Character Creation 102: Second Person

Hello, and welcome back to the RADblog! I hope you all enjoyed the last couple months with Tammy—I know I had a lot of fun finding out more about her and the many lives involved in writing.

Now, you’re stuck with me for the next two months. Mwahaha! No, but really, we’ll have fun.

For the month of September, I thought we should take some time to go back to those pesky characters we discussed back in May and June, only this time, I think we should discuss how to write from them, instead of from you.

Character Creation 102: Point of View

I know far too many budding authors who struggle with point of view, especially early on when they start writing. We, all of us, tend to just pick a POV and stick to it as long as we possibly can, with no thought to whether it’s what the story calls for or not. We hope that everything will work out and that the story will be just as brilliant as we want it to be, but we don’t really know what we’re doing. Taking a stab in the dark, as it were. But the thing is, there’s a time and place for each of the distinct points of view, and it’s best that we learn all three very well. Now, we’ve already been through first and third, so let’s discuss the most elusive.

Second Person:

In the Mind of the Reader

I bet you never thought of it like that, did you? Well, that’s what it is. When you read something in second person, you complete internalize it. What’s happening to the main character is now happening to you—and that’s what makes it hard to perfect.

But, what is second person?

Like I said, it’s the most elusive of the three. We’ve talked over the past two weeks about how it’s actually fairly easy to slip into second person, and there’s a very good reason for that. This blog post is, in fact, written in a combination of first and second person.

How? Because second person is the use of the word “you” to describe your narrator. It’s a point of view entirely defined by making the reader into your narrator. It’s an extremely close point of view, and can very easily turn into an incredibly intense, anxious, or even threatening point of view. But at the same time, it can also very easily turn into a joyous, hopeful, and uplifting point of view. It’s a POV that puts a great deal of power in the hands of the writer, more power even than most of us realize.

Second person narration, if I’m being honest, is something which the majority of new writers either love or hate. It’s either a point of view that we dabble in constantly, or one that we avoid at all costs. Unlike first or third person points of view, there’s really nothing easy about it.

Which makes it, unlike the others, something we usually avoid in publication. It’s a point of view very few of us actually write in—and, as always, I want to challenge us to change that.

But for right now, let’s talk about how awesome second person narration really is.

This, coming from an author who love writing in second person, but has yet to perfect it well enough to publish anything in this elusive POV.

I love second person.

I absolutely love it.

And I’ve very rarely seen it done well.

But I love when an author has that much power, to be able to completely determine how the story will affect the reader. I love how deeply we can touch a reader by using second person point of view, how we can change their worldviews, make them think in a completely different way than they might’ve done before. Neither of the other points of view do this quite so well, and in fact, neither of them really come close at all.

Second person allows us to create some form of change within our readers, to make them think in a way no other point of view can do.

If you’ve never written in second person, I challenge you to try it. Try writing a short story in second person (a short story, because novels in second person take a great deal more attention). See what it’s like to make your reader into your narrator.

You’ll have a better sense of your readers in general, because you won’t just be writing for them—you’ll be writing them.

But, as always, how do we know if a story should be written in second person?

Next week, we’ll figure all that out.

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.