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  1. #1
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    Red face Thoughts on Perspective?

    So, I know it seems like the very "in" thing to write in the first-person present tense, but is there a time when that style really is appropriate?

    The reason I ask is that I'm currently working on a novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and centers around 2 main characters. The first half is very character-centric and for that reason, I really wanted to write in the first person. I tried to rewrite it in the third person, because I was worried about the style, but it lost a lot of its emotional power and interest. I also write in the present tense because I dislike the nostalgic feel of the first-person past tense, especially in a novel where I want my reader to believe my main character could die.

    My real question is: what do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of the first-person present tense? What would you caution against? Just need some thoughts from some people with a little more knowledge than myself.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    I don't mind first person present as much as other people around here. I used it on a couple of books and once you get used to conjugating the verbs it's not too hard to write. But using it with multiple narrators could be confusing.

  3. #3
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
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    Like Mutt, the first thing I'm thinking is that jumping back and forth between two characters still writing in first person could be hard to do. Not sure it would sound right.

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Here's THE main problem with first-person present tense: narcissism. The main character talks about himself and what he thinks and feels, and the story advances zilch. That is hands down the biggest problem. I can't tell you how many beginners post 1,000 words of the MC expounding on his likes and dislikes of whomever or whatever and why he likes or dislikes them and what he plans to do in the future to mitigate his dislikes and increase his likes. Or worse, often it's 1,000 words of the MC expounding on a single thing, like his digs, or his job, or his love life, or whatever other inane thing that the reader has no reason on earth to care about.

    Here's WHY it's the main problem. Beginning writers become enamored of "being" their characters. They get a kick out of working their imaginations and thinking like their MC and visualizing how he would look and act. They get such a kick out of it that it dominates their content, and they forget they need to tell story where characters actually DO things, instead of describing a narcissistic MC in a more or less constant state of mental masturbation who's enthralled with even his smallest emotional burp or fart.

    I can count on one hand the first-person present tense posts on here I thought were half decent, and I've been here for several years. It is THE most difficult POV for a beginner to write. So unless you're one in a million, I suggest you stick with third-person past. Or, post a bit of your first-person present - maybe you have the mental discipline to write it, but I seriously doubt it. I've been wrong before in this regard, but not often.

  5. #5
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    Yes, first-person present is tough. Very.

    You wrote, " I also write in the present tense because I dislike the nostalgic feel of the first-person past tense, especially in a novel where I want my reader to believe my main character could die."

    I'm curious why you believe first-person past is "nostalgic?" First-person past is ubiquitous. Many authors have carved fine careers with first-person past. Why does it strike you as nostalgic?

    What have you read which causes you to believe that?

    Beyond that, what causes you to believe first-person present is the "in" thing?

    If you want critique, and are willing to accept honest comments, post the first couple pages of your manuscript.

    Cur

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiling Curmudgeon View Post

    Beyond that, what causes you to believe first-person present is the "in" thing?
    A little series called The Hunger Games for starters.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    I suspect she meant nostalgic in the sense that the use of past tense makes the narration sound like the speaker is reminiscing about the past. I doubt most readers view it that way, though; as Cur and the others point out, use of past tense is nearly ubiquitous, and people are used to interpreting the words in the appropriate context. If her primary intent for using present tense is to essentially fool us into worrying about the potential fate of her narrator (because use of past tense implies that he/she survived the crisis), this is the wrong way to go about it. We assume the narrator survives, unless the last line in the book is "Aargh!"; tricks with tense don't replace a good plot and exciting writing.

  8. #8
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    Mutt,

    Yes, you cite a series in first-person present. For something to be the "in" thing, do you agree that it must take over, even briefly, what has gone in the past?

    Do you agree there are many more novels published this month, and last month and the month before that, which were written in first-person past? If not, explain why you disagree.

    I asked the OP what I believe were cogent questions. I did not attack her. I was curious.

    I've never understood why you're a sniper. You rarely offer critique. Over the years I've been a member of this board, I've offered many many critiques.

    Why are you a sniper? I don't understand your purpose.

    Cur

  9. #9
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiling Curmudgeon View Post
    Mutt,

    Yes, you cite a series in first-person present. For something to be the "in" thing, do you agree that it must take over, even briefly, what has gone in the past?

    Do you agree there are many more novels published this month, and last month and the month before that, which were written in first-person past? If not, explain why you disagree.

    I asked the OP what I believe were cogent questions. I did not attack her. I was curious.

    I've never understood why you're a sniper. You rarely offer critique. Over the years I've been a member of this board, I've offered many many critiques.

    Why are you a sniper? I don't understand your purpose.

    Cur
    Do some research, man. First-person present is huge in YA. It has been for years. Get with the times.

  10. #10
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    Mutt,

    I believe you when you say first-person present is huge in YA.

    Do you believe YA is the entire universe of fiction?

    Did you see something about YA I missed in the OPs post? The OP is writing a post-apocalyptic tale. Do you believe the preponderance of post-apoc is in first-person present?

    I love post-apoc novels. Have ready a great many. Perhaps some were written in first-person present. I guarantee you, though, there were few, if any.

    We're having a needless discussion. The fact is, most novels are not written in first-person present. Do you agree? If not, why not?

    If the OP's tale is aimed at YA, it's possible that first-person present is a good way to go. But first-person present is very difficult to pull off.

    The reason we're here is to try to help those who post.

    Is that why you're here?

    Cur

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