In the Second Person, your writing addresses the reader directly. This can be very effective in some cases, less so in others. This article will help you better understand why this point of view is necessary in some situations and how to use it properly.
What Is Second Person Point of View?
Unlike First Person point of view and Third Person, in Second Person point of view (2PPOV), the narrator addresses the reader as “you.”
In this way, your audience becomes a character in the story. The 2nd person in the story.
Writers use Second Person to create an immediate connection between the reader and the writer so that the reader feels like he or she’s a part of the story.
Uses the Second Person Pronoun “You” and Refers the Reader to Himself or Herself
The Second Person addresses the reader directly as if they’re part of the story. For example, “You’ve been a good friend to me for many years.
Since this isn’t your typical narrative voice, it can be difficult to maintain.
Also, many readers might find Second Person writing distracting and tolerate it only for short sections at a time. However, when used correctly, Second Person can be very effective in making a text more engaging and exciting. It also helps set the tone of a story early on by immediately drawing attention.
Second Person can be used when you’re writing about something that happened in the past (for example, an event or experience): you were sitting on your bed after school one day, thinking about what had happened that week, when you remembered things that made you uncomfortable.
Notice that “you” is used throughout this paragraph, not “I,” which would make it First Person perspective: “I was sitting on my bed after school one day thinking about what had happened that week when I started remembering things that made me uncomfortable.”
It Creates a Unique Reading Experience
In a narrative, the point of view determines through whose eyes the reader sees the story.
Second Person narration creates an intense reading experience because it involves the reader directly in the action. It tends to be more dramatic than other points of view.
You Are There
In First Person, the narrator is a character in the story. This can be a “limited omniscience” where we only see what the character sees or knows.
In Second Person, you’re one of the characters in the story.
This is an unusual way to tell a story, and not easily accomplished without seeming awkward or clumsy. With this approach, the reader becomes directly involved in the action as you narrate and give directions from their point of view.
Examples of Second Person Point of View
You enter the room. It’s dark, but you can make out a couch and a TV on the wall in front of you. The couch is blue and seems to take up most of the space in the room. You walk forward, toward TV. You notice there’s a door to your right when you trip over something hard next to your feet. Ouch! Who left that there?
You wake up to find yourself lying on a rough wooden floor. The smell of hay is in the air and in the distance you hear the soft neighing of horses. You sit up and look around, but you can’t see anything in the darkness. What should you do now? Should you sit up? Or reach for something to prop yourself up?
You Can Address the Reader Directly
Although it may seem strange to address the reader directly in a story (or in any text), the second-person perspective has its own unique advantages.
Here are a few of them:
- You can address the reader directly. Because the Second Person perspective is so intimate, you can speak directly to the reader and get your message across quickly and clearly.
- You can even use this technique to make sure your audience understands that they’re being addressed. For example, instead of saying, “Many people don’t know how to use their credit cards wisely,” you could say, “You probably do, but your credit card company charges you interest on the balance if you don’t pay it back every month.”
- For users giving advice online, that’s a given. If you’re writing an online guide or how-to for readers who don’t know much about your topic, it’s likely that using phrases like “you” and “your” when giving instructions comes naturally to you.
It’s an Exercise in Empathy
One advantage of writing in the second person is that you’ve to flex your narrative muscles.
This method of storytelling forces you to take some of your own perspectives out of the story and empathize with the reader’s perspective.
When you write in the second person, you can strengthen your empathy skills by imagining how someone other than yourself feels while reading your story or novel – and this exercise can benefit your writing and character development skills.
It’s an Invitation
Second Person POV is ideal if you want the reader to experience the story from the perspective of a character, rather than an omniscient narrator.
The reason Second Person works so well for this is that it’s very intimate and personal. It invites the reader to become part of your story and share it with you, which makes it easier for readers to identify with your work.
It Can Be Used When Writing About Something That Happened in the Past
Although Second Person isn’t often used in fiction, it’s found in many nonfiction books, such as self-help books.
If you’re writing about something that happened in the past, the Second Person point of view may seem unusual or surprising at first. This is because readers are still getting used to thinking about themselves in this way. But after a few minutes of reading, you’ll find that you’re engaged in the text and eager to know what happens next.
When you’re describing an event that’s happening or will happen in the future, Second Person can allow more freedom in language and can be less formal than Third Person. It also helps us see ourselves through another person’s eyes without having to rely on their direct quote from memory (which isn’t always accurate).
Other Second Person Benefits
There are other advantages to writing in the Second Person. Here are some of them:
- The reader is forced to identify with the story. First Person perspective is an effective way to force the reader to identify with the narrator, the protagonist, or another character. By using “you,” readers feel the narrator or character is speaking to them and feel a connection to that person and their story.
- Highlighting important ideas or themes. Second Person perspective is great for highlighting a theme or idea that you want readers to notice immediately or remember after reading your text. This technique is often used by motivational speakers and authors who want their audience/readership – namely YOU – to take action (for example, buy their product/service).
- To teach the reader something new/be instructive. Second Person POV can also be an effective way to teach your readers something new about themselves, such as how they feel about certain topics. This is because when we hear ourselves addressed as “you”, we tend to think about ourselves more than usual. This means that not only do we learn new things, but we can apply those lessons later (in large part because people identify with what they’ve been told directly).
Writing in Second Person Can Help You Create a More Engaging Story That Invites Your Reader to Participate in the Experience
Writing in the Second Person is also an effective way to tell stories where characters are in extreme situations, as it gives you the opportunity to convey the emotions they’re experiencing.
This is achieved by drawing the reader directly into the scenes and asking them to imagine how they’d feel there.
For example, if you’ve characters jumping out of an airplane and parachuting to safety, it can be much more exciting for readers to be able to put themselves in that situation than it’s to just observe them as a Third Person narrator would.
Allowing readers to experience these events firsthand also means that writing about them becomes easier because there are no barriers between us as writers and our audience when we both imagine experiencing everything together!
Second Person Point of View Challenges
So, given all the rosy advantages of Second Person outlined above, why do most writers (and publishers) avoid it?
If you’re thinking about writing a book in the Second Person, there are some challenges you should be aware of:
Too “In Your Face”
One of the most common criticisms of Second Person is that it feels too much like the author is talking directly to the reader. This can be difficult for readers, especially if they don’t see themselves or their lives in the novel they’re reading.
It Can Be Confusing
The Second Person point of view can also be confusing for readers because an editor must decide how to refer to characters who’re not the narrator or reader. Sometimes the character is referred to as “he” or “she,” but sometimes the character is referred to as ” you” (e.g., “you open the door and go inside”). This inconsistency can make it harder for readers to follow what’s happening in your story.
It Can Be Harder to Connect With Characters
The Second Person point of view also makes it harder for readers to identify with your characters and their experiences.
Even when we read in Third Person from a character’s perspective (I went to my room), there’s still some distance between that character and our own experiences as readers in real life (I didn’t just go to my room, I went to a fictional room).
In the Second Person (“You go to your room”), however, that distance disappears completely because we’re asked by the author-or at least by someone else-to imagine ourselves doing something rather than just seeing it on the page. This can make it hard for some readers to become so engrossed in your story or your characters that they want to keep turning the pages.
It Can Be Harder to Empathize With Characters
When you write from a Second Person perspective, it’s also harder for readers to empathize with your characters because empathy requires a certain amount of closeness to another person, but often not too much!
A crucial part of successful fiction writing is to get the reader to ‘suspend disbelief.’ In other words, to allow the room for their imagination to step into the gaps in your narrative.
It’s hard to hide stuff from the main character when that main character is the reader!
In Most Cases, Using First or Third Person Is Preferred
In most cases, First or Third Person is preferred.
The First Person POV uses “I” and is usually more informal than the Third Person.
Second person, using “you,” is the least common point of view in fiction.
The Third Person uses “he,” “she,” or “they” and is usually more formal than the First Person.
How to Write in Second Person Narrative
Keep the following 5 tips in mind when writing a narrative in the Second Person:
- Be careful when using the Second Person.
- Try it out on a short story first.
- Be clear about who your narrator is.
- Make sure the Second Person perspective is appropriate for your story.
- Be prepared to work the narrative hard.
- Be aware of the limitations and advantages of Second Person.
By following these tips, you can make the right choices for your unique story and make your second-person narration special!
Using Second Person in an Academic Essay Is Usually Unnecessary
The Second Person isn’t used in formal academic writing. This includes writing dissertations, theses, and professional journals.
This is because the 2nd Person perspective doesn’t sound objective. When writing an academic essay, you should generally avoid using the Second Person because it can alienate or upset your audience.
Using the Second Person can cause confusion for readers because they don’t know if they’re being addressed directly or not. Because academic essays should be written in a formal and objective tone, the Second Person is rarely used.
However, in informal academic writing (e.g., blogposts, journal entries), Second Person may be used to support the author’s argument or to reflect a personal style. It can also be used to stylistically mimic an interview or in dialogs between people to create a distinct personality.