Writing Basics

Point of view basics: Second person POV in fiction

me pointing at a rug on my wall
You: You are but a tapestry on the wall. But, what have you seen? What stories can you tell?

Yesterday we discussed first person point of view. Today, let’s focus on second person. This will be a short conversation as second person POV is not used much in fiction or creative non-fiction. When you do see it, it mostly occurs with characters like Deadpool who are known to occasionally break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.

In second person point of view, the narrator speaks to “you,” whether “you” be the reader or another character or even the protagonist. I have only seen this once in recent memory, in N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth series.

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, but the chapters that are written in second person confused me. I believe the “you” that the narrator speaks to in this case is actually the protagonist of the story. It seems as though Jemisin is attempting to pull the reader even closer into the protagonist’s mind by asking us to actually “be her.” However, it didn’t really work for me, personally.

This form of second person writing is an interesting technique though, and maybe it can work for your story. (It’s awesome for writing how-tos!) As always, it is important to ask yourself why and make sure you have a good reason for making this artistic choice. Don’t do it because it sounds cool or different. Do it because your story calls for it.

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