Fiction Friday Second Person

This Fiction Friday I want to talk about Second-Person Point of View. I will include an author bio and a good explanation of Second-Person.

Today, I read a short story written in the second-person point of view.

It is from the 2018 Pushcart assortment of stories. When I see a story in second-person, my first thought is about the bravery and skill of the writer. Then I worry about the writer’s ability to carry it off.

If you are wondering about second-person, in real life, it happens during high emotion. During a news interview of something horrid or at least terribly unexpected. The speaker slips into it during the telling. She begins to tell the story as though it happened to me, the viewer, all viewers. It is a sort of projecting it onto someone else to make the telling easier.

An example might be –

I didn’t know what happened. First there was a bang and then stuff was flying all around and then you see a person in front of you and he is bleeding. I really need to sit down somewhere.

The switch to second-person in a re-telling generally happens mid-sentence and by the end of the conversation we are taken out of the situation because she slips back into First Person. Local and National News as well as crime stories provide living examples of Second Person as it slips into re-telling.

In fiction, the author selects second-person voluntarily. To me it is a brave choice because sustaining a story in second has a higher difficulty level. It is part of the art and craft of writing.

The story is Mentor by Mark Jude Poirier and it first appeared in Crazyhorse.

This writer took a huge chance on me, the reader, by taking me far far outside my experience.  Mark Jude Poirier made me participate in in the story as a gay teacher and for the length of the story I felt his lust for a student at his school. I will think about his motivation and the repercussions of his actions. More than that, I will think about what it was like to be this character.

Photo of Mark Jude PMark Jude Poirier is the author of two collections of short stories, Unsung Heroes of American Industry, and Naked Pueblo: Stories, as well as two novels, Goats, and Modern Ranch Living. His books have been New York Times Notable Books of the year, as well as Barnes and Noble Discover and Waterstone’s UK picks. In 2015, Scribner published Intro to Alien Invasion, a graphic novel he wrote with Owen King. He has published nearly thirty short stories that have appeared in Tin House, The Iowa Review, Conjunctions, Crazyhorse, BOMB, The Southern Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, and many other journals and anthologies. In addition, films he has written have played at Sundance, The Toronto International Film Festival, MoMA, and the American Film Festival in Deauville. Mark is a graduate of Georgetown, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and currently holds a Briggs-Copeland Lectureship at Harvard.

I looked online for a good definition of Second-Person Point of View. Most of them missed the ‘point’ but I did find this one.

Second-person point of view is a form of writing in which the point of view of a narrative work is told in the voice of the “onlooker,” which is you, the reader. For instance, the text would read, “You went to school that morning.”

The second-person point of view is rarely used in fiction because of its difficulty level. It is hard to develop a set of characters and a story in which the second person is appropriate.

Thank you for visiting with me this Fiction Friday. Don’t touch anything sharp.


By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.