Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Four Viewpoints (Part 7 of 17)

Second-person POV

"You open the door and immediately you see the face you hate." That's second-person POV.

Writers rarely use this POV in fiction because (1) it's difficult to write well; (2) it sounds affected; and (3) it's not a natural way to tell a story.

Using second person is a type of first-person POV. It's as if the narrators talk to themselves. You can’t inject your own comments or observations—the story belongs entirely to the second-person narrator.

This POV is a nice gimmick for a short piece, but for an entire novel, it becomes wearing. Jay McInerney did it well in Bright Lights, Big City, but that's rare.

Here’s the beginning of “The Beautiful Uncut Hair of Graves” a short story in David Morrell's collection, Black Evening (1999, Warner, p.321): "Despite the rain, you’ve been to the cemetery yet again, ignoring the cold wind blowing against your pant legs and shoes."

A few pages later, Morrell has his character driving along the Pacific Coast Highway and it reads: “Preoccupied, you barely notice the dramatic scenery: the windblown pine trees, the rugged cliffs, the whitecaps hitting the shore. You ask yourself why you didn’t merely phone the authorities at Redwood Point . . . " (p. 330)

Although the descriptive style is the same as it is in first person, you do have a little more freedom. Here's a made-up example to express what I mean:
You're wearing your size five dress that shows you at your best. Avalon Foundation hides the creases near your eyes when you smile. He stares at you and you know you've hooked him.
Think of second person as slightly removed from first person.
Don't use second person in fiction unless nothing else works.


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