Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Talking to the Reader (yeah, you!)

Tip of the Day: ice cream as a reward can make pretty much any activity more exciting!

Using the word "you" in fiction. Some people hate it. Others love it.

Me, I tend to lean towards the "love it" side of the fence.

I picked up AUDREY, WAIT! yesterday, and from the very first use of the word "you" I was hooked and brought immediately into the story.

"The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song. You know, the song."

For me, when I see the word "you" in first-person novels, it feels like I'm the one the reader is talking to. And I like feeling that close to the main character I'm going to be spending the rest of the novel getting to know. In the above example, it sets the stage for the novel and let's the reader immediately know that the fictional song is famous enough that anyone--including you--would have heard it. I love that! Plus, I love the continued use of talking to the reader as if they are a friend (or maybe a perceived enemy in this case).

For others, I've been told talking to the reader jars them from the text.

I'd imagine most of it involves execution. Because I have seen books that talk to the reader that I thought felt forced and as a result it jarred me out of the story. But I think generally most of it's a matter of opinion.

My very first novel that now sits in an unopened file on my computer (it doesn't even warrant a drawer...yet) used tons of "you's" and notes to the reader. In critiques I got mixed reviews on if people liked it or not. Most of the critiques from my former critique partners that are PB writers or write much more serious YA than I do hated it. Those from others that tend to read the type of YA I write, loved it. There was no middle ground. Either: "I hate this, remove this Emily or I will refuse to read another chapter" (improvising off memory of course) or "this section kicks butt" (okay, those might not have been the exact words either, but you get the point.)

What about you? Do you love being talked to as the reader? Do you hate it? Are you in the middle and don't care either way? Do you think it's risky to talk to the reader so much if so many readers do in fact hate it? Do you wish I'd just stop asking questions now?

Please share, I'd seriously love to know your opinion.

Thanks and have a wonderful week everyone!!!

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent


Anonymous said...

I don't mind it. I don't think I even really notice it while I'm reading, as long as it's not overdone. Coincidentally, I've been thinking about this very topic lately. In the draft of the novel I'm working on right now, my MC says a few times to the reader, "There are three things you should know about..." which leads into a list form of why she doesn't like the person/place/thing she's referring to. I like it because it's fun and it's just the way my MC would naturally tell a story to someone else. But I did stop and wonder whether it would jar some readers out of the story.

Kristina Springer said...

Great topic!! I totally love the you thing- no complaints from me. Although, I agree some don't like it. Like, the Ph.D. in Lit reader that was reading one of my books hated it. But she's not my true intended reader- we need to ask some teens what they think!

Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

I'm totally fine with it. I like that direct address and it seems to make a fast connection.

DeenaML said...

I can't wait to read AUDREY, WAIT. Everyone says it's fab.

And I LOVED the lists, notes, and yous in your book (NON-ACTRESS, right?) I thought they were hysterical. So I think I'm a YOU fan. I've never put down a book bc of it.

Kate Fall said...

I like it if it's done consistently. I get thrown off and pulled out of the text if the first "you" shows up, like, in the middle of chapter 3. But the example you used, where it's established from the beginning, then it doesn't bother me because I'm primed to expect it. I love asides to the reader when they're done well. But I'll mark them on critiques if the novel isn't in the tone of "addressed to you the reader" and sporadically slips into it. I confuse easily and my point of view internal editor is a real nag!

Emily Marshall said...

So glad to hear people general don't mind being talked to as the reader :)!! As long as it fits the tone of the novel and is established within an appropriate amount of time. I agree with you all, if it matches that, then I usually don't even notice it once I get into the book.

amuse me said...

Would this also hold true when a character is questioning themselves in their POV? Not saying something outloud or in quotes, but still having something be questioned.

Emily Marshall said...

Marion, I'm not sure. I guess you could talk to the reader in a question form. I can't think of an example, though.

Generally I meant when they physically talk to the reader by using the word "you." Otherwise, I'd think most questions would be just internal dialogue. But I'm sure there's an example that shows it could be done.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Wasn't AUDREY, WAIT a great book?

I think if it's done well, I like it. But only then. :)