Author Topic: Third person present tense  (Read 2503 times)

Luke Everhart

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Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #50 on: January 28, 2019, 04:09:53 AM »
Isn't the bottom line that there is a diversity of tastes among readers?
Concerning present tense specifically, if it hamstrung a books potential success then, yeah, it'd be a bad idea; but, it sure doesn't seem to.
Writing present tense isn't my jam but there sure are plenty of successful examples.
The previously mentioned Fifty Shades is present tense, as are these mega-sellers (& many more):

The Hunger Games books
The Divergent Series books
The Handmaid's Tale (excepting the flashbacks)
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Martian (in part)

« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 04:15:07 AM by Luke Everhart »
Urban Fantasy Author
Magic & Mirth meets Action & Attitude


Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #51 on: January 28, 2019, 08:16:08 AM »
I have a strong preference for past tense. If someone handed me two books and told me I could only read one, and the only information I had was that one was present tense and the other was past tense then 100% of the time I would pick the story written in past tense. But fortunately I don't have to pick one or the other, I can read them both.

A couple days ago, totally by accident, I read a book that was written in third person present tense. I think I know why it was written in third person present, but I don't think it added to the story at all, though it didn't destroy the book either. I think it's a fairly popular novel, the back cover even has a quote by Stephen King.

“A tremendous book―thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain. The Cabin at the End of the World is Tremblay’s personal best. It’s that good.”  — Stephen King

Everyone has their own personal preferences but as an author if you only read one genre, or one style of writing, then that's not really a positive attribute that you should be bragging about. It's a limitation. 


Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #52 on: February 01, 2019, 01:02:15 AM »
I've never been a fan of present tense and it could be just conditioning considering the fact that most modern books are written in past tense. I think present tense is supposed to give the book a here and now feel, but it does the opposite for me. It pulls me out of the story. For example, I was aware of the tense the whole time I read the Hunger Games trilogy. It was something that didn't fade into the background as I read.

PJ Post

Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #53 on: February 02, 2019, 08:43:30 AM »
What kicks me out of a story is author intrusion, regardless of pov or tense. This can be purple prose, waxing on about self-indulgent fantasy or pointless research disguised as world-building...and especially philosophical or political opinion. In first present, every single word of prose is character, so they can do or say anything - precisely because it is all character. Past tense, on the other hand, is told from a safe distance of contemplative reflection - which lends itself perfectly to authors trying to show me how clever they are.


Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #54 on: February 07, 2019, 07:13:09 AM »
It's fine to not like present tense or past tense or third person or first person.

When you start saying it's drivel, you sound like an ignorant asshat.

Part of being an author is understanding that different people have different tastes. If you want to cast everyone with different taste as wrong, go ahead. But it's not going to help you sell books.

I don't care for omniscient narration, but I still love the His Dark Materials trilogy, because the story hooks me immediately. (Okay, it takes a few chapters, but I hang in there, because I read it as a kid and loved it). I initially found third present a little jarring, but I still loved the Unwind series. The first time I picked up The Hunger Games, I fell in love page one. It felt so immediate and close. I didn't notice it was the present tense that did that for a few pages, but once I did, I fell madly in love with first person present.

(I was writing screenplays at the time, so I already wrote in present tense).

Any narration style can be done well or poorly. If you are willing to say a style is bad because you don't like it, then you're not fit to have intelligent conversations about prose.

I don't like third person past, but not because it's inherently bad. Because I don't like having that much distance between me and the characters. Sometimes that works for me (I read The Kiss Quotient recently, and it was very well done third person past. It would have been an exhausting book in first person present, because one of the characters was a little exhausting). Sometimes it doesn't. But that doesn't make it bad or poorly done. It's just not what I like.
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C. Gockel

Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #55 on: March 13, 2019, 10:00:05 AM »
Thanks to Becca for the shout out.

As to whether OP should do it, I will warn you, there will be complaints. I just got a 1 star today complaining about my choice in tenses. But it makes a lot of sense from the fourth book forward. So. {{shrugs}}

Do what you need to do for your story.

I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #56 on: March 14, 2019, 03:47:08 AM »
Readers have different tastes. I've been amused by the number of reviews I have praising aspects of my books that one of my editors insists readers don't want. Readers want different things.

We also sometimes forget that writers have different abilities. What style should one write in? Ideally, the style that produces one's best writing.

I'm very eclectic in my reading taste. I will say I put down a book club book because the writer never used capital letters (for no obvious I could see), but generally, I'm pretty open in terms of approach.

There isn't a single dogmatic generalization we could make about what works and what doesn't for which one couldn't find exceptions--probably produced by authors who happen to be very good at using that particular technique.

I remember an essay I read recently by someone who was pitching the idea of "reading generously"--that is, looking for things to like rather than for things to dislike. That particular writer explained her love for Jane Austen in those terms. There is hardly any book I couldn't find fault with if I were trying to. I was recently binge-watching a favorite TV series and noticing a fair-number of plot situations that seemed contrived, for example to make characters hostile to each other when they hadn't been originally. I had enough examples to easily underpin a one-star review--but if I were actually reviewing the series, I'd give it five stars, because I focus on the many great things instead of the few bad ones. Some of them are glaring, to be sure, but they still don't shift the balance that much in light of all the great things.

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Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #57 on: March 14, 2019, 09:44:29 AM »
What style should one write in? Ideally, the style that produces one's best writing.

Well said.
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Re: Third person present tense
« Reply #58 on: March 24, 2019, 06:50:14 PM »
There's this list of third person present tense:

It's not a long list (yet) but the titles are credible. All the Light We Cannot See in particular has some nice phrasing that negates the claim that third person present tense is automatically flat.

Then there's this list:

Again, not a bad list of stories that includes some best-sellers that were made into movies. Pity they weren't written in a 'proper' format.

And also this list:

Amateurs all, I'm sure.

Cheers for the lists, will be checking these out. I only recently stumbled across a book written in present, & boy was it a fast read. As others have stated, events feel more immediate. I'm intrigued & want to learn more!