Second person POV - how to illustrate?

  • Pro SVS OG

    Iˋve got this cool and scary project in my hands and I’m now starting character development...only there is a problem. The manuscript is written in second person POV (you are here, you do that, this is what you see), and I’m at a loss on how to handle characters in that setting. The „main character“ is technically the reader, and you don’t want to spoil identification.
    I’ve gone through my book collections and found a couple. One „How to Train your Train“ by John Rocco uses a character that speaks to the reader but is also „acting“ the story in some of the spreads plus a bunch of other characters that carry out some other of the actions described in the book. There is no proper „main character“, though the one that speaks to the reader carries probably a larger load of the illustrations. The other I have „Do not open this book“ has one single character who is speaking to the reader.
    From further research online, there seem to be just a few options:

    • The „you“ is represented vicariously by one character in the book;
    • There is a character breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the reader; He/she may or may not participate in the story;
    • There is no clear main character: each page has a different MC;
    • Combinations of the above.
      I couldn’t find one that uses the reader POV on the scene (sort of like he had a camera on his face), though that seems to be an interesting (and challenging!) option.

    Do you have any experience with this sort of setup? I would be very grateful if @WillTerry @Lee-White or @Jake-Parker could share any experience or opinion they have, and of course anybody else in this wonderful community who has any idea.

    And yes, I know the answer is „discuss this with your AD“, but she doesn’t seem to have a clear idea either from the mail exchanges so far and she is in hospital at the moment, so not available for a call. When she will be, I want to have already a clear(er) idea of what would be the best way to approach something like this....

  • SVS OG

    Sounds a bit like a first person computer game set up. Might be wrong though.

    Characters leading you through your journey...



  • Pro SVS OG

    Could you as the artist take liberty to create him/her the way we create a dog through illustrations that wasn't actually in the manuscript for example? Just an idea

  • SVS OG

    The books I've read with second-person POV seems represented by a character in the book, and it works just fine. I think it's much easier to show the action of the story with a character to focus on even if you are using "you" technically. The character him/herself might be a bit nondescript so the reader will insert themselves into that shell as they read.

    Below are some samples of books in second-person POV.


  • SVS OG

    Second person is used most often in "choose your own adventure" type books, which isn't that helpful I know because they aren't usually illustrated. I think the idea of using an animal which could be gender neutral and therefore represent any reader might be your best way forward.

  • Sounds like a lot of foreground sillouttes too me lol, but I can imagine that not being able to be done through an entire story. I can see that sort of story with my cat/violinist image.

    Imagine the reader as the cat


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