But it is why the Choose Your Own Adventure books took the same second person POV.

    Second person also works for How To nonfiction books, where you are being walked through a complicated procedure. But in fiction, it is nearly always anathema. It is too intrusive, like turning the reader into the author's ventriloquist dummy. You don't want to know where the author's hand is!
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    agreed!... until you're a rich and famous bestselling author, writing that way will only gain you enough 'free' material to repaper your whole house...
     
  20. AnonEMoss
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    I totally get what you are saying Cogito, and I agree completely. A book telling me what I did (You went to Sunday School every week as a child.)when I know full well I never have and never will would turn me off instantly. However, in the spirit of Palimpsest, I believe my novel may get around this problem and actually use Second Person POV in a way that creates a profound experience for the reader.

    I am writing up a Short Story in the same style as my novel and trying to thread the story in the same way to achieve a similar effect. I hope you will read it, if it doesn't work I obviously don't want to go through with it.

    I respect everyone's opinion on this forum, and would very much appreciate your input.
     

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