Second-person narrative

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The second-person narrative is a narrative mode in which the protagonist or another main character is referred to by second-person personal pronouns and other kinds of addressing forms, for example the English second-person pronoun "you".

Example:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

Traditionally, the second-person form is used less often in literary fiction than the first-person and third-person forms. But it is, in many languages, a very common technique of several popular and non- or quasi-fictional written genres such as guide books, self-help books, do-it-yourself manuals, interactive fiction, role-playing games, gamebooks such as the Choose Your Own Adventure series, musical lyrics, advertisements, and also blogs.

Although not the most common narrative technique in literary fiction, second-person narration has been a favoured form in various literary works within, notably, the modern and post-modern tradition. In addition to many consistently (or nearly consistently) second-person novels and short-stories by, for example, Albert Camus, Michel Butor, Marguerite Duras, Carlos Fuentes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georges Perec (A Man Asleep, 1967), the technique of narrative second-person address has been widely employed in intermittent chapters or passages of narratives by William Faulkner, Günter Grass, Italo Calvino, Iain Banks, Nuruddin Farah, Jan Kjærstad, and many others.

This narrative mode is not limited to books: it is common in song lyrics which tell a story, and is sometimes used in film for unconventional voice-over narration (e.g. Lars von Trier's Europa, 1991).

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