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Author Topic: Fantasy 2400 words. 2nd person POV. Adult content
Sara Genge
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Please comment on the first 13. How much does the second person POV bother you? I'm fiddling with alternatives but this is the one I like best so far. Is it really that bad of a handicap? Thanks

You crack open the dusty curtain of the motel room window and peer out at Green Woman standing on the curb. Lighting isnít a priority in this part of Oklahoma and from where you stand she looks like any ordinary prostitute, indiscrete in her trench coat and flashable lingerie.
She will kill again tonight, thatís for sure. She will kill because you didnít have the guts to pull the damn trigger. Sheís a rogue and she kills people. Youíre a rogue hunter and you kill rogues. The issue should be simple.
It isnít.
Sheís stronger than you; you always were a flimsy girl. She also has the gun and the door is locked from the outside. There is nothing you can do but watch.

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Ya, second person POV really does bother me, and judging from the rarity of it, it bothers many others as well.
Who is it that presumes to tell me what I think, feel and do?
This POV to me is so off putting that when I come across a second person POV I don't read the story at all. I just don't like being jerked around like a puppet by the author.

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Second person POV is a deal-breaker for me. I wouldn't read a novel written in it. My reasoning is that it's not natural... it pulls me out of the story... or rather, never lets me truly sink into the story. I feel like I'm in one of those cheesy YA "choose your own adventure" stories, and cannot get lost in the magic of the writer's art.
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Swimming Bird
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An amazing novel:


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I don't have any significant comments on the first 13 as they stand. It's good writing, and I want to know why Green Woman is worth the capital letters, who the flimsy girl is (she seems not to be a detective), and what's going to happen next. It's a solid opener.

It's a little awkward not having immediate cues to your name, age, or gender -- by definition, I fill in those blanks with my own data -- so I'd want to get those more quickly if I could, but it's not a deal-breaker. The "flimsy girl" comment helps there, of course, but if you could work other cues in earlier (without doing violence to the otherwise smooth flow of prose here) then that would be helpful.

As I've said before (and been ridiculed for), I don't mind a reasonable dose of 2nd person. If what you're writing seems best in 2nd, write it that way. I agree with Elan that a novel in 2nd person would be a pretty tough slog, but if you're only talking 2400 words I don't think it would be that tiring.

Thinking out loud here:

2nd person is a risk, because you, the author, often tell "you", the reader, what he thinks. Several 2nd person stories have collapsed for me on that basis -- the story started out reasonably enough, but as it got weirder I thought that the reactions of the MC were ridiculous. That might not have put me off (I like lots of stories in which the MCs behave in ridiculous ways) if the MC had been someone besides "me".

But maybe that's the rub: those stories started reasonably enough, and I could get into character without deviating too far from my own perspective. Then, when "you"'s actions got too ridiculous, I just couldn't maintain "my" character. Your story starts off differently, with a character that's clearly outside of my own perspective. I have to suspend disbelief immediately. So maybe I won't get to that "this is BS" turning point as in the other stories.

When you're looking for readers, count me in: I'll probably like the experiment.

I'm guessing that the bigger issue is publication. I've seen a few -- very few -- 2nd-person stories in Fantasy "best of" collections. I don't read enough other publications regularly, but they just put a new Borders by my office, so I'm going to start collecting data. When I last collected data from "best of" anthologies, it was only science fiction, and I saw no 2nd-person stories. As far as I can tell, 2nd person is more accepted by literary journals than by genre publications.

Possible conclusion: If it's a crossover -- fantasy that could be considered literary -- then maybe you try the literary journals instead of your typical fantasy markets.

Otherwise, write it as you see fit, submit it as usual, and if/when you've gotten enough rejection slips start to think about what the 2nd person present viewpoint gave you -- immediacy? intimacy? other? -- and see if you can get some of that from a more normal POV, like 1st person (present or past). Rewrite it, resubmit it, and see what you get. (I don't know how people think about resubmitting their work, but a change from 2nd person present to 1st person would be radical enough that I'd probably do it if enough time had passed between submissions.)

Sorry to blather, but I guarantee the thoughts are worth no less than you paid for them.


[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited December 26, 2006).]

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2nd person is driving me bonkers here.

I think I'd like the story otherwise. It has me very curious.

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You lost me when I was suddenly a girl. I can handle playing as a female videogame character, or reading a book about a female protagonist, but there is a separation there, this has a lot less separation, I was imagining myself in the moment, as a rogue hunter, who had for some reason not been able to pull the trigger (I assumed that it was the mysterious look in Green's eyes or something that usually keeps men from killing women) and then I suddenly had to rewind and change genders, and start over again.

The thing is, just as I got into the story, an author's choice, probably a good one in terms of plot later on, pulled me out. It was entirely because I had to readjust to imagine myself as something different. The difficulty then, assuming you go forward in second person, is that you must define everything about your character very early on, so that a person who gets into that mode of feeling like they are actually there (which is amazing to feel, and this POV ought to make it easier to achieve) is NEVER pulled out by a surprising choice or statement by the protagonist. If you achieve that level of character depth to where the story is exciting, but every character action can be understood and is perfectly believable, it could make an amazing read.

In other words, it is a gutsy undertaking, and it will be the hardest thing you ever write, but the result could be beyond anything I have ever read.

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Oh, and I would have kept reading, girl or not. But you might lose some people over that.
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Sara Genge
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those cheesy YA "choose your own adventure" stories

Yeah! Glad someone mentioned it: that is exactly the experiment I'm trying to pull. Except in weird, and adult and horror.
Several things I've got from the crits. The most important is that all of you without exception commented on the POV to the exclusion of everything else. This obviously means that it's such a weird thing that the reader has a hard time noticing anything else. I'm gonna fiddle with it and see if I really need it to stay like that. I do realize that it takes away from the story because the reader is centered on the mechanics of writing instead of on the plot. At the same time... I really like what's happening with it and I'm soo bored of "normal". I needed a fling.
Anyway, thanks for the comments. Anything else you want to add is welcome (as always)

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Sorry, but I just had to comment on this before it left the shelf completely. Maybe I'm still a kid at heart or just an idiot, but I used to love those choose your own adventure books! And even with the second person, the story seems intriguing so I know I'd read on.

Maybe if I read further, I might get the option to choose...

Just a thought. Anyway, I like it so far.

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The POV is a bit off-putting to me, but I think I could get over it if the story was good and well-written, which it seems like this is.

My initial reaction to the line, "You always were a flimsy girl," was, "Like hell I was."

But, like I said, I think I can get over that and go along with the premise that I'm a flimsy (or at least and ex-flimsy) girl. It may just take me a few pages to get used to my new identity.

After all, I am a flimsy man.

If you have a longer piece of it that you would like reactions to, I'd be interested in reading it.

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Sara Genge
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Thank you everyone!
I don't need readers right now because I've entered it for the quarterly contest at Liberty Hall and I'm sure to get more crits than i can deal with. Anyway, thanks for offering (to all who offered). I can't wait to start revising this story.

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On the POV.

This is the one of the first times I read something in second person POV that wasn't just an example in a writing book to show what it (2nd person POV) is.

To me it didn't present any problems whatsoever, which was surprising given all the bad things I've heard about it. I guess maybe I'm more willing to cede control to the author when I'm reading than many people are. Probably why I'm so gullible sometimes.

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New Member
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On behalf of non-author-readers everywhere - who are not concerned with the art and mechanics of writing - let me say, "More, please."

From these earlier posts, I have a new understanding of the perils and pitfalls of 2nd person perspective. But, as a reader willing (eager?) to accept an author's worldview, and to subsume myself in someone else's imagination, I enjoyed the novelty of "becoming" this character. If I wanted to maintain rigid control of my own thoughts and feelings, I'd avoid books like a real phobia!

Give this a try; I'll cheer from the sidelines. :-)

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