Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Writing in Second Person

Hello all,

I’m new here so please bear with me.

I am currently working on a story that employs second person (e.g. “you go to the counter,” “you kiss him,” etc.). This is my first time writing in this style and I was wondering if anyone had any pointers.


Well, I don’t have any pointers per se, and this isn’t something I’ve employed a lot myself, but I think it can a lot of fun if used correctly. The main issue I run into is when it says something and the dissonance is too great. “You put the fork into the toaster…” OH MY GOD, I WOULDN’T DO THAT!

Haha, I’ll be sure to avoid that. :wink:


From what I can remember, the first chapter of If On A Winter Night A Traveler is in second person. It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but it might give you some ideas :slight_smile:

I wrote a story in second person quite recently, but I’m still not sure what’s the right or wrong way to go about it! It can be very vivid and immersive, like a movie shot with a handheld camera that shows you exactly what the protagonist sees, and that’s a powerful tool.

Incidentally, I don’t get people’s problem with sticking cutlery in the toaster. I’ve been doing it all my life and have neither died nor destroyed any toasters.

I have seen second person done really well in a story called “The Axiom of Choice.” It plays on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books to explore themes of choice and free will. This unusual form is a bit of a gimmick, but absolutely essential to what the story is trying to accomplish.

You can read the story here:

It was nominated for a Nebula.

…wow. Dude.

I started a Choose Your Own Adventure on FA that was pretty popular for the very limited run I had. My problem is I had no idea where to go with it >.>

It was in first person, but, looking back, I could have just as easily made it second person. I think one of the reasons it worked so well was the ability to engage all five senses. The better you can do that, the more the reader can put themselves into the story. I guess I’ll link them here so you can have a gander. Just please bare in mind that I had never attempted a CYOA before, so this was an experiment more than anything.

FA tends to be pretty hard for writers, so the fact that this story got any notice at all was pretty astounding to me.

Part 1- http://www.furaffinity.net/view/10920186/
Part 2- http://www.furaffinity.net/view/10975279/
Part 3- http://www.furaffinity.net/view/11066673/

My story in Fang 5 ‘The Hardest Dance’ is written in 2nd person.
The editor said the only reason it worked was because it was in plu-perfect.
Personally, that’s one of the only ways it really works.

I’ve written and sold a story written in second person/present tense. It was about 15k words worth of some of the toughest, most demanding literary work I ever did in my life, yet I don’t regret a minute of it. For background, I was inspired by a golden-age SF piece that (I think) won one of the major awards, and used the through-the-subtle-fog strangeness of the seldom-seen style to simulate the last few erratic, broken thoughts and images ebbing and flowing chaotically through a dying space-explorer’s mind. (In my case, I harnessed the same “unreal” property of the style to create an eldritch effect in a story about how the ultimate ugliness of death is hidden away from all but a few socially-designated individuals such as firemen and police officers in modern society, who sometimes seem to belong a special sort of priesthood specially empowered to break the taboo; the work hovered somewhere between a horror story and literary fiction.)

And that’s the main thing I suggest you keep in mind as you work, until the rough draft is behind you at least. Second-person present is both exotic and powerful, and it’s a terrible waste of effort not to make proper use of its other-worldliness. Almost like using nuclear weapons to swat flies, in fact. I’d only employ it, in other words, in a tale where you want to creep the reader out. Why? Because the style itself is going to creep them out regardless.

That said… As stated above, I suggest you complete your rough draft without worrying too much about getting the person/tense right every time. I mean, yes, make an effort but don’t kid yourself that you’re going to get it 100% perfect the first time. Then, rewrite/edit it at least three times as many passes as you’d usually make, plus you must find a competent beta-reader becasue it’s so easy to miss a “naturally”-phrased tense or person error. After six careful edits my beta-reader found three tense errors in my roughly 15k-length work. Then the publisher found two more. Mistakes in second-person/present are practically invisible due to the inherent nature of the beast-- errors look like perfectly normal usage, becasue they are, and therefore don’t stand out.

Again, in my case I found second-person/present well worth the (very high) effort. Thirty years later, I was still haunted by the sheer power of that old golden-age tale and its author’s skillful exploitation of an unusual technique, and felt I couldn’t count myself a writer until I’d written something, well… Not nearly as good, I’m sure. But at least competent and along the same lines.

(And no, I don’t recall either the title or author of the golden-age work I’m referencing. I’ve been hoping to stumble across it again for decades now.)

Best of luck!

You notice a new comment on the “second person” writing thread. Curiosity (or maybe just boredom) overtakes you, and you click to see what more Tembroke has to say on the matter. As you scan the post, you begin to realize that it is a mere gimmick – instead of simply stating something about second person and stories written in second person, Tembroke has elected to write a forum post in second person.

Why? Why won’t Tembroke just say something intelligent on the matter or leave the topic alone? You waver between being annoyed, amused, or indifferent with Tembroke’s post. Or perhaps this post does have a point, you realize. Perhaps Tembroke is trying to demonstrate the strangeness and indirectness of second person and warn you of the associated risks. But since Tembroke has opted to be so indirect, you may never know.


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