Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playing with "You"

I mentioned in passing recently that I'm teaching a creative class at my kids' school. It's just once a week, and today is the second class. Last week, we started by talking about perspective (or POV (point of view) as it is more commonly referred to as these days). I figure you can sit down and start writing without a plot or a story or, really, any ideas at all, but you have to start with a character and a perspective or you can't write. Not that that comes first, necessarily, but you can have the greatest plot in the world and not be able to do anything with it without your perspective.

Mostly, we talked about 1st person and 3rd person, which is natural. But we did mention 2nd person. Writing in the 2nd person is something I find intriguing. Really, the only place you find it in fiction is in Choose Your Own Adventure books. But I don't think it has to be that way. No, I don't think a whole novel could be sustained in 2nd person, but there is certainly more room in short stories for 2nd person than what we see, which is basically nothing.

Anyway... all of that to say that a while back there was a... discussion... about writing in 2nd person in this (unfortunately short-lived) writing group I was participating in, and, just to challenge myself, I wrote this little 2nd person story. I think it worked well, and I'd love to hear what you guys think, so I'm going to tag that on at the end of this post.

One other note, first, though. I'm participating in the assignments I give the kids each week. Sort of. What that really means is that I will be work on Tib stories as we go along. Okay, Tib chapters, but I'm going to try to keep at least the first few individual enough that they could be picked up and read independently of each other. What this means for you is that I'm going to be updating my Tiberius tab with new stories as they're ready. The Tiberius tab hasn't received a whole lot of love, so I encourage you all to check it out, as I will be replacing the stories rather than just adding them on. I'm going to leave "The Tunnel" (the 1st Tib story) up for another week to give you guys a chance to check  it out, but the second story, "The Kitchen Table," is ready to go, so I'll be swapping those out next week. I'd love any feedback you have on those, too. And remember, the man with no eyes will be showing up in the Tiberius stories in a few weeks, and I'm sure none of you want to miss that!

As an aside to the previous paragraph, I'm also working on the prelude story for Tib. It's called "The Evil That Men Do," and I'll be making it available on the Kindle and the Nook as soon as it's finished. I'm not quite through with the writing, and the cover art isn't quite ready, but, hopefully, that will be soon. Although the Tib stories are kid accessible, the prelude is not. In my opinion. Basically, you should read it and decide whether you think it's too mature for your children. I'm not going to be letting my kids read it, though. Well, maybe the 15-year-old.

Here's the 2nd person story. Let me know what you think!

Locked In

You wake up slowly. But not gradually. Not smoothly. You wake up in fits and starts realizing that hunger gnaws at you. It is with annoyance that you realize that you’ve slept longer than you had intended. A lot longer if the hunger pangs are any indication. Your previous exertions must have taken more out of you than you had thought.

You climb out of what passes for your bed, grimacing at the stiffness in your limbs. Yes, you have, indeed, slept longer than you had intended, and your body cries out for sustenance. Idly, you wonder what the date is. Not that it really matters. Dates don’t mean anything to you.

You climb the stairs leading up from the cellar into the darkened interior of the house you make your dwelling place. How lucky you were to have found it flits into your head, but you correct yourself. Fortunate, not lucky. You don’t believe in luck. And you did pay the agent handsomely to find a house that suited your needs. Yes, you were fortunate to have found such a perfect house. The sheet-draped furniture looks ghostly in the darkness, vaguely reflecting the dim light sifting in from outside. The twinge of a smile hints about your lips, but it is not related to the d├ęcor. Tonight, you have no time for ambiance. Tonight, you feel the need only for the hunt.

You feel the setting of the sun, and you step outside, pulling the door closed behind you. You don’t bother to lock it. Few are foolhardy enough that they would try to enter your sanctum, and you would welcome them if they did. Welcome them in the way that a spider welcomes a fly that enters its web. There are children still at play outside. They freeze at the sight of you, sensing your presence in the same way a hare senses the hawk above as its shadow passes overhead. Although they are wise to fear you, they have no reason for that fear. You know better than to hunt where you live. Not that they aren’t… tempting.

As you move slowly down the steps of the house that everyone tries to avoid looking at, the children relocate to the front porch of a house at the other end of the street. You move in that direction for no other reason than that it brings you pleasure to see them squirm. Squirm like vermin in the dirt when a stone is moved or like termites when a rotting log is suddenly split open. This time, the smile is not fleeting.

It’s been too long since you’ve had a young one, but the desire is alive in you, tonight, thanks to those children. If the humans didn’t get so worked up over their missing young, you’d partake more often, but you have to be more than careful to not be discovered when you go after the young. Still, every so often, you can get away with it, and tonight will be one of those nights.

You move through the city, all of your senses alert in a way that no human’s ever can be. You are as much a part of the night as the darkness and the wind. And, like the wind, you flow from place to place being felt but not seen, leaving a quiet shudder in those you pass by, the angel of death, and they never know of their good fortune on this night. How magnanimous you feel, allowing them to go their way, keep their petty, fleeting lives.

Finally, you find what you are looking for, a gathering of young ones. And in a church, which makes it so much better. They will probably think that their faith, that the church itself, will protect them, and, once, long ago, it would have, but so very, very few people have faith anymore. It’s the ones that think they do that you enjoy the most. It makes it so much more… fun.

There are a couple of dozen people inside the little church. A matronly woman and a few of the teenagers in a small kitchen. A young man hardly older than a child himself in an office with another of them. The rest are in the chapel watching a movie. Two of them, thinking themselves clever, have sequestered themselves back in the pews to make out. Young lovers in a church locked up tighter than a drum. You wonder if it could possibly get any better. Of course, you will kill them all.

The locked building is of no hindrance to you, and, reveling in your power, you decide to play the part of the cat and toy with your food, first, before you feast. After all, you have no idea how long it will be before another opportunity like this one will present itself, so you should make the absolute most of it.

You creep along the ceiling allowing a hint of your presence to wash over the pitiful humans below. You smile as they grow restless and uneasy for no reason that they can understand. When their fear reaches ripeness, you drop down amongst them bestowing panic upon them like a benediction. You exalt in the chaos and screams and reach for one of them, the one with long, flowing blond hair.

You bare your fangs at her, preparing to sink them into her smooth, warm flesh that pulses with life, but she passes out in your hands. With a growl, you fling her aside. There is no pleasure without the struggle; you’ll come back for her when you have finished with the others. You reach for another, but you are suddenly and unexpectedly pierced with pain.

You can’t figure out what is happening. The pain is incomprehensible, piercing through your back into your heart. Slowly, and with full awareness, you fall to the floor, sprawled out on your face. You hear one of them, “Is it dead?” And another, “Why doesn’t it turn to dust?” And, “This isn’t Buffy, stupid.”

“Go get my copy of Dracula from my office, Tom.”

You feel confident that is the young man. You can now feel his faith, true faith, washing over you in revolting waves, sickening you. But you can’t move. You lie frozen on the floor, helpless, and you find yourself wishing that you had some deity to pray to. You begin to hope fervently that they believe the stake has finished you off. You have a chance if they just toss you out like this.

It grows quiet. The silence is a torment. The silence of the true grave. Faintly, you hear the turning of pages. There is mumbled talk of beheading and burning, and you wish you could scream. How pitiful… taken by your own prey. They lift your body and begin to drag you to the small graveyard behind the church, and you know that you go to your final resting place.


  1. That's an interesting story. The "you" perspective is odd because as you say the most common place for it is in Choose Your Own Adventure books, so any second I expect you to offer me choices.

    I think there have been books written in 2nd Person. I asked about it in one writing group and they basically said, "Look it up on Wikipedia." Which I did and while I can't remember the titles, if you type 2nd Person POV in there I'm sure it'll come up.

    And Tiberius makes me think of Captain Kirk. Then "The Evil That Men Do" reminds me of the Bill Shatner Julius Caesar rap from "Free Enterprise" where that line was used like the chorus: The evil that men do will live on after you, don't cry Caesar...

  2. Well done. I think short stories are perfect for experimenting. I'm not sure I'd enjoy anything much longer than a short story done that way. I read a novel by Nick Sagan several years ago (Carl's son) that had alternating POV's, one of which was second person. I wasn't a huge fan - at least with him doing it. I just don't think it a real natural way to tell a story because every few lines I'm thinking, "No I'm not," or "I did not do that."

    That's really awesome that you get to teach a creative writing class at your kid's school.

  3. Rogue: I'll have to look into that. I've never come across any, and we never talked about any in my literature classes.

    I knew that "Tiberius" would make (some) people think of Star Trek, but I wanted the name "Tib." It all started with his name, so changing it wasn't really an option. I did look at some other options for his full name, but I liked Tiberius best.
    However, I've never heard of this rap that you're mentioning. I may need to look that up, too.

    Sorry, I didn't give you any choices in the story...

    Rusty: Yeah, it is awkward. I'm not a good enough writer to pull the reader in far enough to pull off anything much longer than that in 2nd person. It really sucked in the kids in the class, though, when I read it to them. That was gratifying.

    And, yeah, teaching the class has been great so far, and my middle kid is getting to be in it, so that's fun, too.

  4. Honestly, it reminds me of a dungeon master describing to me what is happening to my character lol. Yes...a very nerdy reference...but the second-person is the tense in which most gaming around a table happens.

  5. I didn't even think about that, but, of course, you're right. But, then, RPGs are sort of like Choose Your Own Adventure books. I'm pretty sure CYOA books came out of RPGs, although I'm not going to look that up, right now.

  6. I've never had any desire to write in the 2nd person, but I love your short story. I think you're right; this is definitely suited for a short story. As for me, I write in 3rd person, but rather than past tense, I write in present tense, which a lot of people find odd until they actually read my work. I think it helps bring the story out into 'the moment.' I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this in a future blog posting.

  7. Beer: Yeah, I never really had a desire to write in 2nd, either. At least not until that "discussion" I mentioned. It was interesting doing it, but I haven't gone back to it again since then.

    3rd person present... hmm... 1st person present seems to be all the rage, right now, but I just can't get into it. I'd certainly be interested in reading something of yours to see what it "feels" like.