Thursday, August 4, 2011

Present tense vs. past vs. 1st POV vs THE WORLD

Past Tense vs. Present Tense
I'll admit there was a time when I couldn't read present tense novels. For some reason my brain just couldn't follow the words, and it took a very damn good book in present tense for me to get over myself. Ever since then, present tense novels haven't bothered me.

I guess first I should give you an example of present tense vs. past tense. 

Present tense: I walk to the door and I open it, hoping that it's the sparkly vampire from my bio class.
Past Tense: I walked to the door and opened it, hoping that it's the sparkly vampire from my bio class. 

Some people prefer past tense novels, because they are easier to read. I think we're programmed that way due to the fact that most novels are written in past tense. How about you? Do you have a preference?

"Choppy" Direct Sentences vs. THE PROSE BABY

Here is my lame attempt at both to give you an example.

Choppy/Direct : I opened the door. He stood there a smirk on his lips. I look away. I sigh. 
PROSE BEETCHES: I hurry to the door, heart racing as hope swells in my chest like a rising tide. Could it be him? He stands there, those gorgeous lips curving into a half smile as if he knows some big secret. Looking away, a sigh leaks from my lips. 

Okay, so now do you get what I mean by choppy/direct vs. prose? Neither sentence is wrong. I tend to actually use both. A lot of choppy/direct sentences when I'm doing a fight scene and a more descriptive sentence later on. I alternative back and forth. I think that keeps writing varied.

The prose one isn't very purple. And honestly, I get a little distracted when I read a book with heavy prose. How do you know its purple? An entire paragraph describing a movement, a page describing the brushing of lips and comparing it to something that probably makes you laugh or think, "What the holy heck?"

Then again, I also get distracted by an entire book in short, choppy sentences. I think to pull of an entire novel that without it coming across as dry is hard to do. 

How about you? What do you prefer? Direct or prose?

1st POV vs 3rd POV

I'll admit. I write YA in 1st POV and adult in 3rd POV. And sometimes while I'm writing I forget and have to go back and change stuff. A lot of readers out there have strong opinions on what the prefer when it comes to POV, and I don't think its so much the POV, but more of the style of writing.

How so? When a novel is in 1st POV, it's usually like you're experiencing everything a long with the character. It's not the POV that's doing that. It's GOOD writing. It's VOICE. And 1st POV just tends to have a lot more voice. That doesn't mean 3rd person doesn't, but I'll admit, it's easier to get voice across 1st POV then 3rd.  I think one way to fix that is when you're writing 3rd person, don't write as if you are the invisible storyteller telling the story.... if that makes any sense. 

So what do you prefer? 1st or 3rd or it doesn't matter?

All right, I've rambled enough for today. It's your turn!


  1. I prefer third person, past tense, though I've done a bit of present tense from time to time.

    As to the sparkly vampire... does anyone have a stake handy at the moment?

  2. Oooh interesting post!! I was considering doing one of these myself actually, great minds and all that. I actually really like present tense novels. They usually are first person as well I think, and I really like that. I think the most recent example is the near witch. It adds another dimension in my opinion, but it only works for cetain novels.

    Something I really dislike is omniscient narrators. I like third person past tense, but from a character's (or multiple character's) point of view, not from an outside narrator. and then the absolute worst for me is an outside narrator that drops cryptic hints. I've read a few books I really liked where this happens and it really makes me wince

    The Cait Files

  3. Wow, so many good insights in one post! I was dead-set against present tense until I read two books: IF I STAY by Gayle Forman and THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. It was impossible to deny the power of present tense after that, but I do think it's better for newbies to write in past tense because of what you said: we're programmed that way.

    I think I actually like purple prose more than direct/choppy, but I use broken sentence in action sequences, too.

    And as far as POV, I've been in love with first person ever since Twilight and Percy Jackson. Trends are there for a reason, I guess. :) We see what works and we copy.

  4. I'm not a huge fan of present tense in longer works, but I think it works fine for shorter stories and most YA.

    First- and third-person limited are my favorites, in that order, because they lend themselves best to a character's voice.

    Like you said, I think there's room for direct and purple prose when they're used to control pacing. Not too fond of bizarre metaphors, though, which I see fairly often.