What's the difference between second and third person in literature?

1 Answer

Third person relates to characters as "she or he" whereas in second person they are related to as "you".


Third person is what most books are written in - the reader follows the action of the book from a "God vantage point" - that is, the reader knows what the protagonist is thinking, and what the antagonist is thinking, and that as the protagonist is walking through a dark alleyway, the antagonist is ready to jump him. The reader relates to characters in the book as s/he - as in "She walked down the empty lane towards danger."

In first person - we follow the plot through the eyes of someone and that someone is usually but not always the protagonist. Game of Thrones is a great example of first person story telling - each chapter is told from the vantage of a character. The reader relates to at least one character as I - as in "As I walked down the empty lane, I felt goosebumps on my neck, warning me something bad was about to happen"

Second person is unusual in literature - it follows the action of the protagonist through the use of "you", as in "As you walked down the lane, you looked scared as if you knew you were about to be jumped." Second person is more common in books that relate to the reader as the doer of the action, such as guide books, make your own adventure novels, and the like.