Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Present Tense


I am grabbing books, willy nilly, off the shelf at the library again. Sometimes I find a gem that way. Unfortunately, this time it fell flat.

The big turn off for this book is that it is in present tense. That really grates on me after awhile. I think it works well for dream sequences and flashbacks. I think in the Farseer books Robin Hobb used present tense for the journal entries that began each chapter. It set the tone and reminded us that someone was telling the story. I love those books, and I think that method worked well.

But I can't read an entire book of it. It makes me unreasonably aware that I am reading. I can't slip into the world and get carried along. I am always aware that someone is slinging words at me.

It might just be that I was taught to expect stories to be past tense. I read them growing up and now I'm too old to adjust. It's a strange affectation to me. The story doesn't need any distractions like that. Especially complicated ones.

I don't understand the sudden love of it. A lot of books I pick up are written that way. And I usually put them right back down. Although, I have to admit I used to feel that way about first person. It's too intimate. Jim Butcher got me to love first person, because I love Harry Dresden. But that's a big gamble. Not only has the story got to dazzle the reader, your narrator has to also. I've read books that draw me in despite not liking a character. That might not happen with first person.

Third person, past tense will always be the most comfortable read for me. First person is acceptable, but has a higher hurdle to cross. Present tense has the highest and ugh I don't think I could ever read first person, present tense.

But that's just me...today.

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