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View Full Version : Unnamed Short Story in 2nd Person / Present POV (mild language issues ^%&%$$^)



David Gordon Burke
March 5th, 2014, 02:44 PM
While working on a collection of short stories, the following just fell out of me. I was looking for as big a challenge as possible particularly in the realm of POV. I'd originally thought of trying Present tense POV but then it turned into 2nd person as well. I'm really not even convinced to finish it.

Not sure if the 'you' which really indicates 'I' is correct 2nd person POV although there are some people that talk like this.

David Gordon Burke

Dog Kidnap Story
You get home from a hard day at work and as you slip the key into the door you hear the phone start ringing. You pick up just before the answering machine clicks on.
"If you want to see your dog again it’s going to cost you twenty five thousand pesos."
You hear the voice on the other end of the line and you realize something is wrong. The dog isn't barking in the back yard like every other afternoon. You drop the phone and run to the back door. No dog. Search by the side gate where he likes to stand, watching the people pass in the street. No dog.
“What have you done to with my dog you son of a bitch?” you yell into the receiver.
“Hey, brother, take it easy. It’s nothing personal, just business.”
“Right, just business.”
“Listen, we know you have the money. Just pay us the 25 thousand and we’ll give you back your dog. No one gets hurt, everybody’s happy.”
If you could reach through the phone line and wrap your hands around the bastard’s throat, you know you'd kill him right there.
“It’s going to take me some time to get the money together,” you say, “How do I know you have the dog and that he’s safe?”
“Don’t worry about it. Nobody wants to hurt the dog. Just get the money together and we'll call back in two hours. No problem.”
"Fine. But if I don't see the dog then you will never see one peso. Understand?"
"Si hombre. No problem. We'll call in two hours." The line goes dead.

You've had the dog since university. He was the house mascot in your dorm. Nobody knew whose dog he was - he'd probably been there even before you moved in. A shaggy mutt who drooled and smelled bad but still, a good watch dog. You couldn't leave him when everyone graduated and no one wanted him. You wouldn’t let them turn him out into the street so you stepped up and took him. Turns out to be the best decision of your life.

These days your life is all work. No time for friends and no time for romance. Just work. And when you come home at night there he is, waiting by the door. The only constant in your life. If not for the dog you might have packed it in and given up. Gone home and taken over the family business selling shoes and leather goods out of the back of your dad's garage.

Dad makes two trips to Leon, Guanajuato a month to buy leather goods and the profit is just enough to supplement his pension. He and mom do alright although a bus driver's pension is only about five thousand pesos before taxes. They still live in the house you grew up in which is more of a comfort to you than you care to admit.

You get on the phone to the bank - you are going to need to make a large withdrawal and max out a credit card to pay these guys off. Yeah, he did say 'We' and 'Us' so there must be at least two of them. How the hell did they get the dog anyway?

Your house is on a corner of a shady street with lots of trees. You take a look outside and find a heavy burlap sack thrown over the wall that separates the yard from the street. You suppose that someone could have parked beside the house, climbed the tree and used the burlap to protect themselves against the shards of glass embedded in the top of the wall. Once they tied the dog they could have led him right out the front gate.

You get to the bank and the manager who you usually do business with is concerned when you tell him you need to close out your account.
"Is there some reason that you leaving us?" he asks.
"I'm sorry," you say, "It’s a private matter."
You use all of your tact to get out the door with the twenty five thousand. A taxi gets you back home with time to spare. The phone rings.
"You got the money?"
No hello, straight to business.
"Yeah, I got it."
"Fine. You are going to come to the Alameda Park. You want to enter from Pino Suarez Avenue through the gates on the corner of Washington. Someone will be watching you. If you don't come alone or if you call the cops, you will never see the dog again. Walk toward the bandstand – someone will approach you and tell you what to do."
"Just remember...if I don't see the dog you don't get the money."
"Fine. Put the money into an envelope and be ready to show it when you are asked. You had better leave now. If you don't walk through the gate at exactly seven o'clock the dog is dead." They hang up the phone and you're listening to static again.
You've read about this is the local papers. First it was express kidnappings. They grab you and take you to the bank machine at gunpoint. These days they extort you by threatening your parents or brothers or sisters. Now they even go after your pets.

The guilt you feel is paralyzing. If you hadn't been so obsessive about the dog maybe no one would have noticed what a huge part of your life he has become. The truth you realize is that one way or another, if the criminals get you in their sites, they are going to find a weakness - your biggest weakness is the dog.

You arrive at the park and pass through the gate at exactly seven. It's still not dark but the shadows from the trees, aside from creating a cool shade popular with the locals, make visibility an issue. You want to figure out who is watching you. You stop at a food stand and buy a soda. In the reflection of the drink cooler you see a woman across the walkway. She is staring right at you.

lasm
March 5th, 2014, 04:03 PM
Hi David,
I enjoy 2nd person POV and have worked in it a bit, and I think there's a couple issues you're running into that are common for people starting out in this POV. The main problem is that repetition of the word "you" starts to grate on people. So it's good to look for ways to reduce this--mostly by varying sentence structure and eliminating filtering, which are things you probably want to think about anyway. For example,

You get home from a hard day at work and as you slip the key into the door you hear the phone start ringing.
I'd suggest something like:
After a hard day at work, you're slipping the key into the door when the phone starts ringing. (or alternately: The phone starts ringing just as you slip the key into the door after a hard day at work)

A lot of the time when you write "you feel/you see/you hear", this can be eliminated (this goes for 1st person and deep 3rd, too)--once you've established who the POV character is, the reader will just assume that person is doing the seeing/hearing and telling them is usually unnecessary.
The guilt you feel is paralyzing.
The truth you realize is that one way or another, if the criminals get you

These are just some general suggestions that I think might help as you revise. The writing is not bad, and better in the parts where you transcribe the character's thoughts. Seems like a good start to the story--could maybe use a little more info about the character speaking, name, things like that. I also kind of wonder why thieves would go after a mutt; if I were stealing dogs to hold for ransom, I'd go for an expensive pure-breed.

I'd think 2nd person might be an interesting way to write a dog's POV--to express how fascinated and attached a dog feels to one particular person. Always good to experiment. Hope this is useful to you.

David Gordon Burke
March 5th, 2014, 05:04 PM
Seems like a good start to the story--could maybe use a little more info about the character speaking, name, things like that. I also kind of wonder why thieves would go after a mutt; if I were stealing dogs to hold for ransom, I'd go for an expensive pure-breed. Hope this is useful to you.

Thanks for the critique. I probably should have noted that this was a completely unrevised, unedited first draft. I didn't want to put too much effort into it since I've never tackled 2nd person and was wondering about the validity of the form before jumping in whole heartedly.

I agree - too many 'You's.
As for giving the character a name...I purposely stayed away from that so far. Even got rid of the dog's name. The sublte message that the 'You' that it is happening to could turn out to be YOU!

I didn't really think of the implication of MUTT but the deal is that this DOES happen in Mexico and it is as much about extorting people based on their affection to the animal as it is about the value of the animal.

Check it out.

(http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/07/mexico-city-has-dog-kidnapping-problem/6273/)
Thanks for the assessment.

David Gordon Burke

Kepharel
March 6th, 2014, 09:31 PM
Jumping into the story straight away works for me with lots of questions in my mind about who these kidnappers are, for instance are they known to you because the dog appears to not have any intrinsic value as a breeding pedigree; also they are aware of your modest finances to the degree they have pitched the ransom money exactly right? There are lots of ways this story could take me, and it being a short story I am looking forward to testing my anticipated theories being proved right or wrong with comparatively little delay. I’m even considering a jealous university pal as the bad guy :)

So you’ve hooked me!! Sadly the inclusion of your parent’s limited means maybe just there to answer impliedly that you can’t go to them for help, or it may have more to do as a plot device. The final sentence regarding the woman staring at you may be significant or maybe nothing, I don’t know because this is an incomplete work in progress so please finish and satisfy my curiosity :)

David Gordon Burke
March 7th, 2014, 03:19 PM
Jumping into the story straight away works for me with lots of questions in my mind about who these kidnappers are, for instance are they known to you because the dog appears to not have any intrinsic value as a breeding pedigree; also they are aware of your modest finances to the degree they have pitched the ransom money exactly right? There are lots of ways this story could take me, and it being a short story I am looking forward to testing my anticipated theories being proved right or wrong with comparatively little delay. I’m even considering a jealous university pal as the bad guy :)

So you’ve hooked me!! Sadly the inclusion of your parent’s limited means maybe just there to answer impliedly that you can’t go to them for help, or it may have more to do as a plot device. The final sentence regarding the woman staring at you may be significant or maybe nothing, I don’t know because this is an incomplete work in progress so please finish and satisfy my curiosity :)

Wow. You gave more thought to the story than I did. That's great. Inspiring to think that my mental purge at the moment of writing posed some of the right questions .... and I did it without giving it any conscious effort.

I will get to work on finishing this one.
Thanks for your comment. You made my day.

David Gordon Burke