Challenge,  On Writing

Editing and Reading Observations… Part 8…

The Problems I Talked About in the First Parts…

Are still the majority of why I pass on a story, or why a story does not hold me as a reader. No depth, information flow, wrong character and so on.

But the last couple of days I found and remembered a couple of other things.

Now, understand, there are no real rules in writing. If you are a skilled enough storyteller, you can make just about anything work for readers. But the key part of that is “skilled storyteller.”

So really skilled writers can make these two problems work.

Writing in Second Person…

You know, the writer got so arty, they wanted you to be the character in their story.  Uh, not me. Talk about making it impossible for the words to vanish and the story to come alive. Mostly this is arty-farty crap (I might have an opinion on this (grin)).

I usually make it a paragraph in a second person story and then start laughing before I send the story back.

It’s All A Dream…

So I get pulled into a story. I’m right with the character, and then suddenly there is a white space and the character wakes up and it was all a dream.

99.99% of the time my reaction is disgust and a rejection. Openings are to ground the reader with depth through the character so we can go along with the character in the story until you let us out at the end.

If your story is about dreaming, start in the real world, ground the reader, and then escort us readers into the dream in a way we know it is a dream.

As I said, skilled storytellers can make both of these work. No rules, but for me, my reaction to second person or starting with a dream is almost always a rejection.

Just saying…



  • Emilia

    I can’t remember the course, but Kris recommended Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for study and that the opening with a dream is how you write dream scenes. The author tells the reader that this is a dream (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”), and reminds the reader a couple of times.

    It just came to mind when I read “It’s all a dream”. I got excited and thought to mention it if someone wanted a book to study on opening with dreams. The opening also uses the rule of three when describing the garden and how its changed.

  • Jason M

    We just published a small book of puzzle mysteries. Each one is written in 2nd person. The choice works well in that context.
    But yeah — overall a 2nd person story needs to be *short* and *smart*. Get in, get out, quickly, before it wears out its welcome.

    • Leigh Kimmel

      Second-person is also the typical form of Choose Your Own Adventure books and their imitators, which are effectively single-player role-playing games. The narrative voice is the game master telling the reader/player what is going on and what choices are available.

  • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

    The whole “who shot JR” extravaganza from the 80s…
    “It was all a dream” drives me crazy, too. Though, like you say. Sometimes a really skilled writer can make it work. Book #?? of the Dork Diaries made it a dream that was so bizarre it worked. It was also a neat break from an otherwise formulaic series that still had compelling enough characters and writing (and my children were reading it and I was still trying to keep up so I knew what they were absorbing).