Guest Post: ‘Second Person Viewpoint – Love it or Hate it’ by Morgen Bailey

Most writers (and readers) will know the difference between, and often write in, first person (I / we) and third person(he / she / they) but second person (you) seems to be something either not heard of, not tried, or not liked. From memory, I have only interviewed one author (Stella Deleuze) whose favourite point of view is second, as it is mine.

Editors seem not to like stories in it, although I get the impression – or am I just hoping – that it’s been growing in popularity and one came second in a Writer’s Forum magazine a while back, then judged by writing friend and interviewee Sue Moorcroft.

That said, it gets tiring after a while to write and read (I’m still working my way through Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City and it’s a 100-page novella!) so best suited to short stories. I have a second-person short story (‘The Dark Side’) available free on Smashwords if you’d like to read one in full (well, I say “full”, it’s a mere 682 words).

So how to write this viewpoint? While it’s not quite as simple as writing first or third person then changing I or he / she for you, it’s not far off. As an example ‘The Dark Side’ starts like this…

You struggle to breathe as you look down at the cot. You know he won’t be far away. It’s only a matter of time.

Your heart quickens as you hear gravel shifting. A large car – his Daimler. You’ve got it all planned, but of course there’s no guarantee. What if…? ‘It’s no good thinking what if?’ you tell yourself. You only have one chance. To escape. Be free. Alive again. You stand up straight and your hands tighten around the bundle you hold close to your chest. It’s the key to everything. This is what it’s come to, you know he’s here to kill you, take your child, his heir.

As you can see, second person is often ‘dark’ and quite intimate, almost suffocating. It can feel like the narrator is talking directly to the reader, which isn’t always a bad thing, but certainly an acquired taste. Either that or Stella and I are just weird.

The trick is to imagine that you are talking to your reader, or to your character. Where a third person point of view can feel somewhat detached, writing in second certainly does bring you closer. Also it can really only involve one person as the ‘you’. Of course you can include as many other characters as you like (within reason, especially in a short story) but they would always be a ‘he’, ‘she’ or in some cases an ‘I’. Overuse the latter though and the borders of whose story you’re telling can become somewhat fuzzy. With ‘he’ or ‘she’ there is still that detachment that you’re talking about someone over the ‘you’ character’s shoulder.

If you’ve not tried writing second person I would urge you to have a go. You may not like it but if you’re anything like Stella or me, you’ll be hooked. Whether you can sell it is another matter but being a writer should be about writing what you love (although that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills) and if it doesn’t all see the light of day then it’s still something you’ve created and hopefully enjoyed, and in doing so have practiced and perfected your craft just a little more.

The first volume of my 365-day Writer’s Block Workbook series has over 1,000 sentence starts split into three a day with a tip at the end of each week. Days two and five are second person. Feel free to use any of the following:

  • His touch was tender, yet you…
  • You wonder when things had really got so bad…
  • This wasn’t the life you’d signed up for…
  • If you could change one thing…
  • You said it could never happen again…
  • It’s a dull day and you know how it feels…

Like short stories, I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the world realises that second person is there, jumping up and down, shouting “pick me”. I’m so glad I did.

Morgen Bailey (Morgen with an E) is an author, freelance editor, tutor, reviewer, blogger, and speaker. Former Chair of three writing groups, and H.E. Bates Short Story Competition 2015 Head Judge, RONE and more recently BBC Radio 2 500-word short story competition judge. Morgen can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and many others. Her blog is, email address, and her latest books are ‘After Jessica’, a mystery novella, and ‘Gun’, a collaborative crime novel.


Announcing 2 Free New Features


Free Writing Competition

Today marks the opening of my brand new Flash Fiction Competition. This will be a recurring monthly competition, though the frequency may be adjusted later. The deadline for the October competition is October 15th; any entries received after this date will be rolled over to the November competition. There is no fee to enter and winners will be announced by October 31st. This contest is open to writers of all ages across the globe. Please note that entries must be in English. Click here for more details on how to enter.


Free Editing Service

I am now offering full editing and critiquing services for stories and prose excerpts under 1,000 words. No poetry or nonfiction, please. Feedback will be provided within 48 hours of receipt. Please click here for additional information on how to access this service.

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If You’re A Writer, You Will Definitely Recognize Some of These…


Let’s face it. Careers in the humanities aren’t always the best understood or most generally accepted. The recent Wells Fargo ad debacle outraged many creative professionals, but it wasn’t exactly surprising. The brochure gaff was only part of the steady stream of negativity and ignorance that people with non-STEM careers face everyday.

Writers are no exception.

Here is a collection of common questions and comments from around the web that writers often encounter from clueless non-writers. (Please see the hat tips at the end for the source articles along with their entertaining gifs and in-depth descriptions.)




“Oh so you are good at writing then?”

“Are you a drug addict or alcoholic?”

“You must own a cat?”

“How do you like living in isolation?”

“You’re crazy, huh?”

“Are you a coffee addict?”

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“But it’s not like you have a REAL job.”

“Soooo, are you still writing?”




“You should work for free! It’ll be great for exposure!”

“Our contributors write in exchange for the byline.”

“But you’ll gain so much exposure!”

“It’s great exposure/It’s for your portfolio”

“I could just send this to another country and get the same quality for $1.”

“Can’t you just whip something up in like ten minutes?”

“Will you read this thing I wrote?”

“Will you read this thing my son/grandmother/neighbor wrote?”

“Will you read my screenplay?”

“Will you read my boyfriend’s sister’s ex-girlfriend’s screenplay?”

“Will you write my screenplay?”

“So you like to write? Will you take a look at this (Insert something involving writing here) for me?”

“Can you review my product/book/show?”

“Can you proofread & edit my next novel?”

“Where do you get your ideas?”




“Ooh, I have a great idea for a novel!”

“Oh, I have a great story for you…”

“You should write about me!”

“I have some fantastic true stories you should write about.”

“I can probably write a book if it weren’t for my busy career.
You should write a story about my life; it’ll be a bestseller.”

“Can you make a character just like me?”

“Can you write about me?”

“You should write about that!”

“Do you think I could do that? My grammar is pretty good.”

“I’m a writer too – I wrote a short story once…”

“You should write about [random person or topic]!”




“You’re a writer? What a fun hobby!”

“It’s just a hobby, right?”

“But writing is really only a hobby.”

“That must be so fun!”

“Writing must be so easy.”

“Do you write in a cafe?”

“So you just write poetry?”

“If you get paid by the word, you can just write it really long, right?”

“You can get up like really late in the morning! That must feel really good, doesn’t it?”

“So you just work in pajamas all day, huh?”

“It’s so nice of your husband to support you while you enjoy your hobby.”

“It must be great not to have a boss.”

“It must be so nice to make your own schedule.”

“It must be so great to work out whenever you want!”

“You do that so you can be home with your kids, right?”

“So you’re alone the entire day?”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“What do you do with all your free time?”

“You know we can always catch up for a movie or go out for lunch!”

“Why can’t you go out to lunch? You’re just hanging out at home, right?”

“Want to run this errand for me?”

“Can’t you just hand in the article later?”

“Can you watch my kid since you’re home all day anyway?”

“Why don’t you call more often! You can always talk while working, right?”

“Really? Nobody reads books anymore.”




“So… what do you do for money?”

“But what’s your job?”

“Do you make any money doing that?”

“You can’t really make money as a writer.”

“And what if you don’t succeed?”

“Oh well what will be your main job to pay the bills?”

“How much do you earn exactly?”

“How can you afford to live in this city?”

“Have you tried [marketing, PR, or any other profession]?”

“You have your MFA? What’s that do?”

“Can you actually do anything with your English degree?”

“So are you going to be an English teacher? Or work in marketing?”

“Have you ever considered being a journalist?”

“Why don’t you write a film script?”

“Have you ever thought about doing this instead and writing on the side?”

“Do you want to be a teacher some day?”

“Oh, so basically you’re not getting a job of your choice!”

“I wish I could afford to do that.”

“Cool. You know, J.K. Rowling is a millionaire.”

“Maybe this gig will finally turn into a full-time job for you!”

“You know what would make you sell more books? Write something like this novel. *Insert Fifty Shades of Grey.*”

“So what’s your goal with this whole writing thing?”

“How do you stay motivated?”

“Do they actually read/check/evaluate your content?”

“Why writing?”

“But don’t you find writing to be so boring? I know I do.”

“What have you written that I’ve read?”

“When does your book come out?”

“What are you writing?”

“What’s your novel about?”

“Here’s what you should write about…”


H/T Charlotte AhlinNour Zikra, Lillian Redding, Grace Dobush, Eva Langston, Leilah Hovey, Ashley Trevino, Nancy Khandelwal, Suzannah Weiss, Keryn Thomson, Alywoah


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Was Your Writing Rejected? Keep This in Mind


Something’s a little off…

You worked hours, weeks, months, years on your writing project until every word was exactly where you wanted it to be. You researched literary magazines, writing competitions, and/or agents until you found the perfect fit. You waited patiently for your work to move up the food chain and begin processing. Then one day it finally happened: you got a response!

“After careful consideration…”

Rejection. It’s a gut wrenching, visceral experience. But rather than wallow in feelings of hurt and misery, successful writers use the experience to better their craft. The first step in this process is to recognize a few basic principles:

Every Writer Gets Rejected

Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: every single writer who has ever lived and breathed on planet Earth has been rejected. Every. Single. One. Being rejected does not necessarily mean you’re a terrible writer. It means you’re writing.

Not All Rejections Are Created Equal

Some form letters are curt and to the point. They’re basically “thanks, but no thanks” letters. But others end with an invitation to see more of your work. This is a good sign. It means the work you initially submitted may not have been the proper fit for the current market or magazine, but the editors see potential in your writing.

Rejections Happen For Many Reasons

Sometimes rejections are the result of elements an author controls: poor writing and/or a failure to properly research the agent, publisher, or literary magazine and follow guidelines. But there are also factors well outside of author control. Maybe the magazine you submitted to received 10,000 submissions of outstanding quality and your piece was 10,001. Or maybe the literary agent loved your writing but doesn’t personally have the tools necessary to place your book in the correct market.


Sometimes your work isn’t the right fit.

Take This As An Opportunity to Hone Your Skills

If an editor gave you detailed notes, put them to good use. If you didn’t get notes, look over your work and see if there is anything you could improve. Write more works. Write better works. That is how the game is won.

Remember, This Isn’t About You (Unless It Is)


It’s important to note that the rejection is aimed toward a particular piece of writing you created. You, as a person, are not being rejected.

However, if you are rude and unprofessional toward the editors/agents, they have every right to reject you, as a person, too. Their work lives are busy and hectic enough without unpleasant people adding to the workload. There’s a simple solution to this dilemma: be polite and courteous to editors and agents. This includes keeping correspondence concise and to the point (which reveals you respect their time) and not responding to rejection notices. Let me repeat that. Do not respond when your work is declined, not even to say “thank you.” The last thing you want to do is add another email or letter to an editor’s insurmountable to-do pile. The best response to rejection is to improve your work and submit again, either to the same editor (many have mandatory wait periods in between submissions so read their guidelines thoroughly) or to a new editor.


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It’s All In How You Say It


Have you ever answered a phone call and instantly recognized the voice on the other line without glancing at the number or caller ID? For most hearing people, a person’s timbre works as an identifying marker. Voices can be mellow, nasal, raspy, squeaky, and everything in between. Also, tone can reveal information about a person’s health, gender, age, and even their emotional state. But what happens when the sound is stripped away?

This is one of many challenges writers face when crafting dialogue. Every character (with the possible exception of zombies and members of a hive mind) should have their own voice. Yet the readers do not have the benefit of “hearing” the characters speak. How can writers mimic the information listeners might instinctively glean from conversations with the characters?



The order in which a character arranges their words can be telling. It can convey non-native speech or even quirkiness. Yoda is a prime example.

Multiple Languages

In addition to flexible syntax, multi-lingual and non-human characters have a wide vocabulary. And as any multi-language speaker knows, there are some words that simply do not cross languages without losing some of their native connotation. Inserting words or phrases from other languages (existent, dead, or imaginary) is an easy way to set these characters apart.


Meter and sentence length can be used to express a character’s individuality or to inform the reader of their mood. Below we have two characters engaging in playful banter. The sentences are short and punchy like two friends well-used to trading casual barbs.

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Contrasting this, below there is a bit of dialogue delivered during a moment of crisis. The sentences use a repeating parallel structure which acts as a drumbeat to heighten tension, exploding into the final (and longest) sentence.

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Catch Phrase

Catch phrases are probably the easiest way to set characters apart using dialogue alone. The main problems with catch phrases is that they can become stereotypes (like the Canadian “eh” or the Valley Girl “like”) or they can become annoying to readers. Terry Prachett was a master at crafting distinct voices and made excellent use of catch phrases in a few of his Discworld characters. Perhaps the most memorable one is Foul Ole Ron who’s best known for his nonsense talk peppered with the phrase “millenium hand and shrimp” as well as variations of the phrase “bugger it.”


from “Men at Arms” by Terry Prachett


Slang words and idioms can inform a reader on a character’s background. The following examples feature characters from different fantasy worlds, but the dialogue demonstrates Ormly and the opening speaker in the Bishop novel come from similarly rough-hewn backgrounds.

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Meanwhile, the following non-human characters use a dialect that is in keeping with their rat-like point of view.

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Regardless of dialect, the words a character chooses at a particular moment can reveal a bit about them. In the example below, the second speaker’s use of the word “minions” shows they have a sense of humor and they don’t put much faith in their employees’ competence.

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And in this example, Thomas uses the five-syllable word “incendiary” followed by a word any toddler can pronounce. This tells us a bit about his emotional state (frazzled) and his relationship to vulgar language (which is deliciously ironic because he is a sex vampire).

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So what are your favorite pieces of dialogue? What do you like about them? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.


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The Butler Did It, But WHY?


Who, what, when, where, how, and why? Of the six questions, it’s the last one that really hooks our attention. We are driven by a need to understand, to frame our lives within a cohesive story. Why are we here? Why do bad things happen to good people? Life is a quest for motive, and motive is the heart of story.

In writing, the search for motive occurs on two planes.

On one plane, the characters work to piece together why certain events happen in their world. They may do this alone or in a group, but the struggle is the same. Like us, characters strive to understand what drives the world around them.

On the other plane, readers are searching for what motivates the characters. Part of the joy of reading is allowing the reader to piece together the puzzle, to judge and identify with (or against) the characters. The reader may receive the clues at the same time as the protagonist or slightly before (resulting in dramatic irony) but the goal of the game remains the same.


Life is a quest for motive, and motive is the heart of story.

Characters, like people, aren’t perfectly good or evil. Some of the most fascinating characters commit terrible acts for good reasons (at least at first) or do good deeds for non-altruistic reasons (envy, pride, selfishness). This occasional dissonance between the outward appearance of a character (what other characters see them doing) and the inner workings of a character (why they behave certain ways) is something we can all relate to.

What about characters who act in ways that are blatantly unwise? Have you ever been frustrated by characters in a horror movie who decide to split up or open the door and head toward the creepy noises? Why do characters run into traffic without looking, chase the bad guys without backup, sneak into buildings without permission, and push the giant red button marked ‘DO NOT PUSH’? Sure, all of these actions may forward the plot of a story, but they should also be anchored to motive.

We don’t always think clearly when we’re terrified, stressed, or under pressure. Sometimes our curiosity and impulsiveness can be overwhelming. Maybe we like the thrill of danger or feel like we have something to prove. Any and all of these can lead us to make less than stellar choices. And characters are no different.


Part of the joy of reading is allowing the reader to piece together the puzzle, to judge and identify with (or against) the characters.

The study of motive is, in essence, a study of human nature. And there is no other human we understand better than ourselves. So why do you choose to write? If you asked the people closest to you what they thought your motivation for writing was, would their answer be the same?


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Writing for Short Formats: 3 Free Sites You Should Know


Something that was impressed upon me earlier this month was the importance of being rejected. Yes, you read that correctly. Rejections happen for many reasons and a productive writer will collect more than a few. Literary Hub has an excellent article about why it’s important to set rejection goals.

Rejections (and acceptances) mean you’re actively writing and submitting your work for publication. But how do you choose where to send your work in the first place? If you’re working in a short format (essays, short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and poetry), there’s a broad array of digital and print magazines and anthologies looking for submissions. Some publications have a rolling submission acceptance period while others have a small window. Some accept unsolicited submissions while others do not. Wading through the requirements for each one can become overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few filter sites that can help you narrow this process down. The following are free, but there are subscription-based ones out there, as well.

The Review Review

This one is my personal favorite so far. You can filter your search by reading period, response time, reading fee, payment level, format (digital or print), and whether or not the publication accepts reprints. Not only does it filter magazines who want fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but it also searches for art and drama. They also have an in-depth blog which I highly recommend.

Poets and Writers

This was one of the first sites I found. You can search for broad categories such as fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. However, you can narrow this search by the following subgenres:

  • Autobiography/Memoir
  • Commercial Fiction
  • Cross-genre
  • Erotica
  • Experimental
  • Feminist
  • Flash Fiction
  • Formal
  • Graphic/Illustrated
  • Healing/Health
  • Historical
  • Humor
  • Journalism/Investigative Reporting
  • LGBT
  • Literary Fiction
  • Love
  • Micropoetry
  • Narrative Non-fiction
  • Nature/Environmental
  • Political
  • Pop Culture
  • Prose Poetry
  • Regional
  • Religion/Spiritual
  • Serialized Fiction
  • Translation
  • War

The advanced filter options allow you to search by payment level and format (web, e-publication, print, audio, video). I did run into a couple of instances where the magazine’s information had changed from what was listed in the database (submission window suddenly closed or a publication had gone on hiatus due to financial difficulties) so be sure to read each website thoroughly before attempting to submit anything — which you should be doing anyway.

The Grinder

This site is for fiction only. You can filter your search by genre, story subject, story style, and story length (flash, short, novelette, novella, novel, story collection, novel excerpt). In addition to these, you can specify word length, minimum payment (cents per word), average response time, whether they accept electronic or postal submissions, and whether the magazine has won or been nominated for awards. This can be narrowed down even further by magazines which accept simultaneous submissions, reprints, and multiple pieces. You can also ask the search to only show anthologies or contests. If fiction is your specialty, this is the place to go.


Once you’ve found a magazine you’re interested in, be sure to read their submission guidelines thoroughly. It also helps to read through a few of their previous issues to get a sense of what they are interested in printing. If you’re submitting a short story and their site doesn’t have special formatting requirements, it’s a good idea to stick to Standard Manuscript Format.

Many of the magazines I’ve come across so far use Submittable to handle unsolicited submissions. Creating a profile is free and simple. (If you haven’t guessed by now, “free” and “simple” are two of my favorite words.) Not only do many publications require you to have an account before submitting, Submittable helps you track what you’ve sent where and when. They even tell you where your work is in the process, which is pretty great.

One last note. You may not receive a personal response after submitting to a publication, and any response you do receive may not be for several months down the road. Editors and publishers have a huge workload, and it takes time to wade through all the mush. So instead of obsessively checking your Submittable profile to see if your work has been rejected (or accepted) yet, try submitting to another magazine.

Do you have any favorite literary magazines or submission filter sites? Share them in the comments below.



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