The Willow Door: An Experiment in Second Person (Sunday Scribbles: Oath)

We were studying 1st and 2nd person writing in my MA last week. I’ve tried 1st person before (I like it for short stories, not novels) but not 2nd. Second person uses the pronoun ‘you’ and addresses the reader directly. It worked well for poetic scribbles but I can’t imagine writing a story this way!

The Willow Door copy
The Willow Door:

You made a sacred promise, to protect the willow door,

But though you did your best, you’re not welcome here any more.

You grab your bags and stuff them full, with full intent to leave,

But as you turn your back on home, your family start to grieve.

They’ll miss the honour bestowed upon, the one who guards the door,

The luxuries and perks for those who give up their life and more,

But no tears are shed for you my friend, not a single one,

For the price of failure runs fissure deep, after all you’ve done.

Forgotten the moment you failed, it’s as if you were never born,

Now you must set out alone, into the desert’s early morn.

You may last weeks if you’re lucky, most last a single day,

But you know you cannot return, after that disastrous day in May.

scales divider copy

Thanks for Reading!

2nd person was a fun and interesting way to build a character and world. The result raises lots of questions though. What’s the Willow Door? Why does this society exile those who fail to defend it? Will the narrator survive the desert? Who knows!

Have you ever tried writing in 2nd person?

This week’s Sunday Scribbles Prompt is Edge:
Sunday Scribbles 24th May Oath
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25 comments

  1. That is a powerful poem. Sad. But it’s thought provoking. It makes me wonder more about what happened. There are so many possibilities. I can see a story written for this (based on this poem). But, as you said, it would be tough to write in 2nd person. I’ve only seen it happen successfully once – and that was by a friend who was writing a “Choose your own adventure”-type story in which readers would decide what happens next for every chapter. 🙂 Great work, my friend! I like your poetry! You’re doing great :).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m of the opinion second person is something all writers should try once (and preferably only once ;)). I haven’t done even that. I like it how it works here, but for the length of a book it feels more like an extra challenge with little upside.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tried it twice, but the second attempt was a disaster: I tried to add a second person excerpt into a third person story for my assignment. I don’t think I’ll be trying it again 😆
      Our tutors gave us an excerpt from an entire book written in second person, Italo Calvino’s: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, but I only managed to read a couple of pages, despite it apparently being revered! Being addressed as ‘You’ breaks the immersion I like to feel when I’m reading. I’d rather experience characters, not pretend I’m the main character 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Not a fan of second person. I agree with A.S. Akkalon on the do it once and only once.

    First person can be good, but it is so hard both to read unless its perfect and to write well.

    And I hope you will explore the questions you posed. Might have something bigger on your hands!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, 2nd-person is best used sparingly; too much of it becomes “you do this, and you do that…”, to which the reader, eventually, might say “I never would have opened the cage of that hideous whatever-it-is and had my arm bitten off!” — and POP, just like that, the story’s spell is broken. LOL!

    Used conservatively, though, it can create a distinct effect. I employed it in a rather strange poem inspired by an abstract painting by a friend of mine, which I share below. (The name of the painting is “The Surprise Ending”, so I used it for the poem’s title too.) Does the 2nd-person approach work for you?…

    The Surprise Ending

    There’s a shadowy elephant in the room,
    and people standing in a row
    are looking at it.

    But that’s not the surprise ending — not
    by a mile. There’s writing on the wall,
    but that’s no surprise either;

    the writing has been on the wall for years.
    The cross, the circle, the other symbols
    all add to the aura of mystery,

    but they are not the mystery. The spidery writing
    scratched into the paint; the blacked-out article;
    the number 35-8-12 . . . They hint at it.

    The dabs of blue (three shades!), the dripping orange,
    the poison green and neon yellow, that little bit of
    painted-over text in the upper right corner . . .

    You’re getting closer. The creak of a floorboard
    behind you. A breath of ghostly laughter
    up ahead.

    What’s that smell? Have you ever had the feeling
    that somebody is walking
    on your grave?

    It’s your birthday.

    This is your surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, yup too much second person ruins my immersion!
      Sparingly though I think I might use it again some day 🙂

      Very skill-fully done, and I think the second person works well, especially the line ‘Have you ever had the feeling that somebody is walking on your grave?’ 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Diana 🙂 I found the second person recommended university reading very hard going, but those were lengthily stories all in second person. I’d love to sneak in a couple of lines of second person into a third person story one day!

      Liked by 1 person

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