Second person point of view is probably the most rarely used narrative voice. It’s a tricky one, as it uses the pronoun “you” to directly involve the audience in the story itself.
What is Second Person Point of View?
You know in television shows, such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Fleabag, when the actors and characters directly address you, the audience? That’s an example of second person POV, which uses the pronoun “you” to break down “the fourth wall” of the filming studio and address the reader or audience as a player in the action. In fact, the first sentence you just read in this paragraph is an example—so is this one! Second person POV uses the pronoun “you” to more closely involve its readers or viewers.
What is First and Third Person Point of View?
The greatest distinction between second, first, and third points of view is that first and third do not utilize the pronoun “you” to address the audience. First person point of view occurs when the narrator is a character in the plot itself. They’re speaking of their own experiences, telling the story as it happens to them. This point of view uses the pronoun “I” to dictate the story to the reader.
Third person point of view happens when the narrator is not a player in the plot itself but rather an anonymous observer to the story, who either has unlimited or limited access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.
Examples of Second Person Point of View
Now that we have the second person POV definition covered, here’s an example: “You feel your heart race, and the air around you seems to crystalize. But the only way forward is to move your feet.” The text directly addresses the reader, bringing them into the action of the plot.
Here are a few more famous second person POV examples:
- “There are a few years when you make almost all of your important memories. And then you spend the next few decades reliving them.” – Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown
- “And you know the darkness beyond despair, just as intimately as you know the soaring heights. Because in this and all universes, there is balance. You can’t have the one without facing the other. And sometimes you think you can take it because the joy is worth the despair, and sometimes you know you can’t take it and how did you ever think you could?” – Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep
- “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
When to Use Second Person Point of View
Writing a novel, a short story, or any work is truly a feat within itself. Choosing to do that in the second person POV is an even greater challenge, as it takes a lot of focus and discipline to do it correctly and consistently.
But when you want to intimately immerse the reader in the plot or, perhaps, to have someone for the narrator to directly address and confide in, second person POV is a perfect choice. Done well, this narration style is incredibly engaging and effective for your readers.
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Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context, and Craft