EXERCISE - Second Person

Write something using second person narration.  As you do this, be aware of how the narrative form you are using expands the vistas of your narration.  Feel the alchemy in which the “you” that you choose becomes simultaneously author, character and reader. Notice the way you’re required to step beyond the normal dimensions available to the traditional narrator of a written work.  Decide upon what level of conflict between narrator and the ‘reader’/unseen character/protagonist-alter-ego is most conducive to maximizing your narrative energy.  Or will it be a cozy familiarity at the other end of the spectrum, that will help to maximize your narration?  Sometimes, the undecidability of who is saying what – as the narrator – and to whom – can be confusing but can add to the complex power of this form of narration. (You can read a lot more about Second Person Narration by clicking here.)

Basically, you have the following panoply of second person choices (followed by italicized examples to help focus your thinking):

1.    transporting the protagonist role to the reader:
At the subway station you wait fifteen minutes on the platform for a train. Finally, a local, enervated by graffiti, shuffles into the station. You get a seat and hoist a copy of the New York Post.   

2.    author talking to another aspect of her/himself – high self to lower level, alcoholic self to sober self or vice versa, judgment self to guilty self, unstable self to the part that is trying to hold things together: You always thought you were such a hotshot [or] You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings. [note: figure out in advance, which of these levels will produce the most fascinating narration, and then just go with the flow]

3.    Importing the reader as a character in the piece, but not the protagonist alter ego:
Then the plan had been made for the next night, to eat at a restaurant nearby, and would it matter - no, it would be fun - if those two long-lost buddies went on ahead, and you and I walked to the restaurant together, getting to know each other. [Notice that in this version, from Jeanette Winterson's THE POWERBOOK, the you technically shares the narration spot with the first person narrator.]

4.    targeting the reader as the object of the narrator/author’s attention:
Have you figured things out yet? Actually, I’m pretty sure you haven’t at this point. So you ought to stick around and read on.  Oh, and try to avoid skipping ahead. That will just ruin the surprise. Trust me.  Just hang in there.

5.    addressing another character: 
You are angry, Elena. You are furious. You are desperately unhappy. Do you know you’re becoming bitter?

6.    epistle:
I wanted to tell you before you left, but I just never got a chance to sit down and figure it all out while you were here.  And then you were gone.

7.    parody of commercial product copy: 
Congratulations, you have chosen the world’s finest portable vacuum cleaner.

8.    parody of an instruction manual: Outgoing mail is collected each afternoon at three p.m. If you have mail that needs to go out, be sure it is placed in your outbox before three.  If it is not there when the mail cart goes by, then your mail will not go out until the next day.  Make sure that all envelopes are correctly addressed and stamped.  If you do not know how to use the postage scale in the supply room, contact Malcolm, and he will show you. [etc]


9.    hypnotic suggestion: Relax.  All you need to do now is take a few deep breaths. Get comfortable in your chair.  Lean back. Allow yourself to feel how comfortable you’re suddenly beginning to feel.

10.    surreal hybrid:
The story is reading you now, line by line. Do you know what happens next?

11.    You might even consider making the you proactive.  Maybe you becomes the interrogator, so that the narrator must answer questions that you asks:
You tell me you only have five questions to ask, and then you will leave me alone.  Put them on a list, I tell you, but you say that you will ask them one by one.  Go ahead, ask away, I tell you, and so you put the first question to me . . . [Again, technically, you and I share the narrative duties.]