Monday, May 18, 2015

Exercise: Writing in Second Person

It's rare to see an author tackle a story in second person point of view. In other words, to write a story where "you" are in it. Take, for example, this excerpt from my attempt titled "Escaping the Horde":


As you pass a large SUV, something suddenly yanks your shirt, pulling you backwards toward a rotten stench. It's moan sends a shiver up your spine, and the front of your collar digs into your throat sending nausea and fear to your gut. The sound of its clicking teeth echoes in your ear as you struggle to pull forward from its grasp. Your left hand pulls against your shirt to give you leverage against its firm grip while your right hand reaches for the cool steel stored against your hip. Just as your pistol comes free, a loud bang rings throughout the landscape and the pressure instantly releases from your neck. A quick look reveals the wasting woman at your feet, her dirty nurses uniform more evidence of her actions while dead than any living act of heroism. You turn toward Mike and give a quick thumbs up before sprinting toward the RV.
Instead of writing that "she" passed an SUV and "she" got yanked by a living corpse, I've put you in the story. Does it make a big difference in how the reader relates to the story? Possibly. With second person point of view, you are focusing on your reader and putting them in the action. While this tactic is more useful in advertising, never dismiss it from your writing toolbox.

In my example from above, this is actually a different perspective from a short story I wrote that eventually turned into inspiration for the novel I am writing. I took the original short story, shifted to a different person that was vital to the action, and put my reader right in the crossfire. This exercise really made me think of how I describe everything in my writing because I had to make sure I could put you there and that you could see the surroundings, smell the smells, and hear the echoes of the dead, explosions, or gunshots.

Here's my proposed exercise: choose a short story you wrote in the past and pick a character that is important to the plot but doesn't get much face time. Tell the story from that person's point of view but write it in second person point of view to put the reader in the story. You might be surprised where it takes you.

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