Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Write/Wrote/Will Have Written Your Point of View

Things are about to get a little tense up in here.

First person, third, or even second? Present, past, or... hey, wait, has anybody ever written a book in future tense? Serious question, people. I've never seen this before. Could be interesting: "I will leave the house today. Then I will go into the woods. I will be attacked by a bear, but the bear won't be a match for my mighty fists of fury. Then I will tame the bear and ride it into the sunset." Okay, could also be very annoying.

There's a lot of debate over what the "best" tense to use is. For a long time third person past was overwhelmingly popular, but recently there's been a surge of popularity in not only first person, but first person present. I think The Hunger Games really solidified first person present's place in current lit. Interestingly, though, there isn't a ton of third person present out there and I've noticed that when it is used, it tends to be in literary rather than genre fiction (House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus, Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien).

Only rarely do you see second person used, which makes sense - it reads as unusual to us, and it attempts to actually put us in the story, which can either be very effective or give the rhetorical question effect. "Have you ever wondered what it would be like..." "NO!"

It's quite common to have people really love one or the other. I've heard a lot of people say things like, "I won't read anything in present tense," or, "I only read books written in third person". I wonder if this is a function of familiarity, or if there's something about those styles in particular that appeals to people? Maybe some readers like the action-packed immediacy of first person present, while others prefer the distance of third person.

Right now I'm writing a romance novella in third person present. And I really, really love it, though I'm not entirely sure how cool people will be with that format. Time will tell!

Talk to me - what's your opinion on this tense subject? Do you love first person? Hate second person? Can't stand the present? Let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I usually stick with 3rd person past tense, though I've been known to dip my toe into the waters of both 1st person past and 1st person present (the latter was a challenge - good thing it was only a short story!).

    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to write a bedroom scene in 2nd person, but I'm afraid of it sounding like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that populated my elementary school library. ;)