Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Tense Conversation Can Get Tense

I juggle struggle with what tense to use in stories sometimes. Most of the time when I start to imagine my story I also imagine the tense and point of view it is told in (example: third person past tense), but there are some stories (sneaky little things) that seem to want to be told a way I'm not used to, or I keep changing my mind on.

When I work on my screenplay there is order in the "tense world"; it all fits because frankly, it has to. When I work on short stories and novels there are plenty of POVs and tenses available. I'm not a huge fan of present tense because it has to be done so well to make for a flowing read. I usually (as in ALWAYS) write in past tense, so deciding on POV is all that is left for me.

The novel that I just finished with another writer (I love you Mums) was written in first person past tense. The only thing is, as I read back over it, I kept wanting to change it to third person. What to do? I've decided that I'm going to make two versions of the doc and read them over to see which one tells the story the best.

Do you fight the POV and tense war sometimes? How do you resolve it? What is your preferred writing style? What format do you like to read?

photo: Faeryan


  1. I'm writing my ms in first person present tense (with a few flashbacks of past tense). It's definitely a struggle for me to remain consistent. Sometimes I get flowing and realize I'm not in the same tense!

    I like to read all styles. However, I don't enjoy when people refer to themselves in the third person, i.e. Beth is eating her lunch and trying not to get crumbs on her keyboard while she blogs! ;P

  2. I usually write in 3rd person past tense, but my favorite story was written in 1st person present tense, though lots of it was written as a recount to the reader, so, it was also past tense and 2nd person.

    I feel like there's more emotional depth available in 1st person, but there's also more of a tendency to digress into introspection. Double-edged sword for me.

    RE: sidebar. Brett Favre (aka Graybeard) was phenomenal. He needs to use some of that coin and darken that hair some, though :)

  3. Interesting. This is the second post I've read today about POV. My completed ms is in first person. The other post I just read points out that rarely does first person work. I don't know about that. What do you think?

  4. Where I'm targetting my stories they want third person, past tense, so that's what I write in. I find most who write in 1st person really need strong characters to pull it off, otherwise all I see on the page is "I" this and "I" that. Not what I'm looking for in a story.

  5. I write in past tense, third person and I usually write in two POV's. I do mentally read my drafts in first person to make sure I'm not switching POV's by accident.

    I enjoy reading first person. Some genres are more accepting of it than others. The publisher I'm targeting generally does not want it, but I've seen exceptions. However, paranormal tends to sell lots of first person novels. Just depends.

  6. Have you read my post today? Great minds think alike, girlfriend!

  7. My current MS is in third person, present tense. My story reads well this way and I love the flexibility to change POV'S between my four main characters.

    I am reading first person present tense right now, and this author is a captivating storyteller. I would love to brave first person one day. But not today.

    Blessings to you

  8. Mine is 1st person past tense. That just feels normal to me.