Have you ever read second person fiction? While second person fiction isn’t nearly as popular as third person or first person fiction, putting the reader in the perspective of the main character is something done on occasion. You are probably mostly familiar with second-person perspective as what is used in “Choose Your Own Adventure Books.” But, there are lots of popular books that have used this perspective.
Did you know that big name authors such as William Faulkner and Leo Tolstoy have dabbled with it in the past? Self-help books often use the second person perspective, too. However, it’s very hard to write from this perspective well. So, you may ask, what are the pros and cons of using second person perspective in your own fiction?
PRO: Second Person Perspective can Immerse Readers in Your World
As an author who decides to write your fiction in second person, you are committing to immersing the reader in the protagonist’s point of view. By forcing the reader to imagine himself or herself as the protagonist, you must give the reader an extra rich sensory experience. You may also use the second person in shorter pieces - such as short stories - as a way to persuade the reader towards a specific point of view.
CON: Second Person Perspective Can Be Confusing and Frustrating to Readers
Do you enjoy fiction written in the second-person? Unfortunately, not everyone likes reading something in second person. Many readers prefer the more traditional third-person or even first-person. You will sometimes find readers who may not be able to identify with the protagonist and become frustrated. Second-person can also be confusing if the reader isn’t given enough hints about what is actually going on. Trying to make the reader figure things out for him or her self is not always a bad strategy, though. But, when you are writing second person fiction, the protagonist has to be both relatable to most readers and engaging enough to tell a good story.
PRO: Second Person Perspective Challenges Your Writing Skills
If you are an author who typically writes in the third-person or first-person, you may want to dabble in second-person as a way to challenge your own writing skills. Because of how confusing and frustrating second-person perspective can be to readers, you have to put yourself into the minds of the target audience of their writing. With fiction, this can be tricky. But, if your writing is engaging enough to immerse the reader, using second-person perspective can be both a satisfying experience to write and a nice escape for the reader.
CON: Second Person Perspective is Hard to Maintain for Long Stories
You may know writers already who like to write in the second person. But they may not be fiction writers, but rather nonfiction authors or article writers creating how-to guides or persuasive essays. Second person can be quite effective in articles, short stories, or essays because you have a much more narrow focus of those people you are writing for. Second person can also work better in nonfiction for much the same reason. But, if you are trying to maintain the second-person perspective for a novel length story, it can be quite difficult and exhausting to both you as the writer and also to the reader.
If you as an author have the stamina to keep with a second-person perspective throughout a whole story, you should definitely consider it. Beware that it takes some intestinal fortitude to keep up the second-person perspective for tens of thousands of words. But, if you are able to pull it off, then you have accomplished something many authors could have only dreamed of doing. Even if you cannot for a full novel length work, the practice of writing in second person will be invaluable in building your own writing skills. Also, you may end up with some decent short stories for your efforts.