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indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 07:03 AM
I write this way, always have. My theory is that this is the most immediate, experiential mode in which to present fiction. Cinematic.

Past tense has always seemed artificial to me, unless the setting truly is past. Seems downright absurd in futuristic science fiction.

Future tense seems out of the question.

Disembodied narrators seem unnatural to me as well...who is telling this story? Why?

This style presents its own limitations, but all in all, I'll probably keep writing this way until it comes into fashion.

What are your thoughts? Anybody else write this way? Who hates it? What is your excuse for this?

The Lonely One
02-24-2009, 07:07 AM
I write first present especially in situations where the character dies at the end. Thus I avoid the whole "how are they telling the story?" well, they were telling it--then they died.

Future tense, now that sounds like fun...

maestrowork
02-24-2009, 07:08 AM
Oh dear, here we go again.

:)


BTW, Patricia Wood's LOTTERY is in first person, present tense. As is mine.

The Lonely One
02-24-2009, 07:11 AM
BTW, Patricia Wood's LOTTERY is in first person, present tense. As is mine.

OK maestro, hows about making MY lottery first-person present tense!*





















*I need money.

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 07:11 AM
Oh dear, here we go again.

:)


BTW, Patricia Wood's LOTTERY is in first person, present tense. As is mine.

There's a poll for you to respond to. :)

Fade
02-24-2009, 07:12 AM
Everyone has her own style of writing and what they think is best. For example:

I write in first person present sometimes, and I write in third past sometimes, but I NEVER write in first past or third present.

I don't really hate reading any tense or POV (is that the right way to say it?) EXCEPT second person anything or third person present.

I figure our brains all work differently and there's no way everyone will like using the same tenses and POVs.

Chumplet
02-24-2009, 07:15 AM
I read Lottery, I'm presently reading Flight of the Hornbill by Eric Stone, and the next one on the pile is The Pacific Between. I can't see myself writing in that style, but I sure enjoy reading it.

Autodidact
02-24-2009, 07:15 AM
Hate it. If I pick up fiction and it's written this way, I put it down unless it knocks me over on page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1. And it's already in fashion.

Marie
02-24-2009, 07:16 AM
I can't write in first present, but I don't mind reading it. What really bugs me is reading anything in second person.

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 07:20 AM
Hate it. If I pick up fiction and it's written this way, I put it down unless it knocks me over on page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1. And it's already in fashion.

I suppose that's a matter of definition, as far as it already being in fashion. I would say that a pretty significant percentage of books published would have to be using it for that to be the case. The overwhelming majority continue to be third-past of some kind.

What exactly do you hate about it?

Cyia
02-24-2009, 07:20 AM
Does anyone search for questions already asked? Well, my answer hasn't changed in the last few days since this quesiton was asked the last time.

I HATE 1st person present. It reads like a screenplay.

The Lonely One
02-24-2009, 07:21 AM
I can't write in first present, but I don't mind reading it. What really bugs me is reading anything in second person.

You open the story written in second person. The story is just, what's that word? Awful. Just awful, you think. Wasn't it that wacky creative writing professor who recommended this dribble? You can't remember, but you like to think it was him, just to latch the hate to something solid. Yes, Mr. Adverbson. Watch your back, Adverbson, watch your back...

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 07:24 AM
Does anyone search for questions already asked? Well, my answer hasn't changed in the last few days since this quesiton was asked the last time.

I HATE 1st person present. It reads like a screenplay.

Nope. I never do. VBulletin's search function rarely brings up what I want. Waste of time. And the delay between queries is absurd.

This is what I get for first person present tense (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/search.php?searchid=10968086).

Which of these threads alredy has a poll on the subject?

Besides, this is BASIC writing questions and I don't see it on the first page.

If it comes up so much, let's have a sticky.

Is seeing this question repeated really more annoying than you dropping in just to complain about it?

Because the only dumb question is the one you don't ask.

"Reads like a screenplay", you mean, like a book that's likely to be made into a movie?

Cyia
02-24-2009, 07:33 AM
If I'd only dropped in to complain, I wouldn't have answered the question. The complaint was a bonus. :tongue

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 07:35 AM
If I'd only dropped in to complain, I wouldn't have answered the question. The complaint was a bonus. :tongue

Point taken. Please take mine about the search function above.

MsK
02-24-2009, 08:02 AM
I like reading it when it's done well. I also like to experiment with my own writing in it. I'm working on something in First Person/ Past right now, but may convert it to Present Tense later on down the line.

Matera the Mad
02-24-2009, 08:15 AM
Search: _____in, _____out

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 08:36 AM
Search: _____in, _____out
Didn't start this thread to debate the search-function; I'm trying to collect data here. Please troll other waters.

Aggy B.
02-24-2009, 09:28 AM
I like first person present because it's an excuse to write the way I think. Or the way I think the character would think. Narratively it presents challenges, though. And, when done wrong, is obnoxious.

So, I generally try and stick to third person limited past.

ClaudiaGray
02-24-2009, 09:57 AM
I've seen it done very beautifully. I think it works best with a very strong narrative voice, but when one is in place, it sounds genuinely conversational. (After all, when we tell stories to our friends, we might say, "I was in front of the store when I heard a shout" -- but we are perhaps equally likely to say, "So I'm standing in front of the store and I hear somebody shouting.")

A YA author who handles this particularly well is Elizabeth Scott.

Layla
02-24-2009, 10:29 AM
Not into present tense of any POV. I don't know why, but it just bugs me, it's like a constant new-shoes feel that never goes away.
I also don't feel the story is any less immediate/effective if it's in past tense.

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 11:40 AM
So far, we have a 80% approval rating. That's better than President Obama right now.

8 who use it, 8 who don't mind, 4 McCain supporters.

This is a coup! I-Now is more popular than the President! Bigger than Jesus!

Keep voting people.

dpaterso
02-24-2009, 12:13 PM
I like your reasoning in your opening post.

Maybe first person present tense would suit a futuristic sci-fi story.

But past tense is oddly flexible, time-wise. It can relate something that happened 'way in the past... or it can be something that happened only a few seconds ago.

Which leads me to present this conclusion: A tight POV can make past tense sound as immediate as first person present tense. There is no advantage of one over the other -- there is only personal style preference.

Like it or no, past tense has become the predominant style (with many exceptions of course), and some editors have been known to express dislike for it and include "no present tense stories" in their guidelines. So you could be narrowing your potential markets before you even start writing. Just a thought.

Screenplays, as mentioned above, are written in present tense, like novel query synopses, so I can understand someone saying they don't like fppt because of this niggly association.

-Derek

indiriverflow
02-24-2009, 12:33 PM
I like your reasoning in your opening post.

Maybe first person present tense would suit a futuristic sci-fi story.

But past tense is oddly flexible, time-wise. It can relate something that happened 'way in the past... or it can be something that happened only a few seconds ago.

Which leads me to present this conclusion: A tight POV can make past tense sound as immediate as first person present tense. There is no advantage of one over the other -- there is only personal style preference.

Like it or no, past tense has become the predominant style (with many exceptions of course), and some editors have been known to express dislike for it and include "no present tense stories" in their guidelines. So you could be narrowing your potential markets before you even start writing. Just a thought.

Screenplays, as mentioned above, are written in present tense, like novel query synopses, so I can understand someone saying they don't like fppt because of this niggly association.

-Derek

Your comments are thoughtful, and I'm certainly concerned about the market aspect, which is why I opened the thread.

I've completely cleaned house on my literary style, and after some soul-searching, I decided to retain this one feature of what I've come to feel was an excessively experimental orientation.

One issue I find is in managing a chain of events. From the beginning of the chapter to the end, I feel obliged to keep the tape rolling, and this can be confining. I don't feel my work has the same depth of plot complexity as some of my favorite third-past writers. I'm not sure that is the same thing as being a good story, but it bothers me how some books have so many...plot elements.

Still strong at 74%...I'm pleasantly surprised. I expected to see a 50/50 split along general lines of employment.

MMcDonald64
02-24-2009, 07:43 PM
Does anyone search for questions already asked? Well, my answer hasn't changed in the last few days since this quesiton was asked the last time.

I HATE 1st person present. It reads like a screenplay.

Yes, that's what I feel. To me, it feels phony. Just by the act of writing the actions down, whatever has happened is now in the past. Like, I just wrote Yes at the beginning of the post, but it's already in the past.


As to second person pov, I used to hate it until I wrote two short stories as a response to a challenge. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=127196

I wouldn't be able to read at length in that pov, but for short pieces, it's okay.

maestrowork
02-24-2009, 07:48 PM
But past tense is oddly flexible, time-wise. It can relate something that happened 'way in the past... or it can be something that happened only a few seconds ago.


So can present tense... you just briefly use past tense when referring to events happening in the past.

I can't find Jesse. I look everywhere and I can't find her. She's disappeared. Two minutes ago she was right there smiling at me. And now she's gone.


You don't lose the ability to tell backstories or things that happened. But you gain certain intimacy that would become a bit more removed with past tense:

I couldn't find Jesse. I looked everywhere and I couldn't find her. She'd disappeared. Two minutes ago she had been right there smiling at me. And then she was gone.

tehuti88
02-24-2009, 08:39 PM
I write this way, always have. My theory is that this is the most immediate, experiential mode in which to present fiction. Cinematic.

Present tense and first person don't make a story more "immediate" or "experiential" to me. I find present tense jarring, and prefer third person. That's more immediate and experiential for me personally. *shrug*

Past tense has always seemed artificial to me, unless the setting truly is past. Seems downright absurd in futuristic science fiction.

I see a story as something that has already happened, even if it's set in the future, so that's why I prefer past tense. I mean, if the entire story is set down there on the page, it's evidently already got a beginning, middle, and end.

Disembodied narrators seem unnatural to me as well...who is telling this story? Why?

The narrator is telling it. *shrug* I like to have the uninvolved narrator and the characters who are separate. That's just how I've always preferred it. I don't see anything WRONG with first person, it's just not what I prefer, because I like to read about a story others are experiencing and I'm just watching, not having it told to me by one of the characters. I prefer the characters to not know they're in a story. (I realize not all first-person narrators "know" they're in a story, but this is one of my reasons. They at least know they're TELLING a story, and I don't care for that much. I prefer an uninvolved narrator to tell the story, most of the time.)

This style presents its own limitations, but all in all, I'll probably keep writing this way until it comes into fashion.

Fine by me. :)

What are your thoughts? Anybody else write this way? Who hates it? What is your excuse for this?

I don't write this way, obviously, but it's a personal preference.

I have personal reasons for not liking it. Why should I need an excuse (which indicates that my preference is wrong)? :/

ETA:

Yes, that's what I feel. To me, it feels phony. Just by the act of writing the actions down, whatever has happened is now in the past. Like, I just wrote Yes at the beginning of the post, but it's already in the past.

Ditto to this, and the "screenplay" reference. I like stories that have already happened, not stuff that's happening right now.

Rarri
02-24-2009, 08:55 PM
I'll read any narrative, what matters is how well the piece is written. Third person omniscient can work fantastically with the right writer, just as first person present can work fantastically. Personally, i'm not turned off by narrative, i put a book down (or give it to my toddler to destroy...) because the story doesn't work, not because of the narrative. A story can be gripping in any narrative, i enjoyed Harry Potter and i enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire; totally different narratives, but they were good stories. At the end of the day isn't that what matters?

Well, that's my rambled thoughts on this equate too :D

BTW, my current WIP is first person past tense.

scarletpeaches
02-24-2009, 08:58 PM
It always amazes me when people toss away books based solely on tense or POV.

I put aside badly written books. I judge an author based on their skill, not their choice of narrative.

kuwisdelu
02-24-2009, 09:27 PM
I like it. I write it. I read it.

Scribhneoir
02-25-2009, 12:22 AM
I hate present tense. I've tried to read it and I can manage short stories, but not novels. Every so often I try again and I've never managed to get past the third chapter.

For me, present tense is not more intimate or immediate or experiential. It's simply annoying. It calls attention to itself and stops me from getting sucked into the story. It's like the writer is sitting on my shoulder, pointing at his prose and saying, "Look! I'm being literary!" Very off-putting.

That said, I would never tell anyone not to write in present tense if they feel they must. You'll never appeal to everyone, no matter how you write.

dpaterso
02-25-2009, 12:34 AM
It always amazes me when people toss away books based solely on tense or POV.

I put aside badly written books. I judge an author based on their skill, not their choice of narrative.
Well that's the thing, when I have an easy choice of something I prefer vs. something I'm not quite so keen about, I'll take the something I prefer every time.

It's not that I hate the other choice. It just happens to lose out because of my personal tastes. Which also include tense.

This doesn't make me a bad person or an undiscerning reader. I'm allowed the free choice.

And it's not so much about tossing books away, it's more about picking them off the shelves and buying them.

-Derek

MMcDonald64
02-25-2009, 12:41 AM
It always amazes me when people toss away books based solely on tense or POV.

I put aside badly written books. I judge an author based on their skill, not their choice of narrative.

I'm not judging the author when I set aside present tense stories, I'm judging the tense. The author may be a freaking genius with words, but if I still can't get into the story because the tense is like a wall holding me back, there's not much I can do about it. We all have preferences and the freedom to exercise them.

If I had a choice between equally good writers and stories, and one is in present and one is in past tense, I will choose the past tense every time. And, since there are millions of books out there, I do have that choice almost every time I am looking for a book.

The Lonely One
02-25-2009, 02:14 AM
Hello, again.

One thing:

Shouldn't a writer read widely, in different tenses, POV's, time periods, genres, etc.? Isn't the experience with each something which possibly can lend itself to whichever style the writer chooses for her own stories?

I understand the average reader has not as much to lose by putting down a present tense story in lieu of the past tense 3rd limited or whatever's hip these days.

But the writer, doesn't she have infinitely more to lose by choosing only one?

In conclusion, why not pick up both? And then study them intensely, highlight, underline, make notes on the page--in short, devour them.

This thread makes the Lonely One hungry...

maestrowork
02-25-2009, 06:23 AM
This doesn't make me a bad person or an undiscerning reader. I'm allowed the free choice.

And it's not so much about tossing books away, it's more about picking them off the shelves and buying them.

-Derek


I don't think that's SP's point. I think she's commenting on people who say "I hate present tense, and I would not give it a second chance if the first sentence doesn't work for me." To me, that's a bit narrow-minded and not about preference. It's categorically marking "present tense" as bad writing and being very judgmental about it. What if your favorite writer (say, Stephen King, as he actually did) writes in present tense? Would someone automatically says that's shit?

I'm not interested in epic fantasy, for example, but that's just the genre. I like thrillers, for example, and I don't really care if that thriller is written in 1st, 2nd, present, past, first, omniscient, as long as it's well written and I try not to judge the book solely based on tense or POV.

Certainly anyone is entitled to their preferences because it's their money and time when buying/reading a book. Still, some of us are baffled that a person would categorically disregard something, especially as categorically bad writing.

And yes, I have read epic fantasy. So at least I can say, I tried. :)

indiriverflow
02-25-2009, 06:35 AM
I have personal reasons for not liking it. Why should I need an excuse (which indicates that my preference is wrong)? :/


Sorry, bad joke. I edited this from "reasons" after a few posts failed to give any. Of course you have a right to your opinion. I started this thread to hear both views.

I'm surprised to find people claim that present tense is hard to read. I expected to hear people say that it sounds amateurish. How does present tense get in the way? Life is happening in present tense. This post is in present tense. You are all reading it. Film happens in present tense, even those about the past.

The act of recording events doesn't set them in the past. Literary tradition does that. That's because fiction evolved from history.

So it seems that people who dislike present tense are reacting to the actual examples of poorly handled prose they've seen, or else a cultivated writer's sensibility which strictly defines the acceptable tense. Prejudice, in another word. Feel free to adjust this impression.

That doesn't make it invalid. Certainly agents and publishers will be subject to this prejudice. We all develop a set of preferences and gravitate toward the familiar.

I thank all of you "I-Now" haters and supporters for sharing your comments.

Enzo
02-25-2009, 06:54 AM
Never wrote in first person, though I've been tempted.
And whatever person POV certainly wouldn't stop me from reading anything.

indiriverflow
02-25-2009, 07:09 AM
What about present tense, Enzo? How do you feel about I-Now? Would it be jarring?

maestrowork
02-25-2009, 07:13 AM
From now on I was going to post everything in past tense because present tense was difficult to read for some. I thought that was a good idea. Somebody was going to make a stance, and it might as well be me.

It was really nice to have this discussion. I was enjoying it.

Aggy B.
02-25-2009, 07:16 AM
I think writing in a way that is immediate and experiential is a question of skill no matter what POV tense one uses.

First person is difficult to read sometimes. Especially first person present tense. Common sense this shouldn't be so because we experience life in present tense. But we don't process it the same way as it reads on the page. I don't think "I begin to write the sentence and a thought strikes me: maybe I was wrong." I just write. Part of my brain is processing the flow of events but it is not with the same level of awareness as we get when we read a story in first/present.

Actually, the last thing I was working on that used first/present I separated out certain thoughts in italics in the same way I would for third person. Someone commented they thought that was unnecessary, because the whole story was already being told from the MC's perspective "as it happened." But I know that in my everyday life there are certain things I'm aware of thinking ("I need to start dinner.") and others I'm not. I rarely think about the fact that I'm climbing the stairs. I'm busy thinking about what I'm going to do when I get to the top.

On the flip side, third/past (though I tend to like third/present too) seems more familiar when we read it. Why? Because when we tell a story to someone about our day we almost always use past tense. And with most stories we recognize that we are not the MC (even if we identify with them).

So, I think (personally) that first/present seems like it should be more familiar but in reality is not. But that's just an opinion.

The Lonely One
02-25-2009, 07:33 AM
Never mind. What I wrote comes across differently than I intended it.

tehuti88
02-25-2009, 08:27 AM
Shouldn't a writer read widely, in different tenses, POV's, time periods, genres, etc.? Isn't the experience with each something which possibly can lend itself to whichever style the writer chooses for her own stories?

I understand the average reader has not as much to lose by putting down a present tense story in lieu of the past tense 3rd limited or whatever's hip these days.

But the writer, doesn't she have infinitely more to lose by choosing only one?

In conclusion, why not pick up both? And then study them intensely, highlight, underline, make notes on the page--in short, devour them.

Yes, but after a while people decide what kind of style they prefer to read (and write) more. I'm pretty sure most of us don't care to read something that we despise, at least for pleasure. I'm not saying I DESPISE present tense (lest anyone have gotten that idea), but I don't prefer it. If there was a fantastic story told in present tense I'd read it, but I'm predisposed to not like present tense so it'd be a tougher sell. That's just me. Obviously other people don't care, and some even prefer it. It's always good to stretch one's experience and learn from styles we don't prefer, but when one is reading for pleasure, one gets the chance to be picky. I gave Hemingway a couple of chances before deciding he wasn't for me. I really don't think I'm missing much. *dodges the Hemingway lovers*

I don't think that's SP's point. I think she's commenting on people who say "I hate present tense, and I would not give it a second chance if the first sentence doesn't work for me." To me, that's a bit narrow-minded and not about preference. It's categorically marking "present tense" as bad writing and being very judgmental about it. What if your favorite writer (say, Stephen King, as he actually did) writes in present tense? Would someone automatically says that's shit?

I see lots of posts from people around here and on other writing forums stating that they would drop a story based on the first sentence alone (or at the first appearance of italics, or a prologue, or a flashback, or a "?!", etc.), so I don't see dropping a story based on present tense alone to be any more narrowminded than that. From the looks of it most of us have some sort of dislike which would make us almost automatically stop reading a story, whether it's warranted or not.

Sorry, bad joke. I edited this from "reasons" after a few posts failed to give any. Of course you have a right to your opinion. I started this thread to hear both views.

My apologies, then, for misinterpreting what you said. Best of luck in your choice of style. :)

maestrowork
02-25-2009, 08:47 AM
I see lots of posts from people around here and on other writing forums stating that they would drop a story based on the first sentence alone (or at the first appearance of italics, or a prologue, or a flashback....

Really? Actually I haven't heard anyone saying they would... Bad writing, yes, but dropping the entire book because it has italics or a prologue? I honestly haven't heard anyone who does that. Unless, you equate any of these things (italics, prologue, flashback, present tense, first person) with bad writing....

And I would say the same thing to those people who would stop reading a book if the first sentence is in italics. Yup, I think that's rather narrow-minded.

Autodidact
02-25-2009, 09:03 AM
I guess it just feels contrived. No one actually talks that way except Valley Girls at the mall. It's a story; tell it like one. Actually I don't know why I hate it, but I do. Maybe it's because I can never stop being conscious of it and just enjoy the book?

tehuti88
02-25-2009, 09:09 AM
Really? Actually I haven't heard anyone saying they would... Bad writing, yes, but dropping the entire book because it has italics or a prologue? I honestly haven't heard anyone who does that. Unless, you equate any of these things (italics, prologue, flashback, present tense, first person) with bad writing....

And I would say the same thing to those people who would stop reading a book if the first sentence is in italics. Yup, I think that's rather narrow-minded.

I've unfortunately seen such comments...they always stun me, because I do like to give a story a greater chance than to just reject it outright based on such small things. I'm guessing that the people who do this do equate such things with "bad writing," but that's their call and not mine. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it narrowminded, though.

Death Wizard
02-25-2009, 09:20 AM
Present tense, at least, has its moments: See Rabbit, Run.

However, like always, it boils down to the story, characters, and what's going on between the lines.

maestrowork
02-25-2009, 09:47 AM
I guess it just feels contrived. No one actually talks that way except Valley Girls at the mall. It's a story; tell it like one. Actually I don't know why I hate it, but I do. Maybe it's because I can never stop being conscious of it and just enjoy the book?

I know plenty of people who tell stories in present tense, actually.

So, it just comes down to what you're used to, then? Those who grew up with "once upon a time..." would probably have a hard time with present tense. Those who grow up in the Internet/video game era would probably see it as just another way of telling a compelling story.

backslashbaby
02-25-2009, 11:10 AM
I was thinking of how enjoyable it is to hear a story in real life told in present tense :) I wonder if that's a cultural thing? Around here, I'd say it's self-confident folks who know how to make the story more dramatic/interesting. Not that 3rd is inevitably less so, just that those are the folks who tell stories in present in my experience.

In writing, I just like what interests me, so the story is more important than POV. If I feel like I'm beside you with a glass of wine while you go on in 1st present, that certainly works for me.

Actually, I think that 'we' like 3rd past 'best' out of habit and familiarity with books. But there's nothing wrong with that. Certainly the more omniscient narrator can lend itself to interesting ways of knowing the story that shouldn't be discounted either, IMHO.

dpaterso
02-25-2009, 11:13 AM
However, like always, it boils down to the story, characters, and what's going on between the lines.
Can't argue with that.

Tho' I'd say it also boils down to personal tastes, which we're all entitled to by law.

-Derek

maestrowork
02-25-2009, 05:59 PM
Tho' I'd say it also boils down to personal tastes, which we're all entitled to by law.

That's all fine and good. You can't please everyone anyway.

But there are people who tell others, "Don't write in present tense because people hate it" or "don't write in present tense because that's bad" -- it's like telling others don't write epic fantasy because people hate it.

scarletpeaches
02-25-2009, 07:01 PM
I don't think that's SP's point. I think she's commenting on people who say "I hate present tense, and I would not give it a second chance if the first sentence doesn't work for me." To me, that's a bit narrow-minded and not about preference. It's categorically marking "present tense" as bad writing and being very judgmental about it.

Yes, that was my point exactly.

People who reject a book specifically because it's written in present tense are saying it's bad writing. Sure, they have the right to drop the book if they want, or not buy it, or put it back on the shelf in the library...but they're still making a judgement call based on tense and POV rather than the skill of the writer.

Tense and POV have nothing to do with what the writer does with the language itself. They're more like filters or windows through which we view the story.

You're blaming the story for the perceived faults of the filter. It's like blaming the view for the perceived smear of dirt on the window.

capricornfirehorse
02-25-2009, 08:20 PM
Can someone please explain with exampls what the difference is between when someone talks in the first, second and third person? I get confused.

Cappy

scarletpeaches
02-25-2009, 08:24 PM
First person: I am talking in the first person. This is all about me.

Second person: You are talking in the second person. The story feels like you are telling it.

Third person: She does this, he does that. 'He' and 'She' can also be named. Jared does this, Shannon does that...

*Pudge*
02-25-2009, 08:44 PM
Can someone please explain with exampls what the difference is between when someone talks in the first, second and third person? I get confused.

Cappy

*Whistles and backs out of the room before nevada arrives* ;)

Sorry no input though.

BenPanced
02-25-2009, 08:44 PM
Yes, that was my point exactly.

People who reject a book specifically because it's written in present tense are saying it's bad writing. Sure, they have the right to drop the book if they want, or not buy it, or put it back on the shelf in the library...but they're still making a judgement call based on tense and POV rather than the skill of the writer.

Tense and POV have nothing to do with what the writer does with the language itself. They're more like filters or windows through which we view the story.

You're blaming the story for the perceived faults of the filter. It's like blaming the view for the perceived smear of dirt on the window.
Tell this to the people who don't read science fiction or romance because they don't like the genres. Not reading a book because it's written in first person, present tense is the same thing: it's a personal preference and has nothing to do with the author's skill at storytelling.

scarletpeaches
02-25-2009, 08:45 PM
It's not the same thing at all. Genre has everything to do with the material. Style is to do with how it's presented.

selkn.asrai
02-25-2009, 09:06 PM
I prefer third person-past tense. I like its many uses; I like how much it can convey. And I like how it relays a story; it feels strangely timeless to me, and is in line with oral traditions--stories about times past. But then, I write historical fiction.

First-person, especially in the present tense, feels inflated and too (intentionally) experimental to me, unless done v. well. Present tense always jars me; it's logistically NOT happening right now, and its immediacy exhausts me quickly. Yes, it's cinematic, but not in a good way. Moreover, I tend to dislike first-person because the POV is often too subjective. I can observe characters for 300 pages in third-person, but first-person almost breaks the fourth wall for me. Too personal. Often carries a sort of implied interaction.


First person-present tense is a bad combination for my tastes. Third person-past tense just tells the story better to me. More elegant, less intrusive, more scope.

But no matter the style, if it's done well, it's done well, and I will read it.

blueobsidian
02-25-2009, 11:47 PM
It's not the same thing at all. Genre has everything to do with the material. Style is to do with how it's presented.

So, it's ok to not read a book based on the content but not the way that the content is presented? Could you explain why?

I guess I don't see what the difference is. We all have personal preferences. Just because I don't like thrillers doesn't mean that I am saying they are badly written -- I just don't like them. I'm also not a fan of reading first person books. I'm not saying they are bad. I would just personally rather read something in third person. That POV feels more natural to me.

scarletpeaches
02-25-2009, 11:54 PM
So, it's ok to not read a book based on the content but not the way that the content is presented? Could you explain why?

I did that in the post you quoted. If you didn't understand, then...*shrugs* Your look-out.

blueobsidian
02-26-2009, 12:03 AM
Actually, you just stated that it was true. You said "Genre has everything to do with the material. Style is to do with how it's presented." My question is why do you believe that one personal preference is acceptable and the other is not.

So do you have a suggestion for those of us that don't like a POV? Personally, I read fiction for entertainment. If something isn't entertaining, am I supposed to just keep reading it because it's judgemental to skip it based on POV? That does not sound like a good time.

scarletpeaches
02-26-2009, 12:05 AM
Dude, it's not my responsibility to choose your reading list for you. You state your opinion, I state mine. You don't like what I say, put me on ignore. There's no need to take offence at me disagreeing with you. It's allowed. We're all adults here.

blueobsidian
02-26-2009, 12:06 AM
I'm not taking offense, seriously. I just am trying to understand your point.

scarletpeaches
02-26-2009, 12:09 AM
I thought I'd explained it. Obviously not.

Judge a book by the material, fair enough. The genre, call it what you will. But to pick up a book and go, "First person present, blech," and put it down seems like you could be depriving yourself of a good story. At least give it a few pages. A chapter. Something. Then decide.

Sure, I've tossed books after beginning to read, but only if the story itself bored me. Actually, the book I'm reading now is written in first present, and I've only just noticed.

If the story itself is bland, or the writer has no command of English, then they're fucking up the story for you but lots of novels are very well written in first present.

So, incidentally, is this post.

dpaterso
02-26-2009, 12:11 AM
This thread is taking a breather.

-Derek

KikiteNeko
02-26-2009, 08:52 PM
I like it. I'm a fan of any tense that works for the story and is done well, though. But I usually write in past tense. My last MS had third person past tense, and also third person present tense when it reached the end and became the present.

maestrowork
02-26-2009, 08:59 PM
So do you have a suggestion for those of us that don't like a POV? Personally, I read fiction for entertainment. If something isn't entertaining, am I supposed to just keep reading it because it's judgemental to skip it based on POV? That does not sound like a good time.

I think some of us just find it interesting/baffling that a POV equates to "entertaining" but I also realize personal preferences sometimes can't be rationalized. That said, I think there is a difference between genre (which is content) and POV (which is a technique).

One is like: I don't like kung-fu movies so I avoid them.

The other is like: I don't like voice over so I avoid movies with voice over.



Personally, I just find it interesting because it's like seeing a thread in which people proclaim "I hate fantasy/thriller novels, and I wouldn't give it a chance." It's not like that's ever going to dissuade others to write or read that genre. So nothing is going to stop people from writing first person or present tense either, and those books continue to get published and read. I guess that's the bottom line:

Write what you love. If you write it, they will come.

reeny
02-26-2009, 10:06 PM
I don't really have a preference between first or third point of view, though second is just annoying.

But I really I don't like present tense. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed it at times, but those are times when I didn't even notice that the story was told in present tense. If I notice the present tense, I stop reading.

I think my problem with present tense is that it lacks the retrospective quality that gives the story a more fleshed out feel. Hindsight validates the story, IMHO. We start reading at point "a" to find out how we got to point "b". If you are starting at point "a" without knowing where point "b" is then it feels like the narrator is just floundering around. As a reader, I don't need to know the end in order to enjoy the beginning, but I like my narrator to know that. I want to know that everything that he is telling me is relevant, in some way, to the direction we are heading, but if he is telling me the story in the present tense, then he loses that authority.

That is not to say, that present tense is never appropriate, or that it can't be done well, but I think it is a tool that should be used sparingly. There should be a reason for why the narrator doesn't know where he is going to end up while he is telling you the story. And it should feel natural to the reader. A good tense is one we don't notice.

I think it works in movies, because there is no narrator usually, and if there is it is usually narrated in past tense.

kilana
02-26-2009, 11:56 PM
I try to not be too judgmental about POV but I don't like Second Person or First Person Present Tense unless your writing a Memoir or Autobiography.

maestrowork
02-27-2009, 12:05 AM
I think my problem with present tense is that it lacks the retrospective quality that gives the story a more fleshed out feel.


I think that's why it works well for first person in certain types of stories, in which the narrator has no time to stop and reflect, can't do the "if I had known what I know now" thing, or "look back on something from 30 years out." That's why it's more immediate -- not to say the story happens right at the moment you're reading it, but it does gives that kind of "no time to ponder" feeling.

Plus if you have a story where the narrator actually changes through time -- even his voice and thoughts change from book start to book end, first person really adds to that. You can actually feel and see the narrator changing (the tone of voice, the thought process, the feelings, etc.) instead of having the nagging feeling that "oh, he's a 40-year-old narrating about his past as an 18).



Hindsight validates the story


I am not sure what you mean. Hindsight doesn't validate anything. A "current" story is none the less valid than one that is being told after the fact.


We start reading at point "a" to find out how we got to point "b".


That's only one type of story: How did we get here? But in a present tense story, there's this "we are here now, but where are we going next? No one knows, not even the narrator." That can be very thriller to the readers.

If you are starting at point "a" without knowing where point "b" is then it feels like the narrator is just floundering around.

Exactly, and the readers go along with the ride, feeling the narrator's own frustration and uncertainty. That's why I think it works for a semi-reliable narrator for a certain type of story.


I think it works in movies, because there is no narrator usually, and if there is it is usually narrated in past tense.

And there's no reason why a book can't work that way, even though there's a narrator. The narrator is going through the motion just as the movie is... we, the readers, don't know what will happen just as the narrator (camera in movie terms) don't know what is going to happen next.


BTW, it also works better in the case when the narrator dies at the end. No more "ghost telling the story in retrospect" dilemma. It is what it is -- at the end of the book, he dies.

Dave.C.Robinson
02-27-2009, 01:42 AM
I don't particularly like present tense in fiction.

That's not to say I won't read it, but I read more written in past tense than present. I have been known to put a book down because I've noticed the book is in present, but that's not so much putting it down because it's in present tense but putting it down because I'm paying too much attention to the writing and not enough to what's written. If I'm more concerned about the tense a novel is written in than what's happening to the characters the author has lost me and I'm likely to drop or throw the book. I've discussed this before, but for me present tense brings a sense of artificial immediacy, and more often than not the artifice outweighs the immediacy. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it drives me away. I did vote for 'whatever works' but I should add the fact that I set the bar higher for present tense than past. It requires more skill to write present tense well enough to draw me in as a reader.

Another thing I don't like about present tense is that I find it doesn't do as good a job of dealing with sequencing as past does. When reading a past tense novel I get a feeling of progression, moving closer and closer to the present of the narrator that I don't feel when I'm reading something in present tense.

Having said all that, I reserve my true 'present tense hate' for historical documentaries. I've almost completely stopped watching historical documentaries because I can't stand hearing the narrator discuss things that happened centuries ago in the present tense.

It's a valid technique in fiction, though I would say a minority taste, but it doesn't work in every situation. (In that regard it's no different from any other technique.)

The Lonely One
02-27-2009, 03:28 AM
Directed at no one in particular:

To consciously avoid a certain style of writing is a choice. Not good. Not bad. Just a choice.

To believe a certain style of writing is incapable of moving you despite your differences with it is naivety.

BfloGal
02-27-2009, 03:43 AM
I'm still waiting for a present tense book to win me over.

I have no real preference in what I read or write between first or third (whatever best fits the story), but I cannot seem to embrace present tense. The book I'm reading (or rather started two weeks ago, put down--and left down) certainly hasn't done it. Although the frequent scene changes and unannounced flashbacks were also making me dizzy. I just got the impression the author needs more ritalin.

But until I read a present-tense book that proves to me that present tense was the right choice, I voted for choice C.

ChaosTitan
02-27-2009, 03:47 AM
I'll read a good book, regardless of narrative choice or tense. I've read a lot of first person recently (not out of conscious choice, it just happened that way), and it took me three chapters of Jeanne Stein's "The Becoming" before I realized it was being told in present tense.

dpaterso
02-27-2009, 05:35 AM
So what does the poll tell us? (Split 23/26/15 at time of posting)

15 potential readers/buyers won't buy present tense novels. Nearly 25% market share.

26 potential readers/buyers might or might not purchase present tense novels -- no guarantee. They only said they don't write it, poll choices were limited.

Do the 23 writers who write in present tense also buy present tense novels? (I won't add "in preference to past tense novels" although I'm tempted.)

Might be interesting if everyone listed the last 10 novels they bought, including tense/POV.

-Derek

indiriverflow
02-27-2009, 05:50 AM
So what does the poll tell us? (Split 23/26/15 at time of posting)

15 potential readers/buyers won't buy present tense novels. Nearly 25% market share.

26 potential readers/buyers might or might not purchase present tense novels -- no guarantee. They only said they don't write it, poll choices were limited.

Do the 23 writers who write in present tense also buy present tense novels? (I won't add "in preference to past tense novels" although I'm tempted.)

Might be interesting if everyone listed the last 10 novels they bought, including tense/POV.

-Derek

Well, as the original creator of the poll, I have to say there are a few problems with it.

One is the range of choices. Kind of tossed on. There are grades of preference a real poll would cover.

Another is the sample. Polling writers is not the same as polling readers. Writers, especially members here, have strong views on such things. The average reader probably doesn't notice unless it is mishandled.

Finally, asking this question is not the same as having people actually read and compare samples. For science, we'd need a blind study where readers compare the same scene written in each tense/POV, without knowing what they are looking for.

I do think that we have a split based on the way we relate to conventions of fiction, and how comfortable we are in deviating from them.

Dave.C.Robinson
02-27-2009, 06:21 AM
I just checked about 20 recent purchases - only one is in present tense.

The Lonely One
02-27-2009, 07:01 AM
It'd be interesting to see how many non-writing readers know the differences of POVs and tenses.

BTW I voted "use it" so there goes my objectiveness out the window :)

maestrowork
02-27-2009, 08:12 AM
I can think of four recent books I read/bought that are first person, present tense (not counting my own, of course :) ):

Lottery
House of Sand and Fog
Fight Club
The Time Traveler's Wife


Didn't hurt their sales.... In fact, I can't think of Fight Club being written in anything other than 1st/present. It's that kind of books. Same with TTTW because of the nature of time traveling... you (as well as the character) don't really know what is going on...

But this is silly. No one ever claimed that 1st/present is the norm. In fact, we already acknowledged that most novels are probably written in 3rd/past tense. But that has nothing to do with whether one should or should not write or read 1st/present, and the fact that these books (including my own) are published and become best-sellers all the time only mean this POV/tense is not a problem. Or that it's inherently bad.

In fact, I would say that omniscient is even rarer -- in my collection, I can only remember one (Atonement) that is written in omniscient. Does that mean we shouldn't write in omniscient? Doesn't seem to stop many writers from doing it.

reeny
02-28-2009, 05:58 AM
I am not sure what you mean. Hindsight doesn't validate anything. A "current" story is none the less valid than one that is being told after the fact.


I think it has more to do with the details of the story. If the narrator in a past tense story tells me something they overhear, or see I know that it has some relevance in events to come. If it happens in a present tense story, I just don't buy that little details would have that much significance. I know that the author knows it has significance, but the narrator is the one I need to believe.

How would they know to mention the brand new unlit candle if they don't know that later on it will be melted down to a knub. To me Hindsight is what lets me know that what they are telling me is relevant. In present tense stories I tend to think, "why are you telling me this?"

In movies we see what we see, and miss what we miss, no one is telling us that this is what we should be noticing.

maestrowork
02-28-2009, 07:34 AM
How would they know to mention the brand new unlit candle if they don't know that later on it will be melted down to a knub. To me Hindsight is what lets me know that what they are telling me is relevant. In present tense stories I tend to think, "why are you telling me this?"

To me, that has to do with execution -- foreshadowing doesn't really work very well in this case.

Like I said, it fits a certain kind of story, one that is on the go and keeps moving. It's all in the execution. You can't plant stuff like that when there's no such thing as hindsight. So, when writing in first/present, you can't treat it as 3rd/past. Just as you can't write 3rd limited the way you write omniscient. But that doesn't mean one is inherently better than the other, or more valid.

Why is the narrator telling you about the unlit candle? Because that's what he notices, and it may be out of place. Maybe there's no significance afterwards, or maybe there is. But it's not about planting seeds, etc.

I mean, how is it different than past tense? Hindsight sure is 20/20, but does that mean the narrator actually "remembered" the unlit candle sitting in the living room 2 months ago? To me, it's false sense of validity. Because someone is telling the story in past tense and he plants the unlit candle, that makes it more valid, than he simply notices the unlit candle at the moment?

The bottom line is this: when writing a story in 1st person/present tense, you can't simply change translate past tense to present tense. They require different techniques and mindset -- one that is more "in the moment." (It's not to say, that present tense means it's "happening now," though -- the device just gives you the closest relationship with the narrator.

And not all stories can do well with 1st/present just as not all stories call for omniscient. That's probably why sometimes you read a novel done with these devices -- and they seem off. And that's why everyone writer should choose his or her literary devices diligently (POV, tense, etc.), and once you choose it, you have to abide by the conventions to make it work.

blade
02-28-2009, 06:34 PM
Hello, newbie here, it's my first post so please be gentle with me. The reason i joined this forum was to try and find out about first person past, second person present, ect. I had no idea and just reading this thread has helped me a lot.
I won't bore you with all the details but i'm writing my second book at the moment. The first one i published myself last year and i've sold close on 1000 copies. It's about growing up in the 60s in England, the music, fashion, youth cultures ect but the central theme focuses on Football hooliganisim, in which i was heavily involved. I know the subject is taboo and not to everyones taste.
Im 57 years old and i've never written anything before. My grammar and spelling is very bad but i'm learning all the time.
Could i just ask a question, is it allright to mix the styles? as my new book( a follow up about the 70s) is a series of stories about that era, you know, some written in the first person past, some in the second person present. Is that O.K?
Thanks for your time.

seun
02-28-2009, 06:40 PM
Could i just ask a question, is it allright to mix the styles? as my new book( a follow up about the 70s) is a series of stories about that era, you know, some written in the first person past, some in the second person present. Is that O.K?


Welcome :D

There's nothing automatically wrong with it. But saying that, it can be difficult if it's new for a writer. Even established writers can and do cock this sort of thing up. I'd advise you to tread carefully and maybe stick with one tense for now.

blade
02-28-2009, 06:45 PM
Welcome :D

There's nothing automatically wrong with it. But saying that, it can be difficult if it's new for a writer. Even established writers can and do cock this sort of thing up. I'd advise you to tread carefully and maybe stick with one tense for now.

Thank you.

indiriverflow
02-28-2009, 07:08 PM
Hello, newbie here, it's my first post so please be gentle with me. The reason i joined this forum was to try and find out about first person past, second person present, ect. I had no idea and just reading this thread has helped me a lot.
I won't bore you with all the details but i'm writing my second book at the moment. The first one i published myself last year and i've sold close on 1000 copies. It's about growing up in the 60s in England, the music, fashion, youth cultures ect but the central theme focuses on Football hooliganisim, in which i was heavily involved. I know the subject is taboo and not to everyones taste.
Im 57 years old and i've never written anything before. My grammar and spelling is very bad but i'm learning all the time.
Could i just ask a question, is it allright to mix the styles? as my new book( a follow up about the 70s) is a series of stories about that era, you know, some written in the first person past, some in the second person present. Is that O.K?
Thanks for your time.

Welcome to the forum blade, glad to see you here.

Here's the issue with POV...it creates serious technical issues to mix-and-match. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but the more complex the POV issues, the harder it can be to manage the story.

Another problem I found using multiple POV is that it makes the book almost impossible to query. The synopsis becomes so complex trying to explain these oddities that the story can get lost.

As for second-person, this is not generally in use except in choose-your-own adventure, unless you mean correspondance, like letters written to other characters. I could be wrong, but you might be a little mixed up about which is which. Rather than risk this, I will lay it out in my own way.

Here's how it goes:

First: I
Second: You
Third: He/She

You may use present or past tense, but mixing them is dangerous. If you do so, there should be a good reason for it, because it might be a lot of work to get it to hang together.

The commonest is third-person limited, past-tense. Here is where the narrator fixes on a main character. There is also the omniscient point of view. This brings another set of challenges.

POV is basic to the structure of your story. I use first-person because my stories are about changes in perception.

Your story sounds like a fictional memoir, so I'd consider first-past to be the best choice there. Since you are describing things which may or may not have happened to you, this will make the writing more natural.

BTW, 1000 books is pretty good for self-publishing, better than I did.
How did you self-publish?

blade
02-28-2009, 07:49 PM
God what happened there!

blade
02-28-2009, 07:57 PM
Sorry indiriverflow, i posted a reply but deleted it by mistake.
I've got to go out now but i'll post tomorrow.
Thanks for your help and advice.

blade
03-01-2009, 02:20 PM
Yeah i think i am a little confused, i don't even know what POV means.
If i could give you a short example.
'We plottered up in a sea-front boozer in Great Yarmouth called The Ship Inn and the evenings lunacy began' or
'We plott up in a sea-front boozer in Great Yarmouth called The Ship Inn and the evenings lunacy begins'.
The first one's saying we were there, the second one's saying we are there.
The story is set in the past(the 70s) so which one is right?
The book is not a fictional memoir it's all true, some of it a bit too true.
As for self publishing, i just took the ms in microsoft word format to a local printer. A friend designed the front and back cover. I had 500 copies done costing 2000. After a local radio interveiw and a write up in the local paper i sold out (at 10 a copy) in two months, including over 100 at the book launch.
I had another 500 printed which they did a bit cheaper 1,500 and i've sold around 440. Over 200 at the HMV store in Sheffield where i live. I get 4. 25p a copy from HMV.
Once again thank you for help and advice.

dpaterso
03-01-2009, 05:14 PM
Yeah i think i am a little confused, i don't even know what POV means.
If i could give you a short example.
'We plottered up in a sea-front boozer in Great Yarmouth called The Ship Inn and the evenings lunacy began' or
'We plott up in a sea-front boozer in Great Yarmouth called The Ship Inn and the evenings lunacy begins'.
The first one's saying we were there, the second one's saying we are there.
The story is set in the past(the 70s) so which one is right?
It's not a question of which one is right.

It's a question of what tense you want to write in.

Even if the story takes place in the '70s, or last year, or last week, you can still use present tense since the account is assumed to be written or otherwise recorded as it happens. It doesn't matter that the reader reads it 30 or 40 years later.

Your self-publishing tale, while interesting, doesn't really belong here. Possibly Announcements, Events, and Self-Promotion (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=34) or POD Self-Publishing and E-Publishing (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) would be a better fit, check these forums out.

-Derek

maestrowork
03-01-2009, 07:27 PM
Tense (in the over all sense) does not indicate WHEN the story happens. Just because it's the 70s doesn't mean it HAS to be in past tense. And just because it's in present tense doesn't mean it is happening this very moment in front of our eyes. Otherwise, everything should be written in past tense since nothing happens in real time, especially when the readers read it 100 years later.

The purpose of these devices (POV, tenses) is to give the book the feel and intimacy. First person is more intimate than 3rd. Present tense feels more urgent and immediate than past. First person/present tense, thus, is the most intimate of all. That's why when you choose these devices, you need to match it with your story. You can write it any way you want, but you have to do it well. You have to know the rules to break them. Many writers are not familiar with POV, for example, and their works suffer because of that. Same with tenses. For example, if you choose to tell your story in first/present, then you've decided to be very intimate with your readers -- there's no other way. You can't try to keep a narrative distance once you start writing in first/present, and it's not as easy to switch back to 3rd/past because the feel is different.

reeny
03-02-2009, 06:53 AM
To me, that has to do with execution -- foreshadowing doesn't really work very well in this case.

Like I said, it fits a certain kind of story, one that is on the go and keeps moving. It's all in the execution. You can't plant stuff like that when there's no such thing as hindsight. So, when writing in first/present, you can't treat it as 3rd/past. Just as you can't write 3rd limited the way you write omniscient. But that doesn't mean one is inherently better than the other, or more valid.

Why is the narrator telling you about the unlit candle? Because that's what he notices, and it may be out of place. Maybe there's no significance afterwards, or maybe there is. But it's not about planting seeds, etc.

I mean, how is it different than past tense? Hindsight sure is 20/20, but does that mean the narrator actually "remembered" the unlit candle sitting in the living room 2 months ago? To me, it's false sense of validity. Because someone is telling the story in past tense and he plants the unlit candle, that makes it more valid, than he simply notices the unlit candle at the moment?

The bottom line is this: when writing a story in 1st person/present tense, you can't simply change translate past tense to present tense. They require different techniques and mindset -- one that is more "in the moment." (It's not to say, that present tense means it's "happening now," though -- the device just gives you the closest relationship with the narrator.

And not all stories can do well with 1st/present just as not all stories call for omniscient. That's probably why sometimes you read a novel done with these devices -- and they seem off. And that's why everyone writer should choose his or her literary devices diligently (POV, tense, etc.), and once you choose it, you have to abide by the conventions to make it work.

I absolutely agree with you.

I never meant that one style is more valid than the other, just that I find it easier for me to trust that the narrator is telling me what i need to know and not just cluttering it up with random observation, when he already knows where the story is going. However, after posting to this thread I read an excerpt of a Faukner short story in "The Making of a Story" and I didn't realize it was in present tense until I took a second look. I asked myself why this piece felt so natural in present tense, where as most of the present tense stuff I have been reading lately (and I will admit most of that is unpublished YA stories that I have been critiquing, so they certainly lack any sort of polished feel). This just happened to be was one of those stories that worked so much better in present tense then it would have in past tense, and when I reread it, now fully aware of the tense, I still enjoyed it. It wouldn't have worked written any other way.

So I take back what I said before. I guess that I only find the tense jarring when it isn't written perfectly. It has to be the right story for the tense, and it needs to be done well. And, I think there are very few writers who can pull it off. Present tense makes me notice sloppy writing, and sloppy writing makes me notice the tense. I assumed that it was the tense that was the problem, when in fact it was the writing--or perhaps just the wrong tense for the story.

I am really tired right now, so I apologize if I am rambling.

blade
03-02-2009, 04:00 PM
Thanks again
I'm starting to understand it a bit better now.
dpaterso, the self publishing tale was an answer to a question put by indiriverflow, i didn't know it was on the wrong forum.

James81
03-02-2009, 05:44 PM
First person, present tense, is the most effective way to infuse feeling and emotion into your writing. It's the reason why so many memoirs employ it.

Dave.C.Robinson
03-02-2009, 06:49 PM
First person, present tense, is the most effective way to infuse feeling and emotion into your writing. It's the reason why so many memoirs employ it.

I would say it's the most effective way for some writers to infuse feeling and emotion into their writing, rather than universally the best, though I will agree it can be one of its strengths.

I should also say that I don't think I've ever read a memoir written in first present, though I haven't read many memoirs in the last twenty years or so and it may have become more popular. I know it's a combination that I would probably find off-putting.

laywriter
03-02-2009, 07:28 PM
Here's a newbie question for you: I'm working on a novel where the prolog and epilog would be perfect in first person/present tense, but the actual story works best in past tense. Would this be acceptable? Or do I need to stick with FP/PT for the entire book?

scarletpeaches
03-02-2009, 07:29 PM
I would say it's the most effective way for some writers to infuse feeling and emotion into their writing, rather than universally the best, though I will agree it can be one of its strengths.

I should also say that I don't think I've ever read a memoir written in first present, though I haven't read many memoirs in the last twenty years or so and it may have become more popular. I know it's a combination that I would probably find off-putting.

All the misery memoirs I've read (and I admit I'm getting tired of the glut in the market now) have been in first past.

maestrowork
03-02-2009, 07:31 PM
Here's a newbie question for you: I'm working on a novel where the prolog and epilog would be perfect in first person/present tense, but the actual story works best in past tense. Would this be acceptable? Or do I need to stick with FP/PT for the entire book?

Prologue/epilogue are generally separate from your main story, so that's fine. You can do your main story in 2nd future tense if you want, and it wouldn't matter with the P/E.

scarletpeaches
03-02-2009, 07:32 PM
Quick example of second future:

"Ray. You will surrender to me. You will give in to your cravings, though you know you shouldn't."

maestrowork
03-02-2009, 07:37 PM
I should also say that I don't think I've ever read a memoir written in first present, though I haven't read many memoirs in the last twenty years or so and it may have become more popular. I know it's a combination that I would probably find off-putting.

Just as you said about "universality," we should acknowledge that this is very much just personal preferences, and to those who are thinking of doing first/present, it's important to understand that it is not universally off-putting.

All the misery memoirs I've read (and I admit I'm getting tired of the glut in the market now) have been in first past.

Most of the memoirs I have read have been in first/past as well. Although I can see how it could work in first/present, although it would create a weird discrepancy since we know the narrator (in present tense) is not the same as the person now (since it is a memoir). I think the same conventions apply... To me, if the narrator is "remembering the past" but tell the story in present tense, it doesn't really work. The narrator in first/present needs to be "in the moment" for it to work.

maestrowork
03-02-2009, 07:38 PM
Quick example of second future:

"Ray. You will surrender to me. You will give in to your cravings, though you know you shouldn't."

That sounds more like a demand.

indiriverflow
03-02-2009, 07:44 PM
That sounds more like a demand.

Or a very confident prediction...

scarletpeaches
03-02-2009, 07:45 PM
That sounds more like a demand.

Or a very confident prediction...

A girl can dream.

James81
03-02-2009, 08:01 PM
Most of the memoirs I have read have been in first/past as well. Although I can see how it could work in first/present, although it would create a weird discrepancy since we know the narrator (in present tense) is not the same as the person now (since it is a memoir). I think the same conventions apply... To me, if the narrator is "remembering the past" but tell the story in present tense, it doesn't really work. The narrator in first/present needs to be "in the moment" for it to work.

I'm going to get the bejesus beat out of me for offering this up as an example, but I'll do it anyway because, when it people THOUGHT it was a completely true memoir, it was very successful and people loved it.

James Frey's A Million Little Pieces employs first person, present tense and it worked really well.

I think the present tense aspect adds a sense of tension that can't quite be captured with past tense. Past tense puts you in the mode that this is the past...it's over and been dealt with. Present tense adds more tension because you as the reader are getting a sense that this (even though it's already happened in the past) is playing out right before you and you don't know how it's going to end.

I know you can get the same thing from past tense, but to me it doesn't seem as "urgent" in past tense as it does in present tense.

If that makes any sense.

BTW, I know people hate James Frey's guts, think he's a fraud and all that jazz. No need to go down that road again. I just wanted to offer an example of a book that met with massive success (it WAS his first book after all, and it was a bestseller at the time it came out).

blade
03-02-2009, 08:58 PM
I think i'm starting to get the idea now.
If i could give you another short example.



Downstairs my mum, dressed in a brightly coloured pinafore, Parky rough in hand, sits in her comfy chair in front of the telly soaking her corns in a bowl of warm water.
"See ya later Ma" I shouted as I ran up the path to the cherry red Vauxall SL parked outside.
So should the last sentence be?
"See ya later Ma" I shout as I run up the path to the cherry red Vauxall SL parked outside.

Toothpaste
03-02-2009, 09:11 PM
Yes. You got it! :)

maestrowork
03-02-2009, 09:43 PM
"See ya later, Ma," I shout as I run up the path to the cherry red Vauxall SL parked outside.

You missed two commas. But yes, since the first sentence is present tense (she sits in her comfy chair." "Shout" and "run" are both present tense. It doesn't matter if you use present or past, but you shouldn't mix tenses unless it's appropriate:


She sits in her comfy chair.

Two hours ago, she sat in the same chair, and I shouted at her.

blade
03-02-2009, 10:04 PM
You missed two commas. But yes, since the first sentence is present tense (she sits in her comfy chair." "Shout" and "run" are both present tense. It doesn't matter if you use present or past, but you shouldn't mix tenses unless it's appropriate:


She sits in her comfy chair.

Two hours ago, she sat in the same chair, and I shouted at her.

Thanks very much.
So since my book is a series of stories, i could write some using past or present tense but not mix the two in the same story?
Sorry about the commas but as i said in my first post my grammar is really bad. I should have gone to school a bit more often than i did.
Thanks once again for your help.

Dave.C.Robinson
03-02-2009, 11:25 PM
Thanks very much.
So since my book is a series of stories, i could write some using past or present tense but not mix the two in the same story?
Sorry about the commas but as i said in my first post my grammar is really bad. I should have gone to school a bit more often than i did.
Thanks once again for your help.

Each story should be written in whatever tense works best for that story. It's not usually a good idea to mix tenses in a single story, but it can be done though you would be better off holding to a single tense for a given scene.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 02:29 AM
You shouldn't mix tenses in any story when things happen in the same time plane! :) Like I pointed out, the only time when past tense is used in an otherwise-present tense story is when the event described is clearly in the past of the current time line ("too hours ago...").

KTC
03-03-2009, 02:32 AM
James Frey's A Million Little Pieces employs first person, present tense and it worked really well.


That book is not fit to wipe my ass. (I only hate this book because of the horrendous writing found within its covers.)





Q & A by Vikas Swarup (now renamed Slumdog Millionaire) is a great example of first person present tense at its best.

The Lonely One
03-03-2009, 03:08 AM
That book is not fit to wipe my ass. (I only hate this book because of the horrendous writing found within its covers.)





Q & A by Vikas Swarup (now renamed Slumdog Millionaire) is a great example of first person present tense at its best.

Respectfully disagree about the first part.

Slumdog Millionaire was one of the best movies I've seen in a while. It has interested me in picking up Q & A.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 03:11 AM
Didn't know Q&A was written in first/present. I guess I need to check that out. The movie was great.

KTC
03-03-2009, 03:41 AM
The book is completely different than the movie, but AS enjoyable.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 03:42 AM
The book is completely different than the movie, but AS enjoyable.

so they changed everything? or at least the characters are the same?

James81
03-03-2009, 03:47 AM
That book is not fit to wipe my ass. (I only hate this book because of the horrendous writing found within its covers.)


lol I figured that was coming from somewhere.

KTC
03-03-2009, 04:27 AM
lol I figured that was coming from somewhere.

I did parenthesis that his scandal had nothing to do with my admonishment of the book. He can't write. Each sentence was worse than the one before it. It will forever be my example of publishing gone bad. The man is the shits when it comes to writing (or at least he was for that book). Horrendous crap.

KTC
03-03-2009, 04:29 AM
so they changed everything? or at least the characters are the same?

I am only about 100 pages in actually...I grabbed it on the weekend after I watched the movie. I love it...but it is extremely different than the movie. My wife read the whole book this weekend...she says that it's different throughout. I just know that the first 100 pages are only a bit similar to the movie.

James81
03-03-2009, 04:30 AM
I did parenthesis that his scandal had nothing to do with my admonishment of the book. He can't write. Each sentence was worse than the one before it. It will forever be my example of publishing gone bad. The man is the shits when it comes to writing (or at least he was for that book). Horrendous crap.

I know, and you are entitled to your opinion and all that jazz.

But like 3.5 million people disagree with you.

KTC
03-03-2009, 04:44 AM
Well, I have to question their ability to read.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 07:47 AM
But like 3.5 million people disagree with you.

3.5M bought it because of Oprah. Plus I won't equate "popular" with "quality." After all, Big Brother was watched by millions on TV. Or Stephanie Meyer (even Stephen King said she couldn't write worth a damn).

James81
03-03-2009, 08:59 AM
3.5M bought it because of Oprah. Plus I won't equate "popular" with "quality." After all, Big Brother was watched by millions on TV. Or Stephanie Meyer (even Stephen King said she couldn't write worth a damn).

Heh, well I can't speak for 3.5 million people, but I can speak for myself when I say I didn't buy it because of Oprah (please *rollseyes*), and I consider his writing to be some of the best I've seen.

In a technical sense, yes, he breaks a lot of grammatical rules. But that's the whole point. It's the blunt force raw honesty that's attractive. He doesn't write flowery sentences to try and woo his readers, and to me that's a huge plus.

But in my head writing is more than just about "rules." Sure you should follow the rules, but if you know how to break them and still evoke a reaction from your readers, then your writing is effective.

Like I said, though, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It just cracks me up that people come down on him so strongly and criticize him so harshly when, aside from his fiasco, he was pretty damn successful (and still IS successful DESPITE the smoking gun shit).

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 09:01 AM
If he breaks rules (including grammar), then I don't think his work would be a good example here since we ARE talking about rules.

James81
03-03-2009, 09:08 AM
We're talking about what makes for good writing.

Sometimes the "rules" can really tie a work down if you let yourself get caught up in the technicalities.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 09:31 AM
We're talking about what makes for good writing.

Sometimes the "rules" can really tie a work down if you let yourself get caught up in the technicalities.

Grammar is there for a reason. We're not talking about some arbitrary rules like "don't start your sentence with a conjunction." You can commend him for being raw and powerful and barebone, etc. But you can't say "oh he breaks many grammar rules but he's a great writer." And I think as much as we think it's a personal preference that you like his writing, you need to respect those of us who take grammar seriously, and thus believe he is not a good writer because of that.

Arguing about it is like arguing about why you like peanut butter ice cream. Yes, we get it, you love Frey's writing. But many don't and you can't presume to know that all 3.5 million who read his book liked it either. Well, KTC read it. He didn't like it.

The Lonely One
03-03-2009, 10:35 AM
Not an Oprah fan. Am a Frey fan. Agree to disagree I suppose; why I usually don't argue politics or music/books/art with people. Hard to change one's mind including your own on personal preference (if not impossible). Same might be said of this first/present business. As much as I would like to wine that dismissing tense is being overly sensitive and unfair to a piece of writing, there's really not a lot of sense in it. The people I'm addressing feel the way they do. Period. At least, that's how I feel about it.

P.S. Maestrowork-what is with that bad-assed avatar? You look like you're about to lay the smack down on someone! :)

P.S.S. I loved Beloved before Oprah pretended she had an acting career.

KTC
03-03-2009, 02:48 PM
Addendum to the Q & A discussion: some of it is not in present tense. It's mixed tenses.

scarletpeaches
03-03-2009, 04:41 PM
P.S. Maestrowork-what is with that bad-assed avatar? You look like you're about to lay the smack down on someone! :)

I prefer the one he had yesterday. I knew I should have screenshotted it.

James81
03-03-2009, 05:22 PM
But you can't say "oh he breaks many grammar rules but he's a great writer."

Sure I can. And that's because there is more to great writing than grammar rules. Grammar is like 20% of what makes a writer (or writing) great. Most of what makes writing great can't be taught in a grammar class.

And I think as much as we think it's a personal preference that you like his writing, you need to respect those of us who take grammar seriously, and thus believe he is not a good writer because of that.



I do respect those of you who take grammar seriously. In the same vein, those of you who make comments like "I question their ability to read" should offer the same respect back.

I'm not really defending Frey's writing so much as I am defending my ability to say he's a great writer without being labeled as stupid.

tomber
03-03-2009, 06:54 PM
I've seen it done very beautifully. I think it works best with a very strong narrative voice, but when one is in place, it sounds genuinely conversational. (After all, when we tell stories to our friends, we might say, "I was in front of the store when I heard a shout" -- but we are perhaps equally likely to say, "So I'm standing in front of the store and I hear somebody shouting.")



Right.

Further: if it's in first and it's not a "disembodied narrator," then based on decades of listening to people speak, tense shifts happen all the time.

"So I'm standing if front of the store and I hear somebody shouting. Peterson. Can't stand that guy. I ignored him and walked off. Later, I'm at the coffee shop and who should walk in? Right. Peterson. He offered to buy me a cup. I told him where to stick it."

Proper? Hell no. If this sort of thing happened in a 3rd person voice, one would be justified in tearing the author to shreds.

But to my ears, it's an accurate representation of how certain types of characters speak. Anything more formally correct would strike me as too written, too polished, too distanced from plausibility.