Using the second person perspective in fiction isn’t that common, but it does happen, to various degrees of success. The most commonly used probably third person, and then the first. One of the reason for this is the second person point view is damn tricky to get right! It’s suited to professional and instructive documents, and for certain types of novel.
You know it’s being used when the narrator uses words like ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. It’s a little limited in scope because of the view point – it’s as though the reader is experiencing what’s going on at firsthand. If it’s done well, then the reader truly becomes immersed in the story. If not, it becomes stilted and contrived, without serving to deliver the emotional involvement that the author is after.
Does That Mean All Writing Using ‘You’ and ‘Your’ Is Second Person Point View?
Well, not really.
Marketers and other media professionals also use this personal form of writing to get a reader involved in a particular scenario, because it’s more intimate and immediate.
Just like in fiction, it’s use puts the reader at the center of the piece. This is a powerful technique because it mirrors our own egocentricity – in our own minds we are always at the center of everything, so it sits well in our view point of the world.
At times, you might see second person terms used in articles and on web-sites, like this blog for example, but this isn’t second person narrative. The writer is just speaking directly to the reader and so naturally refers to them as ‘you’, which can be singular or plural in its scope.
In true 2nd person POV perspective, the author tries to get the reader to fell as though the events are happening to him or her in real-time. It’s hard to do, for sure and a new writer is probably better off beginning his career using the third person narrative style.
The Benefits Can Outweigh The Difficulties
Done well, this narrative form can be powerful. It’s realistic, it’s happening NOW, and there’s a lot of empathy – after all, the reader is the hero! How more immersed can you get? You just have to be careful that you’re not directing the reader too much, particularly pushing them in a direction they just don’t want to go.
Seasoned authors tend to know a good deal about people’s choices and emotional responses to various situations and tread the path with care. Basically, you’re asking your reader to accept the role of a character that you create – treat him with care!
One of the great difficulties in writing a blog post about anything at all is finding your own voice. ‘What do I think?’, rather ‘What does everyone else think?’ Inevitably, we all learn by reading and being taught by others. For example, I read a hundred articles about the second person POV and write another, based on what I’ve read. What if the experts are wrong? Are there any experts?
Will Second Person Point View Help My Novel Sell?
Most successful authors will tell you that it’s a bit of a lottery getting published, although quality does tend to shine through. Once an author finds that winning formula, he’ll stick to it rigidly because he likes to eat and more of the same may just help pay the bills! Success is by definition directly related to the number of people that buy your books.
This is why it isn’t really a marker of creative or literary excellence – it’s just that the formula and style just fits what the majority of people want to read. Always bear in mind that this may not be great quality, or indeed, be something that you want to even write!
If you don’t care about the money, and want to break the mold, explore a little, then this Point Of View may the way to do it. It’s interesting, not too common for the reader and, done well, could be refreshingly new, but you have to sure that you understand the form.
In that last sentence I used the word ‘you’ twice, but this doesn’t mean I was using the second person point of view. I’m talking to you and using this form of address to give the writing a little intimacy, and also to help get the ideas across. The true 2nd person POV in question is that used in fiction.
More Thoughts About 2nd Person POV
The story is told from the main character’s point of view, and it’s the author’s job to define this protagonist in depth. He or she is unique, with a complete personality. The reader sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes the Universe through them directly.
This done by using the pronouns ‘you’, ‘yours, ‘yourself’ and ‘you’, just referring to a ‘him’, ‘he’ or ‘her’ whenever they share the scene with other characters. The hardest thing is to vary the sentence structure enough to make the prose interesting and enjoyable for the reader – you can’t begin every sentence or phrase with ‘you’!
Conclusion – Is The Second Person POV For You?
- Can be used for any type of genre in fiction, but better suited to self-directed adventure yarns or short stories
- Effective when you want your reader to become immersed in the emotions of the story
- Particularly effective in all forms of poetry
- Needs considerable skill to pull it off – probably not for the new writer