Narration – part 3

by juliusmsanz

As you might have guessed by my previous Haiku I’m not having the best of times. And the worst of it all is that I’m letting all that crap affect me. Well, not anymore.

I’ve decided to switch things up a bit and talk about second-person narration for a bit.

Now I’ll admit right of the bat: I’m not very knowledgeable about it. I haven’t read any major work that features that kind of narration in a long, long time. And you’ll say: Julius, don’t talk about stuff you don’t know, you’re gonna look bad. Well technically I can talk about it a little bit and still give some thoughts about the whole topic.

To talk about second-person narration I have to turn back the clock.

In my teen years, I’d probably be around 12-13 I was nuts about choose your own adventure books. I loved the illustrations, the possibilities it presented and how I could be a big hero playing the way I wanted to play in settings that I liked. I was probably a big nerd.

The truth is that it is my only experience with this sort of narration and I sincerely believe it’s probably the only one that works best. When you write in second person you start almost every sentence with you, and you’re expected to bring certain emotions up to your readers. But doesn’t that sound a little bit pretentious? You create this big experience and try to make the reader follow your footsteps, you try to make them feel things that you can’t be certain they’ll feel. Let me give an example:

“You continue to walk the streets alone, from time to time thinking about her. You know you’re better than that, you know you can conquer the urge to see her and be destroyed again.”

This was probably a poor example, but what I’m trying to say is simple: when you are writing a second-person narrative you can make one mistake and your entire story will crumble. You are relying too much on your audience and their experiences and emotions and desires to make the story move forward. Downplay one scene too much and some people might not like it, overplay it and you can expect some people to lose interest. You need to be very careful when you make the reader the protagonist. That’s basically what you’re doing: the reader is the protagonist or hero or villain or whatever you want them to be, and you’re not giving them much freedom because it is still your story. It’s a very dangerous affair.

Despite bashing it I’m thinking right now about some great concepts and stories using this style. It’s like telling a horror story in a camp at night. These are the kind of stories that can legit make you look behind you and create some stress and some sleepless nights. But at the same time, and I’ll say it again, they need to be very thought out and developed.

I liked the adventure books because I was a kid, I didn’t need true books, they would probably bore me, and they gave me a world to think about and to daydream about.

I’m probably criticizing it too much because of my bad mood. Tomorrow I’ll give it a second look.

Have a nice day!