You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984).The second person perspective, why is this not used more in writing? For those who have forgotten, or didn’t even know it existed, the second person perspective is when the protagonist of a story is defined by the use of the second-person personal pronoun, ie “you.”While fiction is dominated by the first and third person perspectives, there are many respectable examples of this narrative type being used successfully.
The first example comes from my youth when I devoured every young adult book that I could grab. One of my particular obsessions was the Choose Your Own Adventure series where you are the main character and have to make a series of choices that affect the story.
“If you want to kill the dragon, turn to page 56. If you want to run away like a pathetic coward, turn to page 119.”
I ate these up, even though most of the endings resulted in you dying horribly. The use of second person really helped to immerse my adolescent brain in the story.A few other notable examples are A Man Asleep by Georges Perec which follows a 25-year-old student who one day decides to be indifferent about the world. Ezekiel is a critically acclaimed short story by Segun Afolabi and The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella is a novel about a woman wrestler.Many critics find the use of second person distracting and indicative of poor writing. It is true that use of this style does not allow any assumptions as to how the narrator felt or why he or she acted. It leaves no room for ambiguity on behalf of the narrator. If the main character is you, then you know exactly how you felt and the reasons for your action.
Using second person may be an opportunity to expand beyond the limitations of the standard narrative, to try new stories based on the absolute authority of second person.Here is a challenge. Take one of your old stories and convert it to second person. You will obviously have to change some of the material to fit the style properly. Then reflect on the outcome.
How has it changed the theme of the story? Is it warped? Or is it improved? You might be surprised at the results.