Second person viewpoint – Love it or hate it

I thought tonight I’d talk about the little-known point of view that is second person.

Most writers (hopefully all) will know the difference between, and often write in, first person (I / we) and Third person (he / she / they) but second person (you) seems to be something either not heard of, not tried or not liked. From memory I have only interviewed one author (Stella Deleuze) whose favorite point of view is second, as it is mine (we actually have a lot in common and have become ‘twins’… my mum’s a twin. :))

Editors seem not to like stories in it, although I do get the impression (or am I just hoping) that it’s growing in popularity and one recently came second in a Writer’s Forum magazine, judged by writing friend and interviewee Sue Moorcroft.

That said, it gets tiring after a while to write and read (I’m still working my way through Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City and it’s a novella!) so best suited to short stories. I have a second-person short story (‘The Dark Side’) available free on Smashwords if you’d like to read one in full (well, I say “full”, it’s a mere 682 words).

So how to write this viewpoint? Whilst it’s not quite as simple as writing first or third person then changing I or he / she for you, it’s not far off. As an example ‘The Dark Side’ starts like this…

You struggle to breathe as you look down at the cot. You know he won’t be far away. It’s only a matter of time.

Your heart quickens as you hear gravel shifting. A large car – his Daimler. You’ve got it all planned, but of course there’s no guarantee. What if…? ‘It’s no good thinking what if?’ you tell yourself. You only have one chance. To escape. Be free. Alive again. You stand up straight and your hands tighten around the bundle you hold close to your chest. It’s the key to everything. This is what it’s come to, you know he’s here to kill you, take your child, his heir.

As you can see, second person is often ‘dark’ and quite intimate, almost suffocating. It can feel like the narrator is talking directly to the reader, which isn’t always a bad thing, but certainly an acquired taste. Either that or Stella and I are just weird. 🙂

The trick is to imagine that you are talking to your reader, or to your character. Where a third person point of view can feel somewhat detached, writing in second certainly does bring you closer. Also it can really only involve one person as the ‘you’. Of course you can include as many other characters as you like (within reason, especially in a short story) but they would always be a ‘he’, ‘she’ or in some cases an ‘I’. Overuse the latter though and the borders of whose story you’re telling can become somewhat fuzzy. With ‘he’ or ‘she’ there is still that detachment that you’re talking about someone over the ‘you’ character’s shoulder.

If you’ve not tried writing second person I would urge you to have a go. You may not like it but if you’re anything like Stella or me, you’ll be hooked. Whether you can sell it is another matter but being a writer should be about writing what you love (although that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills) and if it doesn’t all see the light of day then it’s still something you’ve created and hopefully enjoyed, and in doing so have practiced and perfected your craft just a little more.

This blog’s sentence starts page provides prompts loads in all points of view and my 365-day Writer’s Block Workbook has over 1,000 split into three-a-day with a tip at the end of each week. Feel free to use any of the following:

  • His touch was tender yet you…
  • You wonder when things had really got so bad…
  • This wasn’t the life you’d signed up for…
  • If you could change one thing…
  • You said it could never happen again…
  • It’s a dull day and you know how it feels…

Like short stories, I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the world realises that second person is there, jumping up and down, shouting “pick me”. I’m so glad I did. 🙂

I have some other free eShorts (and a not-so-free ($1.49) 31-story anthology and workbook) at Smashwords. Feel free to help yourselves. I’ve set myself the task of writing an unlucky second-person short story for tomorrow night’s Flash Fiction Friday and haven’t started it so just as well I have the day off. That said it doesn’t usually take me long to create a piece and recently my muse has been the local park with the dog (my first two pieces for

You can find Stella via her blog: and on Twitter. You can find her books at, and

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with Jessica Meats – the two hundred and seventy-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (my guests love to hear from you too) and / or email me.

11 thoughts on “Second person viewpoint – Love it or hate it

  1. Stella Deleuze says:

    Hello, Twin

    Now that’s a surprise. 😉

    I have one thing to add: second person, if done well, grabs the reader by the throat and slip him into the role of ‘you’. Not only being drawn in, but becoming ‘you’ and that without hesitation.


  2. jasondegray says:

    Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series? Best 2nd person pov books ever! I was always under the impression that everyone in the publishing world loathed 2nd person and I was never to write in it.


    • morgenbailey says:

      I loved those books. Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson. My era. 🙂 (as was Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, which probably explains a thing or two)

      “everyone in the publishing world loathed 2nd person and I was never to write in it” – there’s writing to sell and writing for pleasure. There’s a market for everything, you just have to find it ( is a great place to start).

      Thank you for stopping by, Jason.


    • morgenbailey says:

      Which I have because I met her at Chorleywood Lit Fest (my first volunteering ‘gig’). Still not read it yet. 😦

      Lovely to hear from you Laura. How are things going with you? Can I tempt you back to take part in anything else? Short of guest blogs actually (which is why I’ve come out the woodwork :)).


  3. Yvonne Hertzberger says:

    It does have an immediacy that third person lacks. My struggle at the moment is to write in dual first person. And I agree that second suits short pieces better than long. One day I’ll give your exercises a try. Right now it is hard enough just to keep up with what MUST get done.


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