Monday, February 14, 2011

Present tense...why oh why?

First person present tense oftentimes drives me nuts. Akin to driving pins under my flesh, or the high screeching as nails dig into a chalk board and scratches the surface...ouch!  Let us just say it takes me a few pages for my mind to accept what I'm reading.  And then most of the YA out there is written in this tense.  Why Oh Why? 

And then there's my son. While helping him write a short story for school, I realized he favors the...yup, the present tense.  Okay, having kids I'm allowed to use them as guinea pigs once in a while. I can't generalize to the teen population as a whole, but here's his response to that whole issue.  "Mom," he tells me, "it makes more sense to have things happening, like, now." He is fourteen.

So, that pretty much settled that discussion for me. In the end, we write for our intended audience, and we all know that writing is subjective.


  1. LOL. My debut is written in this tense and it's also 1st person. It's just so much more intimate! What is it exactly that you don't like about it? Very curious to know! :o)

  2. Hi Jessica. Great question. I think it's hard to grasp the story as it unfolds, which is the feeling I get while reading in present. For me, it seems as if the character/POV should already have experienced the stuff. Does that make sense?? I've only been submerged in reading present since last year with Hunger Games, Perfect Chemistry, The Demonata series...all YA. LOL. I'm getting used to it.

  3. To me, third person creates an intimate "storytime" setting. I imagine the author or main character, long after the journey is over and everyone is safe, spinning this yarn to people who are imagining it.

    First person POV is more like the Ghosts of Christmas from a Christmas Carol. They're lifting me up, taking me along, and describing the experience to me so I can better appreciate it. In that sense, present tense makes me feel like "i am there" much more than past tense.

    I can accept both while reading, but if I had to pick a preference, I'd actually still pick 3rd person, past tense. It's cozier.

  4. lol, I guess it's just personal taste. I've written three manuscripts in first person present, and I'm hooked! I can never go back to past tense anymore. It does take some getting used to, but I feel you can get more into the character's head with present tense.

  5. I am with you on hating present tense. The story must really take off on like page one for me to get into the book enough to ignore the irritating tense.

    Happy V-Day.


  6. Martinelli, i like the distinction you gave. That sums it up quite nicely.

    Welcome Cheyanne. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Jodi, I guess it's an acquired taste.

  7. I wrote a mystery in first person present tense and ended up rewriting in third person, past tense because it worked better to have more distance from the POV character.

    I think 1st pers/present works well for Middle Grade--because it's the way young minds tend to think, as your teen does. Plus the shortness of the narrative helps. For a longer book, I agree--it tends to grate.

  8. Thanks for your comment Anne. Good point about the shortness of the narrative.


Thanks for stopping by! I had to turn on the word verification due to spammers. Sorry for the inconvenience.