Sunday, November 28, 2010

"You Talkin' to Me?"

Hello Writers!

I was recently introduced to a blogger who has a very unique blogging style. She writes all her posts in second person. I mentioned to the friend who introduced me to this blogger, that the second person narrative mode has intimidated me in the past, and to some extent, it still does. But this talented mommy blogger has encouraged me to get outside of my comfort zone and get in some practice writing in this oft neglected mode.

Very quickly, second person narrative is that in which the writer employs personal pronouns and/or other referents for the main character or protagonist. Most commonly, the English pronoun "you" is the referent of choice. This narrative mode is most common in genre's such as self help books, interactive fiction, role playing games, or gamebooks, like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series. Other genres include song lyrics and advertisements.

I once tried to write a "choose your own adventure" book, myself. I was probably in middle school at the time, and was obsessed with the books. They are what I often think of when I think of the second person narrative mode, even though it has been years since I've picked one up. It seems to me that one of the great things about the second person mode is that it can instantly engage the reader, by suggesting that she fill the shoes of the protagonist. Second person sometimes requires that a sort of cognitive leap be made by the reader, because the settings and circumstances described, may be worlds apart from her own environment. Because the second person mode often refers to the protagonist as "you," it as though the author is describing the reader's own actions to her, thus the reader is encouraged to "play along," as it were. Below is an example of the second person narrative mode, used by author Jay McInerny, in his book Bright Lights, Big City.

"You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy."

Suffice it to say, I'm getting excited about trying this narrative mode out for myself a little bit more. I hope you are, too! I'm excited, because I'm beginning to understand that it does have tremendous potential as a narrative mode, and can be used very effectively by creative writers, as my mommy blogger and McInerny show. Perhaps a search for other writers who are proficient in this mode is in order. Care to join?

"That is writing with balls, it seems to me." -Simon Hoggart


  1. So THAT'S what 2nd person is! I've been trying to figure it out :P I've actually done this, just didn't know what it was called. I love it as a literary tool! Good luck :) I hope you'll share!

  2. Yep, that's it! Good luck, yourself! Maybe I'll throw out a few attempts in the near future!

  3. This was such an informative post! I think for me it is easy to slip up by referring to "YOU" as a general statement, then I realize I need to make it "I" to stay in the context of my story...I like the 2nd person approach in movies too:-)

  4. Hey Deb, I also make the same slip up! Maybe that means second person is a good narrative mode for us! Lol :)



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