As I’m sure you’re aware, point of view (POV) is a huge topic. I recently had a post on one aspect of POV, that of adapting your language to fit the POV character. Today I think we should talk about taking different perspectives.
Most stories usually use either the third person like “he” or “she”, or the first person singular, i.e. “I”. Although I prefer the third person and only use “I” if I think it necessary for the story, some writers I deeply respect prefer the first person. (Of course I almost always use “I” for blog posts.)
I’ve also experimented with the first person plural, the “we”. “Our Story” is an example. This POV is a little trickier. We should only use it in situations where it “sounds” right. I may have been cutting it close with “Our Story”. What do you think?
We next come to “It’s All About Timing”. What would you call the POV of this story? There is a lot of “we” in there. “I” is also used. We also see the use of “you”. The whole story is one side of a telephone conversation. This type of conversation, be it phone, e-mail, snail mail or texting is a good way to introduce the “we” and the “you”. Notice that the “we” here is different than in “Our Story”. In that case the “we” excluded the audience while here it includes it. When you include the reader you enter the land of second person. For example, when I say, “In today’s post we shall examine…,” I’m including the audience.
Perhaps the most common form of second person is when a narrator acknowledges your presence. This seems to be more common in children’s literature: “How do you think Harry Hippo will solve this problem?” It’s also very common in non-fiction. I ask my readers questions all of the time. Have you noticed it? If not you only need to look at this sentence. Of course there are directions/commands such as, “Next you add a cup of sugar,” (direction) or, “Stir for 30 seconds. Add the second egg,” (command – the “you” is implied).
Perhaps the least common way of using the second person is to write a whole story using “you” instead of “he” or “she”. “You ran down the hall hoping you weren’t too late. How could’ve you been so stupid? Your head pounded, the universe filling alarms screamed their dread into your ear. You crashed through the door only to find…” OK, you get the picture. I tried this in my latest story, “Another Red Day”. I did throw in the first person at the end but I just as easily could have used “the man (or lady)” instead of “I”.
Note: I’ve seen authors use second person in the present tense to try to add immediacy to the story. “You’re running down the hall. Are you too late? How could have you been so stupid! The alarms echo back and forth through your skull, driving you insane with the never ending noise. You finally arrive at room 212 only to find a locked door. With spine-jolting ineffectiveness you try to kick down the door. You must get in. In a panic you try again. Success! You enter only to find…” Which do you find more exciting, this version or the one in the previous paragraph? The second person can be used effectively in the present tense, but most of the times I’ve seen it the story came out forced. Have you seen it used to good effect?
I like to experiment with different POVs. You should try it. It can expand your horizons, bring another dimension to your writing.
I only have one question: Do you think I overused the word “you” in this post?
(OK, I’ll admit to switching between “I”, “you” and “we” a little more than is good for me)
Drawing (which was harder than I expected) by Trent P Mcdonald