By now, most everyone realizes there are three basic points of view: I, you, he/she/they. Also known as: first, second, third. And while we write, we mostly use first and third person. It feels the most basic, the most natural. But, while I was reading Area X, I noticed something in the third book. Vandermeer used second person.
Most authors don’t use this for the same reason directors usually don’t have actors look at the camera, or through the screen at the audience. It’s jarring – it breaks you out of the world you had just built for your audience. But, I did not feel this way when Vandermeer at all. Actually, it was really subtle, and it really put me in the perspective of the character.
“As the conversation unspools, you keep faltering and losing track of it. You say things you don’t mean, trying to stay in character – the person the biologist knows you as, the construct you created for her. Maybe you shouldn’t care about roles now, but there’s still a role to play.” (363)
For me, this chapter really helped me sympathize with one of the characters I thought was crazy, more than a little eccentric. I got a peek to why she may be behaving in this manner and how much suffering she still has to go through.
Pity is such a strong emotion. So is empathy. This chapter was short enough that the ‘you’ didn’t bother me. It was subtle enough that I barely noticed it. And, yet by the end, I felt like me and the psychologist were intertwined. I knew how she felt and I could sympathize as to why, how all this came to be.
This could be a good technique for writers to try, to see if they can bring their readers closer to their characters this way. But, be careful not to start with you every sentence. It can get distracting. And, by continuing this perspective for too long, if the reader loses interest, they lose interest quickly. I see this as a technique as an extreme on either end, either really good or really bad, where other POVs can have more middle ground.
So be careful while you experiment, and drive safely!
Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.