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Thread: Present tense?

  1. #1
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Present tense?

    Is it just me, or has present tense (especially in first person) become far more common in the past few years? I hardly remember seeing it at all before the millenium - everything seemed to be past tense. In particular, virtually all the YA stuff I see on SYW seems to be in first person present.

    Is it just that I've started noticing it more since I started writing more, or has it become a more popular form?

    (I don't want this to turn into some "present sucks!" or "past tense sucks!" debate, more interested in whether it's more prevalent).
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  2. #2
    "School? Mum, no!" Fallen's Avatar
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    I know with me it's simply down to noticing it more since writing. Be interesting to hear people's perspectives who've been at this decades....

    *and whispers* there's no bad tenses, just writers who have difficulty executing them effectively.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW
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    There's definitely more first person around. That may apply to present tense, too, but I notice that less.

  4. #4
    Angel Wing Fetish VoireyLinger's Avatar
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    I see it more online. I haven't seen any coming from publishers.

  5. #5
    banned as an incurable tosspot
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    Some writers seem to think it makes their writing sound more literary. It doesn't.

  6. #6
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    I don't know if it's become more prevalent, or if people are just talking about it more. Present tense has always been around, and like any other tool in the Writer's Toolbox, it needs to be used well and used because it works for your story. I read a book this weekend and got all the way to the last chapter before it occurred to me that it was written in present tense. The best books make you *not* notice the mechanics at all, but rather fall into the story.
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  7. #7
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    I think it's more prevalent than it used to be, particularly in YA. Used to be you found it mostly in literary fiction.

    I find myself hoping this doesn't spread to other genres, because I have a hard time reading whole novels in present tense. It drives me buggy.

  8. #8
    is Envy Augustine amrose's Avatar
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    I've been noticing present tense more, but I don't know if it's more prevalent or if I wasn't paying attention.

    I'm experimenting with tense right now and trying first person. Doing it because anything other than 3rd person past was anathema to me. Figured I should at least try different ways of writing before I kick them to the curb.

    I've found I enjoy writing 1st person present and 3rd person past. 3rd person present is...weird. Don't care for it.
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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    I've read present tense, including first person present tense, more in short stories lately, but I don't really like it. The writing always feels stifled to me.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW
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    I remember writing a short story in first person, present tense, and not really realising until I was editing that it was in present tense. I guess that's just what the story wanted to be written in!

  11. #11
    Moon Safari owlish's Avatar
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    I've noticed it in YA for sure, just within the past few years. Not sure if it has anything to do with it, but perhaps the success of The Hunger Games has urged publishers to give present tense a chance in the YA market? When I read the first book in early 2009, I suddenly started noticing it in other YA books I'd pick up at the local Barnes and Noble soon after. Then again, it might have been one of those, "once you own that make of car, you start seeing them everywhere" syndrome, where there's not more of them, per se. You're just more aware of their presence.

    Personally, I love present tense (though I seem to be in the minority, here). The novel I'm currently writing is in first person present tense; after four years or struggling to tell the story in third person past, then first person past, I finally tried it in first person present as an exercise and it seems to flow a lot better this way. We'll see if that still holds water as I finish it and try to shop it to agents, though.


  12. #12
    stuck in the middle Dagrami's Avatar
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    I really don't mind it. Similarly to owlish - I only really started to notice it since The Hunger Games... Not sure if it became a bigger thing in ya after that blew up.

    The novel I'm currently writing is first person present. I knew it had to be first person, and for some reason first past really didn't work at all. I think first pres flows better than first past, may just be me though.

  13. #13
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    I remember writing a short story in first person, present tense, and not really realising until I was editing that it was in present tense. I guess that's just what the story wanted to be written in!
    That is very interesting, and shows how we can sometimes get lost in what we are writing.

    I tried once or twice to write in first person present tense and it felt off to me. I think it would take some practice.
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  14. #14
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    As near as I can tell, the percentages really haven't changed much in more than a hundred years. Third person limited and first person have always been extremely popular, and present tense has been running along at about the same rate since Dickens.

    But I wouldn't go by what you see on SYW. One hit comes out in a given tense, and thirty-seven million new writers start writing stories in that tense.

  15. #15
    50% Dark, 50% Snark Nick Rolynd's Avatar
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    Hm, I've definitely noticed it popping up a bit more recently (and it probably has a lot to do with a few present-tense bestsellers, The Hunger Games being one). Not that I mind; tense isn't something that turns me off a story. It's style that tips the balance for me.

    In fact, as I write in the present tense, I'd like to see the trend continue. Past has been the "standard" for a long, long time, and while there's nothing (at all) wrong with it, I'd like to see writing as a whole become as diverse as possible. More options for everyone.
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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VoireyLinger View Post
    I see it more online. I haven't seen any coming from publishers.
    This.

    I see it a rarely (but a lot) in the SYW section, and I'm testy about it. It has to be done very well to not antagonize me.

    But from trade published works? It's been a very long time since I've read one.
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  17. #17
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosTitan View Post
    ... like any other tool in the Writer's Toolbox, it needs to be used well and used because it works for your story... The best books make you *not* notice the mechanics at all, but rather fall into the story.
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  18. #18
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  19. #19
    Why so serious? writeontime's Avatar
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    I've noticed it recently too - I don't think the present tense or, for that matter, the first person have gone out of fashion only to return in recent years.

    I actually don't mind the use of the present tense. As always, it depends on how the author uses it within the narrative, and whether its appropriately used within the context of the story.
    Last edited by writeontime; 11-22-2012 at 06:26 PM. Reason: typos
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  20. #20
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    I think it's trendy right now because people think it adds an immediacy to the story. I've seen books in urban fantasy, thriller, literary fiction, plus some short stories that have been in present tense. Some have worked better than others. It's a tough tense to carry off well. I recently used it in a non-fiction piece I did for a war anthology.
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  21. #21
    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    I don't think it's super-unusual. I've read a few novels over the last couple of months in present tense, though it does seem more common in short stories.

    The writing always feels stifled to me.
    people think it adds an immediacy to the story
    It seems that way, yet when I read present tense, it actually seems to distance and detach me from things a bit.
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  22. #22
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    I've noticed present tense is popping up more. Personally, I don't like reading or writing in it as it seems a bit...off. I guess it comes down to everyone's preference though.
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  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW victoriakmartin's Avatar
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    I keep finding myself slipping into present tense without realizing it, especially with first person. Generally when it happens I try and just go with it, as long as I'm staying consistent. I know a lot of people don't like present tense but I do think it can be effective in certain situations.
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  24. #24
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    First person has become so badly written, seeing it is usually a deal-breaker for me when deciding whether to purchase a book, even if it's past tense. It seems a lot of authors decide to write in first without giving consideration to the POV their story demands simply because first is the most comfortable for them to write. Their comfort with it does NOT mean they know how to write the POV and most don't. I can count the number of authors indie and traditionally published, including best-sellers, on one hand who can.

    First person present tense is a definite deal-breaker.

    Third person present tense makes me want to find the author and kick them in the groin.

    HARD.
    Last edited by Calasade; 07-23-2014 at 08:41 PM.

  25. #25
    Geturšu gert žaš? Geršu žaš. NRoach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calasade View Post
    First person has become so badly written, seeing it is usually a deal-breaker for me when deciding whether to purchase a book, even if it's past tense. It seems a lot of authors decide to write in first without giving consideration to the POV their story demands simply because first is the most comfortable for them to write. Their comfort with it does NOT mean they know how to write the POV and most don't. I can count the number of authors indie and traditionally published, including best-sellers, on one hand who can.

    First person present tense is a definite deal-breaker.

    Third person present tense makes me want to find the author and kick them in the groin.

    HARD.
    If it's any consolation, I'd rather take the kick to the groin than stop writing third person present.
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