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Shane
February 20th, 2006, 01:01 PM
How does everyone feel about this?

What I mean, exactly, is when you're writing, usually in the 3rd person, and there's no particular reason to be addressing the audience, but you use the word "you."

For instance:

Bob's ten thousand dollar mattress looked more comfortable than your mother's arms, and Jim felt the kind of murderous envy you could only know as a homeless person sleeping in your own vomit.

Obviously an extreme example, but you get the point.

I've seen it used in quite a few stories, and it always sticks out like a sore thumb to me. I personally almost never do this, unless it makes sense to the story (such as the narrator actually meaning to speak to the audience, for instance).

What about the rest of you though? Do you do this? If so, do you not even think about it, or if you do, why do you decide to include it? If not, why do you shy away from it?

It's not that I think it's *wrong* to do this or anything; it just bugs me for some reason, and I don't really know why.

Dawnstorm
February 20th, 2006, 01:21 PM
Doesn't bother me at all, if done well. In your example, the first instance doesn't bother me, but the second does (because it makes me wonder why a homeless person would sleep in my vomit; his own I could understand, but mine?)

The example you bring is the "generalised you"; I like it better than "one's mother's arm", for example, which expresses just the same thing, but minus the contact-association (though, considerations of tone might sway me to "one's" over "your".)

Then, there are stretches of text where the narrator actually addresses the reader:

"Now, you may think it strange of George to go there, but bear in mind that..."

And then there's 2nd person narration (where the "you" refers to a character, not the reader). Which I quite like when well done.

"You" is a tool like any other tool. And, like any other tool, used carelessly results in bad text.

Mock
February 20th, 2006, 03:31 PM
Yeah, I think I prefer "you" over "one." I think "one" seems stiff, like writing from 1900. Kind of annoying, though, because I feel like saying "you" engages the reader too much—as if its making the story less real. But that's just what I feel like, of course.

Yobmod
February 21st, 2006, 03:45 AM
I've always thought it a shame that 'one' has fallen out of favour in English. It can be very useful, and is used much more in German and French. Unfortunately its been unfashionable for so long, that it can definately sound awkward and forced outside of certain settings. In which case, 'you' is better than nothing.
In my writing (non-fiction) i don't use 'one', as it sounds poncy, but 'you' is too familiar - hence i make a lot of use of passive voice.


Bob's ten thousand dollar mattress looked more comfortable than your mother's arms, and Jim felt the kind of murderous envy you could only know as a homeless person sleeping in your own vomit.

I felt the opposite to Dawnstorm on this: I would say change to 'his mother's arms' and leave it as 'your own vomit', which just proves it to be entirely subjective, and you (/one) can never please all your (/one's) readers.

Holbrook
February 21st, 2006, 04:34 AM
Bob's ten thousand dollar mattress looked more comfortable than your mother's arms, and Jim felt the kind of murderous envy you could only know as a homeless person sleeping in your own vomit.

.

Now me I would edit it thus, it reads better to me;

Bob's ten thousand dollar mattress looked more comfortable than a mother's arms, and Jim felt the kind of murderous envy you could only know as a homeless person sleeping in vomit

Though I am not comfortable with the way the "more" is used in there.

Perhaps;

Bob's ten thousand dollar mattress looked comfortable, perhaps more so than a mother's arms. An envy swept over Jim, akin to that of a homeless person resigned to sleeping in their own vomit.

Even so I think the metaphor is a bit heavy

Yobmod
February 21st, 2006, 06:49 AM
Holbrook, i noticed you took out 2 of the 3 'you's' - so would you generally avoid them?
I agree in the example sentence given they can be replaced, but sometimes 'you' is just the most natural way to say something:

Eg How do you spell that? (which usually means: how does one spell that).

Dawnstorm
February 21st, 2006, 08:01 AM
I felt the opposite to Dawnstorm on this: I would say change to 'his mother's arms' and leave it as 'your own vomit', which just proves it to be entirely subjective, and you (/one) can never please all your (/one's) readers.

Hehe, actually I now think you're right about the second example. I misread the "as" (as a synonym for "like" and not for "if you were").

But in the end, Holbrooks edits reads best, to me, I think. (Of course, there's always the question of voice...)

Holbrook
February 21st, 2006, 12:15 PM
Holbrook, i noticed you took out 2 of the 3 'you's' - so would you generally avoid them?
I agree in the example sentence given they can be replaced, but sometimes 'you' is just the most natural way to say something:

Eg How do you spell that? (which usually means: how does one spell that).

I think I would avoid, in fact I think I do in 3rd POV, as to use "you" in narration sections you are addressing the reader, rather than allowing the reader inside the story. You are telling it, in a way. (hope that makes sense) I do use it in 1st POV when the character is talking to you. Then it works.

If the quote is from a 1st POV work then it is ok, for third then I would not use it personally. I suppose its about my "voice" , when writing in 3rd I have a style (or so I have been told) In 1st I tend to use a "character"

johnkarr
February 21st, 2006, 01:46 PM
My preference is to avoid both "you" and "one" in narration. They add an unnecessary layer to the story by announcing your prescence as the writer.
More direct prose has greater impact.

Andrew J
February 21st, 2006, 06:03 PM
There are often times when "one" and "you" must be used (no way around them, really) and times when an author has a specific "feeling" he needs to put across with them: for the most part, I enjoy using "you" for broad, sweeping statements because it's less formal (I have quite a lot of philosophies put forth in my narrative--everything from the nature of fear, war, and religion to writing, the joy in a summer's day, and an act of indecision, so these sort of things are important), but I do imploy "one/one's" for smaller, concise statements and when "you" is feeling overused (as not to tire the reader.)