1. Jazzsamuel
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    Jazzsamuel New Member

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    Is it easier to write in first person, than third person to keep suspense?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jazzsamuel, Apr 21, 2013.

    And also past or present?
     
  2. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    You can effectively write a suspenseful story any way you like. Both first and third person will both allow for thoughts and emotions from the main character. It obviously depends on your story, but I've seen third person omniscient work very effectively as well when used sparingly; the reader knows something the protagonist does not. Suspense/horror is usually done most effectively with the unknown. The knowledge that something is out there, potentially around every corner but rarely if ever seen, is enough to keep people on edge. (Think of someone who's scared of the darkness; shadows obscure whatever's out there, keeping it hidden and unknown.)

    As for past or present tense, I would say to stick with whatever you prefer. I don't think it makes much of a difference in most circumstances.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd recommend third person and past tense if you need to ask, because that indicates you don't know the relative strengths and drawbacks of the various choices. Writing first person well is harder than writing third person well, and the same is true of past tense over present tense writing.
     
  4. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I have to ask, is there a reason why people dislike present tense in story writing? I asked my Creative Writing teacher about it, and he said that present tense was preferred over past tense. I posted a present tense story for critique before and people said it would have been better if it was in the past tense.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have discussed this in many other threads. In brief, present tense writing locks the pace to the rate at which the reader reads. It has become somewhat of a fad recently among some writers recently to write novels in present tense, to keep the story "immediate", but it's a crap argument. You can simulate the exact same immediacy with past tense by keeping the range of the past interval on the order of seconds. In contrast, writing in present tense, you cannot modulate the pace without breaking away from the present tense (time jumps, for example).

    There are authors who have written both past and present tense novels. The readers I know of at least one of these novelists, Patricia Cornwell, don't like her present tense novels as much, even when they cannot put their finger on why they dislike those novels.

    It's a fad I pray burns itself out soon.
     
  6. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I am reluctant to respond, but I'm going to anyway.

    Honestly, this argument gets old. Some people like it, some people don't. Some people like coffee, some people don't. Some people want to be billionaires, some people just need a dollar (those are refs to songs btw, not how much money can be made in writing a certain style).

    I think you write the story the way it is in your mind, from the perspective that accomplishes what you set out to do. If there's going to be a time jump in your story, it will be there whether it's in present tense or past. It doesn't change the timeline.

    Same thing for POV. You need only to make the story what you wish it to be.
     
  7. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Either one will work. I'm not a big fan of present tense. I don't know why. I agree with Trish. Some people like tea and some people like coffee. As for pov third person is easier than first person. Some writers prefer one over the other, again tea and coffee. Personally I prefer to write past tense and third person. I like the flexibility of third person.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    _He_ prefers present tense? If he's trying to argue that the market in general prefers present tense, then I'm pretty sure that he's deeply mistaken.
     
  9. DeathChamberzMusic
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    DeathChamberzMusic Member

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    3rd in the present but whatever comes more natural to you is easier. I'm not sure which is better
     
  10. Jape
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    Jape New Member

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    I go for 3rd person past tense, occasionally 1st person past tense if I feel it suits it but that's basically from what I was brought up reading, I've never really thought about it, I've just done it.

    Do what ever you feel comfortable doing.
     
  11. kayem
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    kayem New Member

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    Why not try both? I don't think one is 'better' than the other, but practice will help you to know where you're most comfortable. I usually revert to third person past, but if I find myself questioning my decision I'll re-write a section in the first person, leave it a day or so, and see which I prefer.
    (Also, on a side note, I always find it rewarding to try writing flash fictions in the (difficult) second person. Using 'we' has also help me in the past to free up my mind and provide inspiration. It makes coming back to the third person feel so much easier!).
     
  12. gwilson
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    gwilson Member

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    Exactly how does that work? Do you have any examples? I'm curious. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this concept.
     
  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is that English rarely recognizes the relative meaning of tenses, especially the present narrative tense (which doesn't even truly exist in English!)... This is not, however, definite, as forms of historical present were and are used in both literature and conversation.
    You base your argument from the perspective of absolute usage of present tense, as you insist that writing in present = writing literally what happens, in order that it happens and in constant, realistically present pace, which leads to what you call "locking the pace to the reading rate". But this is only valid if you consider temporal and grammar tense to be the same. And I hope you don't.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Depends - to get your ideas going, I find first person easier. Whenever I'm doing free writing or just jolting down a random scene without planning, it's always in first person, past tense. I find it easier to get into the character mindset.

    But to write a novel in first person - that is, in fact, harder. This looks like a contradiction. It's not, really. First person is great for emotions and internal dialogue, but once it gets to description and also more complex scenes, it becomes very tricky because it's hard to get the tone of the writing, and the voice, right when you're meant to write in the voice of a character and yet you need to use more complex language than a person would naturally use in everyday-life. Then as the plot thickens, certain types of stories are not suited to first person because you're limited to revealing only what the character can experience, meaning you can't drop in information or follow up other characters' actions and even their side of the experience and emotions at all. It also becomes harder to keep the story interesting when you're limited to one character's setting and linear journey - the character must be very interesting and the pacing very clever to keep the readers' interest, I feel.

    With third person limited, you have a lot more freedom. So for a novel, I'd go for this one, unless my story uniquely requires first person.

    As for past tense vs present tense - I don't get what the debate is about, or what the passion for/against is about. I've never had a problem reading either one, frankly I don't really care. I never even notice what tense the writing is in unless it switches tenses. However, for myself, writing in the present tense is harder than the past, therefore I stick with the past for writing.
     
  15. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    And first person present tense is an awkward beast to handle. :? I have trouble with that one.

    As for your question, I think third person past tense would be a good place to start. But if you are truly curious, why don't you try writing the same scene different ways?
     

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