Second Person POV

You by Charles Benoit

One of my students recently asked what my opinion was on writing in the second person. I told her that you don’t see a lot of books written in second person (ha!  See what I did?), because it is hard to do well. Second person POV is written with “you” as the character addressed in the narrative.

Examples of books written in second person include:

  • Choose Your Own Adventure Books.
  • An epistolary book, a book written as a series of documents esp. letters or “Dear Diary.”
  • The young adult novel You by Charles Benoit.
  • The adult novel Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney.
  • Books that break the fourth wall, periodically addressing the reader. The Lemony Snickett books did this. So does the picture book Snappsy the Alligator.

There are a number of reasons to write in second person. It makes the story feel immediate and pulls the reader in. This is because the reader identifies with the narrator. It feels like there is a personal relationship. Some types of books are naturally written this way. This includes self-help book or books that feel like self-help books.

But writing in second person isn’t easy. As the author, you are telling the reader what they are experiencing and/or thinking. You better hope they don’t disagree with you. It can feel gimmicky or campy. “What is the author talking right to me? Stop it!”

But it is a lot of fun when it works. Most of the things that I read on second person recommended first trying it with something short such as a short story or an essay. Picture books are short so you might give it a try with a picture book. That said, picture books are challenging to write.

I have to admit that after writing this post, I walked on the treadmill. By the time I came back to my office, I had an idea for a series of factually based picture books told in second person. Will they work? That remains to be seen.

Why don’t you give it a try?


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