In this post, we’ll be looking at the possible effects of a second-person narrative.
With the help of experienced editors on Reedsy, we’ll provide examples of authors who have used it effectively.
These include works like Bram Stoker’s takes this even further and blurs the lines between first and second person.
The protagonist, a Pakistani man on the streets of Lahore, speaks to an American stranger — you, the reader. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America.
When characters tell their own tales, we often wonder how the truth of the story might be filtered — either by their selective memory or lack of 20-20 introspection. Jemisin’s Hugo-winning You’re the mother of two children, but now one of them is dead and the other is missing. You discover all of this when you come home from work one day.
With a second-person narrator, readers are told what to feel, think, and see — and they usually have no reason to doubt it. House empty, too empty, tiny little boy all bloody and bruised on the den floor.
We’ve looked at how second-person narration can bring readers closer to the story.
But often, it’s actually used to create a greater sense of distance between the true narrator and the story they’re telling — as editor Matthew Sharpe suggests is the case with .“It's almost as if the narrator's conscience is writing the novel, and there's a bit of self-accusation there, like, ‘You screwed this up, then you screwed up this other thing,’ and so on.“Similarly, you can see this level of detachment in Lorrie Moore’s The protagonist here is not meant to be you, the reader, or Moore, the writer.
“Even the minimal distance created between reader and character with the phrase, “I thought" is refined even further in second-person.
In this closer POV, there is no "I thought," but rather this is how you (we, really) think.”, a level of immediacy and intimacy quickly emerges as the reader is thrust into the role of a serial cheater.“There is no level of interpretation or justification.