Writing Styles: Writing in Second Person

Hello everyone! Today is the fifth and final installment of my Writing Styles segment, Writing in Second Person.

I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed doing these and sharing them with you. Can’t wait to figure out what else I’m going to do. 😀

To be honest, using Second Person is my least favorite style when writing fiction. It’s nothing against the style per se, I just get tired of reading or writing “you” a million times. Besides that, it’s also one of the hardest to implement and have it hold our readers’ attention.

Out of all the styles we’ve discussed, Second Person is probably the most engaging and energetic of them all. I know, it doesn’t sound right, right? The reason is, in my opinion, the type of stories it’s predominately used in: Find Your Own Adventure.

I know Find Your Own Adventure books are among my favorite all time stories, when I wasn’t walking into a trap and being killed nine out of ten times. Yes, I had that kind of bad luck. Lol

They allow us to be part of the story in a unique way by deciding what we’ll do, and that’s exciting. I know I couldn’t wait to turn the page and learn my fate.

For those that haven’t experienced those stories, the premise is simple to explain, but extensive to plan out. Each story starts with a basic opening where we’re the main character (Referred to “you”), and after a brief period we’re given a number of choices to follow.

Here’s an example:

The walls are painted in an off-pinkish color that reminds you of the walls in the school detention room. You shake your head, pushing them from your thoughts as you approach the closet door. You know the sounds came from the other side of the door, but everything’s quiet now. Do you…

  1. Open the closet? Go to page XXX
  2. Turn around and leave? Go to page XXX
  3. Call for your aunt? Go to page XXX

Pretty cool, huh?

This system is repeated numerous times as our adventure unfolds one way or another. One little tidbit I feel obligated to share is no matter what choice we make to start out, we are nearly always guided back to this page to make the choice again. A couple of times the story will have us go downstairs and it’s over, but where’s the fun in that, right?

For me, being so engaged in the story gives it a frenetic energy of sorts that keeps us turning the pages to find out what happens.

There are other fictional stories where it’s used, but I haven’t come across any outside of one of the writing groups I’m in for a challenge. If you come across any, I’d love to hear if you’ve enjoyed them. 🙂

As authors, we do tend to use Second Person for our own purpose that doesn’t involve writing stories? Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed promotional posts, you’re right.

Some examples are:

Stop buy and drive home in your new car. You won’t be disappointed!

Why not grab your copy and enjoy a great story?

You want to be cool, right? So buy our body spray before they’re sold out.

More than these, we also see Second Person in other day-to-day things like Self-Help books, Do It Yourself manuals, and (my personal favorite) Role-Playing Games. The funny thing is, I doubt most of us even notice. I know I didn’t until I researched for this post. Just goes to show, we never stop learning.

As with all of the styles we’ve talked about, whether to use Second Person or not is a decision that is up to us. Sometimes, it’s what we feel more comfortable in. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if it calls to us, go for it.

As with all styles, it’s important to understand what to do and what not to. As I mentioned previously, I get tired of reading and writing “you” every so often. One way to avoid doing that isn’t by cutting back, but by using a sleight of hand technique.

By sleight of hand, I mean reorganizing the sentence structure so it still makes sense, but has “you” in different locations. As writers, the worst thing we can do is be repetitive and make our work sound like stereo instructions.

An example of a standard sentence is:

You walk into the room and look around. You notice the half-eaten bagel and opened newspaper, but pay it no mind. Your wife should be here. Where is she?

While it’s pretty straight forward, we have three uses/variations of “you”.

So why not try something like:

Walking into the room, you notice the half-eaten bagel and opened newspaper. You ignore it, choosing to look for your wife instead. Vicky should be here? Where is she?

Notice the slight tweak while the number of “you” remains the same? By shifting the sentence, we change the flow of our writing and avoids our reader falling into a bored pattern recognition type of reading.

This is also a fun way to spice things up when using any technique, but it is sometimes frowned upon due to a simple grammatical misunderstanding. The easiest way to keep things straight is to have the noun or focus of the sentence follow the action by being placed immediately after the comma.

Here’s what I mean:

In the first sentence, “you” follows the comma, hence does the action (Walking into the room, you notice the half-eaten bagel and opened newspaper). Otherwise, you’ll have a dangling participle (Walking into the room, the half-eaten bagel and opened newspaper are noticed.)

See the difference? In the second example, the half-eaten bagel walked into the room instead of you. It is so simple, it can be very confusing, so please, be open to hearing any critiques and looking up examples if it will help.

That brings me to one of the best advice I can give: Read as many books as possible in Second Person (Or any style) if you want to write in that style. We tend to learn faster and better through reading examples and attempting something instead of listening or reading about rules. Once we have a good feel for how to write a certain way, we can then expand our research to fine tuning it.

Reading is an awesome osmosis-type of way of learning how to write and tell a story.  An important thing to keep in mind is that even those teaching classes and writing books/blogs on how to do something learned a great deal just by simply reading and learning the nuances afterwards.

Well, this brings this week’s blog post to a close. I hope I didn’t ramble too much and made sense.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing Second Person or anything I mentioned today. Also, if you have any suggestions for future informational series you’d like to see, please let me know.

Until next time, my friends, let your imaginations fly! 🙂

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About CP Bialois

Where do I begin? Well first I guess it's only fair to say that CP Bialois isn't my real name. It's a collaboration I made out of the three greatest pets anyone could ever want. My real name is Ed and I'm just an average person that has found a way to do what he loves. For as long back as I can remember I loved to pretend. Whether it was with my Transformers, GI Joe, or He-Man toys I loved to create intricate plots and have them fight it out. As a fan of horror, science fiction, action, and comedy I dare say my taste in movies are well rounded. Some of my favorites were Star Wars, Star Trek, martial arts, and anything with Swarzenegger in them. I'd write my own stories about the characters I saw in the theaters or TV or I'd just daydream about what I'd see myself as the hero of course. You can't have a daydream without beating the bad guys, getting the girl, etc. It's just not right to envision yourself as a flunky or sidekick. As far as books I loved Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island, Dracula, and the normal assortment. My early love was the Star Trek novels, I'd read them or the Hardy Boys relentlessly. For a time I could tell you the plot of over a hundred books not to mention comics. I have to come clean and say that I learned to read because of comic books. I was bored, make that extremely bored when we started to read in school. Reading "the cat fell down" really didn't interest me. My dad, who continues to astound me with his insight to this day, figured comics would work. With that in mind he went to the newstand in town and bought issues of Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Tales From the Crypt, and Spider-man. He patiently read through them with me until I picked it up. Whether it was him or the comics I learned to read in about two weeks and for a while few were as good as I was. For years after that whenever we'd go out he'd always spring for a couple of comic books for me. While it wasn't exactly the perfect beginning everything I've ever read or have seen has influenced me in some way and now is the time I'd like to share some of the ideas I've had over the years with all of you. I hope you enjoy my stories, they're always fun to write and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
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4 Responses to Writing Styles: Writing in Second Person

  1. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Writing in 2nd person is difficult. Have you tried it?

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