[Writing Prompt] Second Person

Continuing this week’s theme of POV prompts, here is today’s prompt:

Write a Story In Second Person

This is probably the least-used of all the points of view and with good reason. It’s not one we’re used to reading because it’s tricky and informal and potentially distracting.

So what is ‘second person’? It’s when the story is told with “you”, where the narrator puts you in the position of the main character.

If you’ve ever played a role-playing game (or a first-person video game) this perspective is going to come a lot easier to you than if you have never read it before. In role-playing games, the games master reads a scenario to the other players, putting them in the scene:

“You walk into the room and know, immediately that something is wrong. There’s a huddled shape in the shadows at the far side of the dim, low-ceilinged space and strange markings on the floor. You turn to leave but the door has slammed shut behind you. There is no handle.”

That’s all very well, but how do you stop a story from reading like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book: a series of descriptions? Well, here’s a passage from Jay McInerney’s “Bright Lights, Big City” that shows you how you can incorporate action, reflection and dialogue into a second person story. In this scene, the main character is in a nightclub.

In the bathroom there are no doors on the stalls, which makes it tough to be discreet. But clearly you are not the only person in here to take on fuel. Lots of sniffling going on in the stalls. the windows are blacked over, and for this you are profoundly grateful.

Hup, two, three, four. The soldiers are back on their feet. They are off and running in formation. Some of them are dancing and you must follow their example.

Just outside the door you spot her: tall, dark and alone, half hidden behind a pillar at the edge of the dance floor. You approach laterally, moving your stuff like a Bad Spade through the slalom of a synthesized conga rhythm. She jumps when you touch her shoulder.

“Dance?”

So yes, it is an unusual written form. It is, however, the way we often talk (“So, say your mother-in-law was coming over and she’s always having a go at you about the state of your bathroom, but her baby boy has never been seen to life a Clorox wipe in his life…”)

No need to be intimidated. Try out the second person and see what it does for your writing, your tone, the storytelling possibilities. Pay attention to how much description and dialogue you use in this form and how much of it seems interior. Is it significantly different from how you usually write?

Have fun with this and…

Go!

And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.