Monthly Archives: May 2013
Writing in the Second Person
So for some reason, I decided to write a short story in the second person.
I don’t know why. I started with a vague idea about style and an element of worldbuilding, and basically I just started from there. It mutated into a piece with a story arc and that was dandy, but part of what made it interesting was writing it in the second person throughout.
I haven’t seen much second person fiction about, and I suspect there’s a good reason for it – done badly I expect it would be clumsy and annoying. I remember some sections in Iain Banks’ “Complicity”, but they stood out for being second-person and present tense, in contrast to the third-person past tense of the rest of the book. They were intentionally jarring and seemed a deliberate attempt to put the reader into some dubious shoes.
I don’t think that’s happened in my case, however. Although I’ve written plenty (of words) in third-person past-tense, in recent times I’ve mostly written in first-person present, and that’s transferred into the second-person piece a lot more than I expected.
See, writing in the first person is a way to embed the reader into the perspective of the protagonist, but I found myself doing the same thing in second. Instead of using the perspective in a descriptive style, I used it to “record” the protagonist’s internal monologue at themselves. That allowed me to work with uncertain memories, breaks in thought, and hints at the significance of events simply through the words chosen. I was able to write the story as though the protagonist had told it to themselves a thousand times before.
It was fun.
Would I do it again? I expect I would, but I don’t know if it could work in a long-form. If someone knows of an exactly, particularly in genre fiction, I’d like to know.