Here is an example of what I mean in present-tense (though narrative time is irrelevant):

You walk into the empty room, you should be worrying about what's about to happen but instead your mind is fixated on your intense desire for burritos. You need a burrito...

The narrator is third-person but refers to the focal character as You and it is as if the reader is the one doing everything the narrator is describing. What point of view or narrative voice is this called?

  • 1
    This kind of text is a real bother to translate. I mean, it's possible, but it just sound so wrong...
    – Patsuan
    Jul 6, 2017 at 7:48
  • This is not the 3rd person POV. Jul 6, 2017 at 15:27

3 Answers 3


When the reader is the focal point, it is called second person.

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    Some find second person to be kind of gimmicky, but Tom Robbins maintained readability throughout his novel Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. Jul 6, 2017 at 17:12
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    @KenMohnkern It's the only example I have ever seen in prose fiction for an entire book that I've seen it done in a sustainable way. Jul 6, 2017 at 18:12

It's second person. It can be found in Choose Your Own Adventure Books. When I think of truly great literature I cannot think of a single work in the second person. (Unless you count the Neil Patrick Harris Choose Your Own Autobiography book.) ;)

Here's a list on Good Reads, but I recognize no authors from lit classes, though some of the titles refer to famous authors (like Kafka).

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas from American novelist Tom Robbins is a fun romp, but I think the POV is the gimmick for the most part. And that's the thing--it can seem a very gimmicky type of writing and can be jarring for the reader in most forms of fiction.

It may seem like it draws the reader in, but in the end, it can feel...artificial. A description of a scene and what the people do in it, or even being in someone else's head feels more real. The longer it goes on, the more likely the reader is going to say to themselves "Nuh-uh, I would never do that!"

To combat that, you have a choice: 1) The you is ultra generic, perhaps even without gender. 2) The you is specific. With #1 it's not that interesting. With number #2, you might as well go really wild with it. Like Robbins.

Where it does get used, and effectively is in poetry, but it is unusual in fictional prose. It often shows up whenever advice is given, especially in non-fictional self-help books in passages like these "You go to work, you come home, you eat, you sleep, but without a spiritual center, it all seems hollow." And then they go on to tell you how to change that.


Galactic5 is correct - It's called second-person. Whilst popular in most western culture it is popular in others.

Second person is hard to maintain. It's use is best reserved for 'effect'.

I have long maintained that the best input for literature is not more literature.

Best use of second person that I have ever found . . .

It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

A child is born with no state of mind, blind to the ways of mankind.

God is smilin' on you but he's frownin' too Because only God knows what you'll go through.

You'll grow in the ghetto livin' second-rate.And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate.

The places you play and where you stay looks like one great big alleyway.

You'll admire all the number-book takers, thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers, drivin' big cars, spendin' twenties and tens, and you'll wanna grow up to be just like them: Huh, smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers.

You say I'm cool, huh, I'm no fool but then you wind up droppin' outta high school.

Now you're unemployed, all null-void, walkin' round like you're Pretty Boy Floyd. Turned stick-up kid, but look what you done did: got sent up for a eight-year bid. Now your manhood is took and you're a Maytag; spend the next two years as a undercover fag, bein' used and abused to serve like hell Till one day, you was found hung dead in the cell.

It was plain to see that your life was lost. You was cold and your body swung back and forth. But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song of how you lived so fast and died so young.

So don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge.

I'm trying not to lose my head, ha-ha

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