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What is 2nd Person POV?

REP
Updated:

Most of the Internet sites I checked, including Grammar Girl, seem to define the 2nd person POV as writing using the second person verb tense.

In the Second-Person Point of View: Give Your Story a New Perspective by Tal Valante the 2nd Person POV is described as: In fiction, pure second-person POV uses the perspective of a single character, the protagonist, to tell the story. This character is well-defined, with habits and traits and a unique personality. The reader is simply placed "behind" this character, seeing and experiencing the world through his eyes, body and mind.

Personally, I view Valante's description as writing in the 1st Person POV.

Some time back, I found an article, but cannot recall where, that led me to believe 2nd Person POV is: You, the author, are relating a conversation between two people. One person is your story's narrator and the second person is telling the story to your narrator. For example, assume that in your story, the narrator, Tom, is telling your reader about a story he has been told by a second person, Bob. At the start of the conversation, Tom is not aware of the story's content. Since the story content being related has already happened, you the writer can have Bob relate the story using the First Person, Third Person Limited, or Third Person Omniscient POV. As the story unfolds, Tom can only relate, to your reader, what Bob tells him. However, as the writer, you can have Tom interrupt Bob to ask a question or to gain further insight into something Bob said. In this sense, Tom is using the First Person POV. Based on how much you the writer want Bob to know about the story, Bob can use any of three POVs listed.

How do you define the 2nd person POV?

updated to add to example.

Ross at Play
Updated:

I thought it's only practical use was for things like instruction manuals.

Something like? ... Open the box and check this list of contents are all included. You will need a stiff drink and a nap after that, so give everything to a teenager to sort out.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Rep, I've never heard of a 2nd narrator telling the narrator what the story is about. Frankly, it sounds like a failed writing attempt by a minor (and forgotten) author.

My understanding, like Ross's, is that it's simply not applicable to fiction writing. However, I'm sure Switch will have plenty to say on the subject.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

How do you define the 2nd person POV?


1st POV = I
3rd POV = he
2nd POV = you

It puts the reader in the story. "You entered the house. You were scared."

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP


The reader is simply placed "behind" this character, seeing and experiencing the world through his eyes, body and mind.


This is the problem. It's not putting the reader "behind" the character. The reader "is" the character.

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I thought it's only practical use was for things like instruction manuals.


It's used in short stories all time.
It's also used in games like Dungeons & Dragons.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I'm sure Switch will have plenty to say on the subject.


I love discussing POV. :)
This should help:

1st
I opened the door. The room was dark and all of a sudden — BANG! I jumped a foot off the floor.

3rd
John opened the door. The room was dark and all of a sudden — BANG! He jumped a foot off the floor.

2nd
You opened the door. The room was dark and all of a sudden — BANG! You jumped a foot off the floor.

One problem I can think of with 2nd-POV is when the character doesn't match the gender of the reader. Imagine a little boy reading: "You put on a pink dress with white polka dots."

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

One problem I can think of with 2nd-POV is when the character doesn't match the gender of the reader. Imagine a little boy reading: "You put on a pink dress with white polka dots."

I don't know, I suspect there are quite a few little boys who'd enjoy it (but who's parents would boycott the publisher and demand the book be banned)!

Ernest Bywater

Another issue with 2nd Person POV is it sounds so much like someone ordering you about some people will quickly get their back up and stop reading because they don't like being pushed around.

Dominions Son

The only stories I can think of that I've ever read that were second person were those build your own adventure stories.

If you want to stab the dragon with your magic sword got to 63
If you want to cast a spell on the dragon go to 78
If you want to run away screaming like a little girl, go to 54.

:-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The only stories I can think of that I've ever read that were second person were those build your own adventure stories.

You see a new girl at the bar, you either walk up, introduce yourself and face a potential rejection, or if you're annoyed by my cloying POV you can quit reading now and find a decent adventure story.

or you could try writing a technical manual about writing:

You write a novel, experimenting with 2nd Person POV. After completing 23 chapters, struggling to make the uncomfortable structure work, you realized you're forced to trash the entire story and begin again, trying for something that's readable. ;)

REP

@Switch Blayde

This is the problem


I agree that there is a lot wrong with that persons definition of 2nd POV.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


It's also used in games like Dungeons & Dragons.


Which kind of proves my point about "only practical use", don't ya think? ;)

According to Wiki at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narration#Second-person

The second person ("you") is often used to address the reader personally and is therefore frequently used in persuasive writing and advertising.[4] It is, in many languages, a very common technique of several popular and non- or quasi-fictional written genres such as guide books, self-help books, choose-your-own-adventure books, do-it-yourself manuals, role-playing games, and gamebooks, musical lyrics, and also blogs.

REP

@Switch Blayde

As I understand it, in all 3 POVs, the narrator is speaking to the reader, and ...

1st - I opened the door.
In this POV, the narrator is one of the characters and is describing the character's thoughts, actions, etc.

3rd - John opened the door.
In this POV, the narrator is a person other than one of the characters and that person is describing the characters thoughts, actions, etc in either the Limited or Omni perspective.

I think I'm clear up to this point. However, I am still confused on 2nd POV.

2nd - You opened the door.
In this POV, who is the narrator and since the narrator is always speaking to the reader, why is the narrator saying the reader did something?

REP
Updated:

Earlier today, I was curious about 2nd POV stories posted on the site, so I did a Category search with only 2nd POV selected as a search criteria. I found 145 stories coded as 2nd POV.

I recalled prior conversations about 2nd POV being rarely used, so I skimmed through a couple of the stories. In every story I skimmed through, the story was told from either the 1st or 3rd Person POV.

Minor edit

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@REP

I recalled prior conversations about 2nd POV being rarely used, so I skimmed through a couple of the stories. In every story I skimmed through, the story was told from either the 1st or 3rd Person POV.


Which shows SoL Authors don't understand it.

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play

@REP

the narrator is always speaking to the reader, why is the narrator saying the reader did something?

It does make no sense to have the narrator saying the reader did something.
The POV has its uses when the requirement is telling the reader to do something

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
REP
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


SoL Authors don't understand it.


I know I don't so that is why I asked.

Since most of the Internet articles are describing POV in terms of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person verb tenses, it apparent that the people who think they are knowledgeable enough to write an article about the different POVs don't understand them either.

I think I'm getting a glimmer of an idea regarding what Switch and others are trying to say. Hopefully Switch or someone else can clarify what everyone seems to be trying to say in slightly different words.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

How about writing stories in 4th - 19th POV?
[S]he/they walked in the room, glanced around, and said "I think I'll be 'you' today".

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

How about writing stories in 4th - 19th POV?


No thanks, I'm still having problems getting out of 2nd gear :)

Switch Blayde

@REP

2nd - You opened the door.
In this POV, who is the narrator and since the narrator is always speaking to the reader, why is the narrator saying the reader did something?


Because that's the novelty of 2nd-person. The narrator makes the reader (you) the protagonist and tells the reader how he acts, what he thinks, etc. — puts the reader into the story.

It's rarely used in novels. It's more common in short stories and non-fiction, and as I said, using Dungeons & Dragons as an example, video games.

Here's an excerpt from a novel written in 2nd-person (Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney):

You have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don't want to invite anyone inside.


I once did an SOL search on 2nd-person. Like you, I scanned several and gave up never finding one.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

I think I'm getting a glimmer of an idea regarding what Switch and others are trying to say. Hopefully Switch or someone else can clarify what everyone seems to be trying to say in slightly different words.


I don't understand 2nd either, and I'm a great believer in the KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid philosophy, so I stay with 1st and 3rd person because I understand them. I also know most readers understand them, so it means they can enjoy the story more.

REP

@Switch Blayde

puts the reader into the story.

Thanks Switch. I think I understand it now. However, how can you develop a plot and have interaction between characters being conveyed by the narrator when the reader is the main protagonist. It makes no sense for the narration to describe the scenes comprising the plot. The only way I can envision that working would be to use 2nd to brief the reader as to what is happening and then switch to 1st or 3rd to describe the action.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Here's an excerpt from a novel written in 2nd-person (Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney


That is not truly in the 2nd person either. Yes, it uses the right words for 2-POV, but it's actually 1-POV - just narrated by a dysfunctional MC who always refers to themselves in the second person ... like using the 'insane "you" ' as opposed to the 'royal "we" '.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

The POV has its uses when the requirement is telling the reader to do something


It's Mind Control!

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I once did an SOL search on 2nd-person. Like you, I scanned several and gave up never finding one.

We should probably point this out to Lazeez. If authors are unable to figure out what 2nd POV is, it makes the tag utterly meaningless. If all those stories are mistagged, everyone would be better off if the tag was removed (since no one can find a single instance of it's correct usage, and the overall use is so low).

Hint: Laz, I know you're notified whenever we mention your name in the forum, so you may want to look at this yourself. Otherwise, I'm hoping Switch and REP can document just how extensive the problems with this rarely used tag are.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@REP

It makes no sense for the narration to describe the scenes comprising the plot. The only way I can envision that working would be to use 2nd to brief the reader as to what is happening and then switch to 1st or 3rd to describe the action.

Talk about head hopping, jumping from 2nd to 3rd to 1st? Geez!

Replies:   REP
REP

@Capt. Zapp

It's Mind Control!


2nd sounds that way.

My difficulty with what Switch has said is my perception of readers.

When I start a story, I role play it by placing myself in the story as the protagonist. As the story unfolds, I try to imagine my acting like the protagonist, and in part, I evaluate the story in terms of how closely I can identify with the protagonist. I suspect most readers do this, especially when I consider the feedback I get that tells me how my characters should have acted and what they should do in future chapters.

I don't see the narrator telling a reader how they are to behave in coming scenes for the reader has their own opinion as to how the scenes should play out. Then when a scene takes a different direction the reader will become frustrated. Of course this is probably why 2nd is rarely used and difficult to write in and create a story acceptable to the majority of the readers.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP


However, how can you develop a plot and have interaction between characters being conveyed by the narrator when the reader is the main protagonist.


The same way you do it in 1st-person.

With 1st, the reader is living the story through the 1st-person character.

With 2nd, the reader is the character. If the reader isn't willing to do that they won't like the story.

ETA: Keep in mind, in 1st the narrator is the character. In fact, it might be easier in 2nd. I don't know if this is legal, but what if the narrator writes: "You don't know it, but Joe is watching you." In 1st, you can't write: "Joe was watching me" because you don't see him watching you.

btw, did you notice the novel I quoted from is written in present tense? I believe 2nd-person is typically (if not always) in present tense. Another reason it's used in short stories because present tense is more common in short stories.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

We should probably point this out to Lazeez


I believe I did.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

That is not truly in the 2nd person either.


I don't know why you say that. It is definitely 2nd-person POV.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I don't know why you say that. It is definitely 2nd-person POV.

I have not read it, but I've read some comments about it.
The distinction I would make depends on who do readers understand is being written about when they see second person pronouns in the text.
If the reader interprets those as meaning themselves (the reader), then it certainly is written in 2-POV.
If the reader interprets those as meaning the narrator referring to themselves (the narrator) - and merely using second person pronouns instead of first as a quirk in the way they express themselves - then it would written in 1-POV with a very odd narrator.
I cannot be certain which is so without reading it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

If the reader interprets those as meaning the narrator referring to themselves (the narrator) - and merely using second person pronouns instead of first as a quirk in the way they express themselves - then it would written in 1-POV with a very odd narrator.
I cannot be certain which is so without reading it.

I agree with Ross on this. Having written one story where the MC talks to himself (a technique for 'showing' what the character is thinking), I can relate. Simply placing "you" in a sentence doesn't necessarily make it 2nd person POV.

By the way, the story where I had the character refer to himself in the 2nd person, was one of my lowest rated stories. Readers just couldn't relate to him, seeing him as schizophrenic rather than quirky and insightful. As a result, I'll never make that mistake again. I also apply that lesson to using the same trick in a story's POV. Readers simply don't like it!

richardshagrin

Maybe the second person point of view is for a story that has been read by the author and one other person, the second person to read the story. Sometimes called a beta reader?

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Talk about head hopping, jumping from 2nd to 3rd to 1st? Geez!


Nah. It's all in my head. No hopping. :)

Friar Tuck

Ahh! I misunderstood the tag as well - I used multiple POV in my story (I was Brertuck, now Friar Tuck) and tagged it as 2nd. How can I change it?

Ross at Play

@Friar Tuck

I was Brertuck, now Friar Tuck ... How can I change it?

THAT would be a question to ask the webmaster (top right of the home page).

Switch Blayde

@Friar Tuck

How can I change it?


I believe you can resubmit the story (or any chapter if it's multiple) and modify the story codes, removing the "2nd POV" one.

Ross at Play

@Friar Tuck

How can I change it?

It's not clear what you want to change.
I thought your problem was your pen name had become 'Friar Tuck'.
Switch Blayde thought it was you have a story with an incorrect tag of 2-POV.

awnlee jawking

@Friar Tuck

How can I change it?


Story codes can't be removed by the author. You'll have to request Lazeez to remove it for you.

BTW, your blog didn't mention what you were changing your name from. I'm enjoying 'Journey to Eden' and I'm looking forward to reading more.

AJ

REP

@Friar Tuck

How can I change it?


Go to the Authors/Editor page and click on Manage Stories.

Click on the story you want to modify and then click the Modify Codes/Genre/Rating selection.

Change the codes and save the new code selections.

samuelmichaels

@Switch Blayde

Halting State by Charles Stross. After a couple of chapters of irritation, I stopped paying attention to the second person narration, and was submerged in the story.

awnlee jawking

@REP

Have you ever managed to delete a code that way? I thought it wasn't possible. It seems to me that Friar Tuck will want to delete the 2-POV code.

AJ

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Have you ever managed to delete a code that way?


What REP described is how any author can change the3 codes for stories, add or remove any code at all. The process he describes will open a window where you add or remove check-marks for tags the same way as when you first upload a story. I use it to add new tags that apply to any of my existing stories

REP
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Have you ever managed to delete a code that way?


Yes. Before telling Friar Tuck how to do it, I verified it would work by deleting a code, verifying it had been deleted, and then readding the code using the same method.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

Thanks.

I thought one of the FAQs said that wasn't possible, but I must have been hallucinating. Again!

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I thought one of the FAQs said that wasn't possible, but I must have been hallucinating. Again!

Hey, hallucinations are where many of the best stories come from. 'D

Ross at Play

@REP

How can I change it?

Thanks for that, REP.
The lesson I take from that is such things are so simple there is no need to learn them. You may simply assume they exist, and when you find a need you simply look for the solution. You will find it and figure out how to use it easily enough.
We should all be grateful for the effort Lazeez puts in to making our experience easier. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

We should all be grateful for the effort Lazeez puts in to making our experience easier. :-)

Not to mention a damn great selection of stories ever at our beck and call! 'D

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