Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD
Do you know the first-person point of view? It’s when you see your story through one character’s eyes and write about what they see and do. Well, second person point of view is like that–except you’re telling the story to someone else! This article will show you how to use this unusual technique for a powerful effect. We’ll cover a step-by-step guide on writing in the second person, as well as some examples from published books. So read on if you want to learn more!
What is the Second Person Point of View?
Typically, a story is written in the third person point of view. That means you’ll write your novel from one character’s perspective and tell what they do and see. However, some stories are written with the second-person point of view: they’re told as if they were happening to you!
When using a second-person point of view, you’ll write as ‘you.’ The reader will see your story through your perspective, just like first-person. However, instead of writing ‘I did this, you’ll be writing ‘You did this.’
How to use Second Person Point of View in Writing
Typically, a second-person point of view is used in nonfiction books or short stories. It’s usually not good for novels because it feels too informal and has a small reading range (no one wants to read your diary!) However, the second person point of view is highly effective in certain stories. For example:
- Believable Fiction: If your character tells a true story (like an autobiography), then using a second-person point of view works perfectly well. This way, you’ll keep the reader engaged and focused on what’s happening.
- Narrative Prose: If you’re telling a story about something that happened to someone else, but are not focusing on yourself or your emotions, then writing from second-person point of view can be incredibly effective.
- Creative Nonfiction: Second person point of view is often used in creative nonfiction because it’s informal and helps the reader relate to the story. This is because it feels like they’re being told a story that’s happening to them instead of just reading facts off the page.
- Short Stories: Second person point of view works best for short stories. That’s because novels require more time and commitment from the reader–novels are long! If you write a novel in second-person point of view, your reader might not feel committed enough to get through all the pages.
In addition, there are some things to remember when writing in the second-person point of view: Make sure it feels natural! Using ‘you’ can feel forced, so make sure you don’t overdo it.
Be sure to use the line breaks and punctuation appropriate for this point of view. If possible, avoid distancing your reader with words like ‘obviously’ or ‘clearly’. This perspective should feel close and personal, not distant! It’s okay to switch between second-person point of view and a third-person point of view. The reader won’t mind, as long as it’s done well.
Let’s take a look at some examples now. I’ll show you how to write from a second-person point of view by rewriting famous passages from popular novels!
Examples Of Second Person Point of View In Books
Believable Fiction: ‘You stand on the bow of the ship. Your grip is tight, your knuckles white. The sea stretches out before you into eternity, and you are not afraid.’
Narrative Prose: ‘You open the letter and inside there are just two words: I’m sorry. You look up at the sky, and a raindrop falls. It lands on your cheek, cool and clean.’
Creative Nonfiction: ‘You walk down the aisle in a pretty white dress. Your father’s hand is trembling as he takes it from yours.’
Short Stories: ‘You’re sitting alone in your room. It’s night, and the only light comes from your laptop screen.’
The examples of second-person points of view in these books are clear and vivid! The reader can easily get into the protagonist’s shoes without feeling confused or lost. If you’re writing from this point of view, make sure it feels natural to you and that you’re not forcing it.
What are the benefits of using a second person perspective?
The benefits of using second-person perspective include:
- Accessing the reader’s experience and point of view. Because it is written to describe everything from the reader’s viewpoint, it allows you to see things through her eyes and feel what she feels. This can create a deeper connection between your writing and your readers.
- Making your writing more effective. The second-person perspective can help you access the reader’s experience, which engages her most in your story.
- Presenting an immediate tone, voice, and point of view. Because this perspective gives clear direction on how you want your reader to feel or see things, it helps them engage with the text immediately.
- Keeping the writing efficient and concise. Since second-person perspective limits you to only one character’s point of view, it forces you to be efficient with your words since you can’t rely on a narrator to fill in the details for you. This style also encourages authors to cut any unnecessary language or fluff that can be found in many other writing styles.
How do you use the second-person perspective? Step by Step Guide
- Begin by choosing a character and writing from their perspective. It’s important to identify what you want your readers to experience and feel as they read, and then pick one of your characters that can help them achieve this goal. This person should be someone who is easily relatable or provides an interesting point of view for your story since you will need to use their perspective for your entire book. If this character happens to be the protagonist, then you’ll have a lot more room to explore other points of view in your story.
- In the second paragraph, set up a goal for your character. It can be anything from making friends to saving someone’s life. In this section, you’ll also want to describe the main conflict in your story and how your protagonist will have to overcome them to reach their goal.
- In the third paragraph, show your protagonist engaging with the environment. Give them a name or use their pronouns. You’ll need to describe everything they see, hear, feel, smell and taste as they interact with their surroundings.
- In the fourth paragraph, create an obstacle for your protagonist to overcome. Describe how it feels for them to face this conflict and the intense feelings that come out. In this section, you’ll also want to describe how they try and fail to overcome this obstacle in their journey towards achieving their goal.
- In the fifth paragraph, show your protagonist persevering even though they fail at the first attempt. Describe them fighting for what matters most to them and show what drives them to continue their efforts.
- In the sixth paragraph, provide your protagonist with some sage wisdom or words of encouragement that will strengthen them for their final attempt towards reaching the goal they set out to achieve.
- In the seventh paragraph, describe how your protagonist finally achieves their goal by overcoming this obstacle. Show how it feels, what they see, and all of their senses as they succeed in this journey.
- In the last paragraph that concludes your story, provide a small twist or reveal that shows why reaching their goal was important to them in the first place. This will help readers understand who your protagonist really is and why their goal matters so much to them.
As you can see, the second-person perspective is very straightforward and takes less time to plan out than the first or third-person perspectives since there are only a few steps you’ll need to take. This style also encourages writers to limit the amount of unnecessary language in their stories to focus on providing their readers with a fresh and engaging experience that doesn’t require them to strain their imaginations to envision their stories.
In the end, using second-person perspective can be a useful tool for authors who are looking for a different way of telling a story or want to make their writing concise and efficient.
Below is an example from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court that uses a second-person perspective.
You are a young man whose father is a Knight who dies while you are still in your youth. After his death, you become apprenticed to a blacksmith and learn how to make horseshoes. After being mistreated one too many times, you set out on your own and seek adventure in a faraway land, Camelot.
A few days later, after having made it to Camelot and meeting King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table inquiring about employment, you learn that they are looking for some brave person who can go out to the neighboring kingdom of Mercia and bring back some information about its current affairs.
That night, you are informed by Merlin that you have been chosen to undertake this task. You are ordered to put on your armor and mount your horse for the journey ahead of you. As you are riding up onto a hill, Merlin says “Good bye,” and you turn around to see that he has vanished.
At the bottom of the hill, you reach some road signs where some directions have been carved in stone. One says “To Mercia,” while another one says “To London.” As you look down each path, it becomes unclear which way to go on this journey since both paths look equally as valid…
The good and evil of writing in second person perspective
The good part about writing in this style is that you can make your main character as likeable or unlikeable as possible for rich characterization and deep plot development. However, the downside to it is that it requires a lot more energy and effort from you as a writer; however, if done right, you’re sure to captivate an entire audience. Regardless, it can make or break your book depending on how well you write the style and if you drive the story forward.
If readers feel like they are too far removed from the events that occur within a given work of literature, then they may never connect with them or worse yet – stop reading altogether. Although authors like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf have been successful with this style, others have not been as fortunate. In the case of H.G. Wells’ “The Door In The Wall”, his writing was so dull that it just couldn’t engage his audience as he failed to do anything but tell them what happened from a limited perspective which made him just sound like an abandoned 3rd party narrator.
However, when this style is done well with excellent written words that effectively guide the story forward without getting lost in excess verbiage, then it can be very rewarding for any creative writer to fulfill their literary goals. Some of these writers who have successfully captured their audience through second-person point of view are John Steinbeck with “The Grapes Of Wrath“, Ernest Hemingway with “For Whom The Bell Tolls“, Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” , and Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Guilty Pleasures”.
The most obvious advantage of writing in the second person is that it allows you to be complemented with total honesty by your audience. Depending on how vivid or detailed someone’s imagination they are, this style can bring any book alive for an amazing amount of people who otherwise wouldn’t have read something similar at all since it doesn’t go too deep into technical information but goes beyond just ambient background noise about fictional buildings and characters.
When is second-person point of view used in writing?
The second person point of view is perfect when you want to create a sense of mystery in your words. Since the reader is not the protagonist but almost behind them watching their every step it can really make you feel like you are reading something very secretive that no one else will know about except for them and whatever character they are connecting with directly which helps give it a more poetic nature for those who appreciate drama.
Your characters can also be very close to you or complete strangers, making the connection between them and your audience all the more profound, which is why this style is a great tool for character development. This technique can make any reader feel like they are inside your head whether the protagonist is beating the odds or in a doomed situation, making for a very intimate experience with the words you write.
What are the challenges of using second person perspective?
- Writing for a large audience. It can be challenging to write a story from a character’s point of view, especially if you want the reader to identify with them and feel what they’re going through. This is because not all readers may be able to identify with the character’s situation or interpretation of events. They may understand the text through their own experience, which makes it harder for them to absorb your story.
- Making an emotional connection with readers. Second-person perspective cuts out the idea of a narrator because you are choosing not to include another character’s thoughts or feelings since you want to write this perspective from your character’s perspective. This can make it more difficult to engage with your audience because you’re limiting yourself based on the protagonist’s point of view.
Writing with Second Person Point of View
It can be difficult to maintain suspense when writing with this point of view, but there are tricks that any good writer should know about when using it in their work. In order to make your story more dramatic, you can use it to make someone’s life seem more interesting than they think it is such as when your character appears ordinary but there is something about them that stands out from the crowd or they are forced into dangerous situations where their life hangs in the balance.
Another technique you can try when writing with second-person point of view is to throw in some humor into the mix. There are usually people who will laugh at things that are meant to be taken seriously because it makes them feel better about themselves after realizing that they aren’t the only ones who go through some pretty awkward moments. If your protagonist feels like their situation is extremely humiliating, then you could end up getting a few laughs out of it if done correctly.
If you are writing a novel where your story is so amazing that everyone has to read it, then this style will be perfect for you. It can help generate more interest in something you have created if your audience feels like they are getting the inside scoop on what happens, and because of this, it may lead to more people sharing your work with their friends, which in turn may lead to more people reading it.
Writing in general is often viewed as a lonely job, so why not try something new when putting your thoughts down on paper? Using second-person point of view can broaden your horizons and help you see things from a whole new perspective unlike anything else that you have ever experienced. If you are passionate about writing, then it can be very rewarding to know that your words are being enjoyed by the masses.
Second Person Personal Pronouns
It can be difficult to decide on what kind of personal pronoun you should use when writing with second-person point of view, especially if it is not something that you do often. The best thing for you to do is try and choose the most appropriate word that will help your story flow more smoothly than before depending on whether you are male or female, just like with first-person point of view.
You can write how you want to but if you are especially interesting in giving your words that extra bit of something then the following list will tell you what kind of pronoun is most commonly used by each gender:
Male Pronouns: you, your, yours, yourself
Female Pronouns: you, your, yours, yourself
When trying to figure out the rest of your sentence, you should ask yourself what kind of pronoun would be used and in this case, it would most likely be “he” or “she”.
Example Of Second Person Point Of View
- It was a bright day when she walked through the crowded market looking for something to buy.
- The sun was high up in the sky when she walked through the crowded market looking for something to buy.
- She looked around and saw so many people trying their best to sell their wares even though it was almost unbearable with all of the noise that filled the air.
- “Hey you, would you like to buy one of my oranges?” someone yelled out, but she kept on walking, so they went back to shouting at other customers who were passing by.
- She saw some beautiful flowers, but it would be too expensive if she wanted them all. She knew that her friend had just bought a bunch of these yesterday and that was why she came here in the first place.
- “Hello there, pretty lady, looking for something special?” someone said, and she smiled at him before answering. “I am looking for some flowers, and I am not sure if you have any.”
- The old man looked around his cart, but he could only find roses so he got them for her as a gift. She was grateful and she knew that it would be enough to make her friend smile when she told her all about this.
Writing with the second-person point of view will definitely give you something new to work towards if it is something that you have never done before. Give your story a unique feel with the aid of this style and you will be surprised at how it changes the way that your audience interacts with your story.
If you want to give this method a try, then there is nothing stopping you from doing so but do not overdo it because, of course, nothing can beat first-person point of view in terms of personal touch. The second person point of view is merely a nice and effective touch and with these following tips, you should be set on the right track to doing it right.
When should second-person point of view be avoided?
Sometimes, it does not always work to your advantage to write with second-person point of view. In fact, there are times when it might even be better for you to avoid using it as an author because as mentioned before, first-person point of view will always have the upper hand in terms of personal touch.
Although you should definitely give this style a try, you should also know when it is best to avoid writing with second-person point of view as this will prevent your audience from being confused. The following are some scenarios where second-person point of view might not be the best style for you to use:
When describing the setting – if the time and place is already established then there is a good chance that changing from third-person point of view to second-person point of view will confuse your audience. It is simply better to stick with what you know works when it comes to this kind of situation.
When telling a story – second-person point of view should never be used when storytelling because the audience might think that it is real and react to it. It is simply not worth the risk, so do not even try to be creative with your storytelling because it will most likely backfire anyway.
When describing an action – when you are telling a story, whether it is through narration or dialogue, then the second-person point of view should never be used to describe what characters are doing in that particular situation. For one thing, it is too personal, and for another, it will not be effective when describing action in this manner.
Be careful when using second-person point of view in stories that are supposed to take place in the past because the audience might think that it is non-fiction instead of fiction. If you really want to use second-person point of view, then you are better off using it in present tense situations because these are the ones that are more likely to be written with this style.
Another thing that you should consider when writing second-person point of view is your audience’s reaction to your writing. Remember, every story has a specific target audience, so you will have to adjust accordingly if you want to make sure that your audience reacts the way you want them to.
Examples of Books Written in Second Person
While there are countless examples of books that use second-person point of view, one particular book known for its crazy popularity is the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which was made into a major motion picture back in 2012. The protagonist Katniss Everdeen’s voice pours through so clearly when reading it because of how open she is to her audience. You can almost feel her presence inside your head just by how connected you are with the words that she is saying.
Another series of books using second-person point of view is The Maze Runner Series, James Dashner’s futuristic tale. Each chapter begins with a short letter from someone writing in first person about how all they do is watch the trials while they fight for their lives and all while you, the reader, is just watching him do it.
Are there any books that use second-person point of view that were not mentioned here? Do you know of any other novels or short stories written in English that uses this style? Let us know your thoughts on the matter by leaving a comment below
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if my writing style fits with this kind of narrative?
A: As stated before, the most important thing to consider is your audience’s reaction to what you are writing. You should never force yourself to use this kind of style because it might not fit the tone of your current work.
Q: How can I change my storytelling voice?
A: If you are determined on changing up your storytelling style, then you should consider changing both your point of view and your tense at the same time. For example, if you are currently using second-person point of view in present tense then try switching to third-person point of view in past tense for a different feel.
Q: How can I make my writing more interesting when using second-person point of view?
A: It is important to remember that you should not use this style for storytelling because it can be very risky and it will most likely backfire. If you want to add some interest then simply add in a little bit of humor or something that’s equally exciting – just don’t push the envelope too far!
Q: What is 1st person 2nd person 3rd person with examples?
A: 1st person is when the narrator uses “I” and tells the story from his/her personal point of view. 2nd person is when you use ‘you’ and tell the story directly to your audience . 3rd person is when the narrator refers to everyone in third-person or using he, she, it etc.
Example of 1st: I walked to the park and saw a group of birds flying above me.
Example of 2nd: You walk to the park and see a group of birds flying above you.
Example of 3rd: A group of birds flies above them as they walk to the park.
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