Aug 8, 2011

A Tense Situation

By Tracy Astle

I recently read a book written in first person present tense. It felt rather jarring sometimes and got me thinking. I wondered if I wasn't a fan of present tense or if I just wasn't a fan of how that writer handled it.
The way I see it, which person and tense a book is written in should feel so natural to the way the story is told that it shouldn't call attention to itself. It should just feel like there's no other way to tell that story.

I thought of another first person book that I love and couldn't recall if the author had used past or present tense. When I pulled it off the shelf to check, I was surprised to see that it was in present tense. She used first person present with such finesse that it was completely inobtrusive. Impressive.

Now, I can go either way on the first person/third person thing. I like the immediacy that using first person can create. It can be very effective in drawing the reader in and simply works better for some stories. Third person allows much more freedom with POV which can be much more interesting. I like both.

Tense seems to be trickier, though. I have a definite preference for past tense unless the present tense is used in very skillful hands.

So I'm wondering -
     What person/tense do you prefer to read, and why?
     What person/tense do you like to write in, and why?


  1. I love first person tense. I seem to get into the character more that way. The Amelia Peabody books are a great example of first person well done.

  2. I write in third person past tense at the present time, although one of my novels started out in first person. I prefer to read novels written in third person past tense. There are exceptions, though. It totally depends on the author.

  3. I like either way. It really depends on the author. Sometimes third person is nice because it is a relief to get out of the mc's head. Other times, I love to be right in the thick of what they are thinking in first person and feel like I can really get to know them. I guess it just really depends on the story.


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