Tuesday, March 24, 2009

“On Top” with the Second Person POV

Thanks everyone for your comments on POV, first, second and third! I’m thinking I may start my new novel in third person, because it would be different from Amorous Woman and I feel like I need a departure. But I may go back to first depending on how it feels. It’s reassuring that you all agree with that intuitive part of the equation!

But on to naughtier topics. Because second person is the most “forbidden” by editors and writing teachers, it’s only natural that we erotica writers would find it particularly attractive, at least on occasion. I actually have two (an appropriate number, no?) second person samples to share. Today I’ll give some author insider background about my story, “Yes,” which appears in Susie Bright’s X: The Erotic Treasury and was first published in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s He’s on Top. So I guess that wicked and verboten second person POV was a success in terms of publication credits!

This particular “you” is not a command as much as an attempt to connect, as in “You know what it’s like when you’re driving down the street and a cop pulls you over and….” It’s a “you” that’s more like an “I.” As I wrote, I felt this as a running monologue in a man’s head. I could slip inside a man’s skin, but still maintain a distance, the way I can sometimes step back from what’s happening to me and make myself into a character. I’m not sure if I’m expressing this well, but this form of second person narrative helped me tackle the challenge of writing from the male POV, which was one of the requirements of the original call for He’s on Top. With my obsession for the truth of a sexual experience, I feel a bit of a fraud when I write as a man, but I also like the imaginative stretch I have to make, too. It reminds me of my acting experiences in high school and college. Plus, my readers can be sure I always make sure to get the story vetted by a biological man a.k.a. Herr Doktor DGS!

Speaking of which, my husband said he “heard” this story as the voice of a woman describing the man’s experience “for” him. Perhaps my husband’s interpretation is not surprising because he heard me read excerpts from “Yes” twice recently as part of Susie Bright’s Bay Area X tour, but it took me by surprise, because when I read it aloud, I always feel like I should be in drag--jeans, a black leather jacket and a strap-on!

Tomorrow, I’ll post a compare-contrast snippet from my story “The Blindfold,” which is in a slightly different second person, and the revised first-person version called “Blinded.” Hey, recycling’s good for the environment….

Without further ado, here’s a fairly tame excerpt from “Yes” that shows how the second person works in this particular story. If you’d like to share your own second person story, published or unpublished, let me know and I’ll post it here for our delectation!

From "Yes":

The next time her little surprise for you is to bake cookies, not from a mix, but special ones with white chocolate and raspberries and fancy liqueur. She says white, sweet, creamy things make her think of you.

You pretend to read the paper while she stirs up the batter and hums like some TV mom from the fifties. But she’s not wearing an apron and pearls. You can see her nipples through her shirt and she has on the same jeans she had on the night you met, with a wide leather belt that makes you think of a slave girl you saw in a history book in school. Back then you wanted to do all kinds of nasty things to the girl in the picture, things you didn’t have a name for.

You know what to call them now.

She waves you over, scoops up a swirl of batter on her finger, and licks it off slowly with the pointy tip of her tongue. She offers you a fingerful and you take it in your mouth. It’s sweet—all butter and sugar and a healthy dash of booze—but that’s not what makes you dizzy. It’s the taste of her underneath, her flesh and her spit, which has the same faintly musky taste as her pussy. She told you once she smells different to herself, tastes different, too, since she met you. As if you’ve marked her.

That’s the flavor you’re searching for on her skin.

You think of taking her right here, lifting her up on the counter. Or bending her over the kitchen table, perhaps, doggy-style. But that little voice, the one you’ve learned to listen to, whispers again.


So you pull away and slap her ass and say, “No more fun until you clean up these dirty dishes.”
She pouts, but her eyes twinkle, and she gets right to work, humming her happy homemaker tune.

You walk to your bedroom. Already the plan is taking shape. You remember a story she told about her college boyfriend who begged and begged her to let him fuck her ass until she gave in, but it was lousy. He was too rough and it hurt and he was a real wuss about the mess afterward. She’d never done it since and wasn’t sure she ever wanted to again.

In your book, if a guy begs a woman to let him fuck her ass, he should at least be a gentleman about it. You promise yourself you won’t be like him.

You won’t beg.


Jeremy Edwards said...

This particular “you” is not a command as much as an attempt to connect

What a great way of describing the device! And how wonderfully it works in your story!

Haha! My spamword is capers.

Isabel Kerr said...

Beautiful piece Donna.

Sometimes second person seems a little self- conscious and insecure, this avoids that entirely.

It is also a excellent way to carry on an inner monologue without the very disruptive s/he thought which always pulls me right out of the mood of a piece.

Wonderfully descriptive, thank you for posting it.

EllaRegina said...


I've written a number of "you" stories, "The Lonely Onanista" being one. I always felt the "you," rather than being a directive, put the reader in the driver's seat, smack dab in the heart of the story, the "you" the "I" addresses -- exactly what you're saying (I think) re: connecting.

Craig Sorensen said...

First, my verification word is statorgi.

You exercise for this lesson is to write about a statorgi in the second person.

I love the story "Yes", and how you employed the second person in writing it. You should feel good about your writing from the male POV. I feel you did an outstanding job. Doing both in one story? Bonus points!

EllaRegina, I like that perspective; placing the reader in the driver's seat. Of course, I love how you handle second person.

Some things just resonate with second person. It's a rich taste, not fit for an everyday meal, but a real treat when prepared right.

Now, anyone for a statorgi?

Erobintica said...

These POV discussions are fascinating. Thanks Donna!

Donna said...

Cleis should do a theme anthology on statorgies, Craig! And yes, second person is a treat rather than the meat and potatoes. But I always was fond of dessert....

Thanks for weighing in Jeremy, Isabel and Robin. LO is a gem of a second-person story, EllaRegina. I can feel the love and connection in that voice.