The New Star Wars Trailer and Effective use of the Second Person
The new Star Wars trailer came out recently, official teaser #2, and it contains a rather brilliant example of the effective use of 2nd Person Point of View (PoV) I was talking about in an article a few weeks ago.* Check out the trailer below and you’ll see what I mean.
It can be easy to think of narrative perspective as something you choose once and then stick with for the whole story. Are we seeing through the eyes of one central protagonists (I picked up the lightsaber)? Are we watching the action from close by (Han chased the stormtroopers down the corridor)? Or are we trapped in some weird world of uber pretentiousness/playing a choose your own adventure book (you feel a disturbance in the force/roll your six-sided die to attack the sith)?
But, in the same way the movie camera moves us in and out of the action, shifts in narrative perspective within your story can make a huge difference to how were experience individual scenes or moments in the text. In my article the other week I described how the second person PoV (you say, you look, you have) can be used in dialogue between characters to effectively make the reader sympathise with the person being spoke to. It makes the reader feel like they are the ones being spoken to, and therefore bring them directly into the action.
Watch the trailer again (come on, it’s not like I need to give you much of an excuse).
From around 30 seconds, the voice-over goes as follows:
“The force is strong in my family.
My father has it.
I have it.
My sister has it…
You have that power too.”
Now we know, intellectually, that the speaker is not talking to us, the audience member, but to an unseen other character in the film.
But when, at 50 seconds, he says “You have that power too”, you feel it. You feel that you are the one being told that you have a destiny – that you are a Jedi Knight/Rebel Pilot/Runaway Trooper – and then then music soars and your imagination explodes.
Our brain grabs the natural meaning of the word “you”, and the emotional impact strikes us before we have the chance to intellectualise it. JJ Abraham’s pulls a little writing trick on you and suddenly you’re out of your seat.
Brilliant, isn’t it.
You can use this in your stories: “You did this!” “This is your fault!” “You are the only one that can save them!” Maybe those lines are cheesy – you can think of something better. But, cheesy or not, the reader initially hears them as being spoken to them and not to the character. It puts the reader directly in the character’s shoes. And if those shoes happen to be those of someone who has just discovered they can use the force and will probably be swinging a lightsaber around soon, well, awesomeness ensues.**
* As it happens, probably Princess Leia in an earlier film, recut for this trailer. But that’s for another conversation.
** Yeah, ok, like everybody else I’m super excited about this film and didn’t need much of an excuse to put something about it on the website. Still a good example of 2nd Person in practice.
** * Equally, having someone explain why the thing your character thought was really good to do was actually really horrible can be amazingly effective as well. I’m thinking the closing monologue by the lawyer in The Caine Mutiny here. Haven’t read it? Stop reading this and go read The Caine Mutiny. It has ships.
**** This short article comes as I finish up the third week of Camp Nanowrimo. I am tired but on target (cleared 36,000 words yesterday.) That’s a lot of words… I hope some of them make sense!