1. Immy
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    Immy Member

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    What tense do you write in best?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Immy, Feb 16, 2012.

    I've always loved reading books that are written in 1st person but I've found it difficult to write in first person for two reasons:
    1) I find that I put too much of myself in my writing
    2) no idea :confused:

    I'd always thought I'd always write in first person because that was what I preferred to read but a few weeks ago, after many MANY failed attempts at writing in first person, I decided I might try writing in third person and guess what? It works for me!

    I've taken a leaf out of Nicholas Spark's books by doing each chapter focused on the point of view of different characters and I find that it explains the story better when you can see what each characters motives and thoughts are whereas I find that first person is limited to just one persons point of view and opinions (unless you do several characters in first person). Still, I love reading in first person!

    Does anybody else write in a tense that is not their preferred tense?
     
  2. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I started off in third person, stuck with it for a few years and have recently changed to first person. You're right, the different perspectives that third person offers are useful, providing you do it well, but I find I can explore a character so much better in first person. The change to first person coincided with a change of genre, from action/thriller to romance, and I find first person fits the new genre better. When I write the next installment of my action/thriller series then I'll have to revert to third person again, and I think it will be hard to get back into it.
     
  3. 1000screams
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    1000screams Member

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    I prefer to both read and write in first person. I just don't like third person pov. I don't like writing it, I don't like reading it. I have and do still read third person from time to time, like I'm reading Mrs. Dalloway right now...mostly cause I don't have a new book to read at the moment. Woolf's third person pov is just too jumping in and out of character's heads for me. It's hard for me to follow the MC when I'm getting all these other people's thoughts thrown in there. I think she's one example of a "classical" writer who, for all the pretty prose written, wasn't all that good. I can take paragraph long sentences, that's not the issue, it's the schizophrenic head hopping that has me confused for most of the story. I don't get that with first person pov. I'm grounded in one character's mind and I can emotionally invest in that character and take the journey with them.

    Take the Sookie Stackhouse series and compare it to the TV show, True Blood. True Blood is what the novels would have looked like if they were written in third person pov. You get more character development out of the supporting cast, like her brother's story with the were-panthers, and Sam and his brother, and the rest of the cast. In the books you can only experience what Sookie experiences, so half the stories shown in the TV show don't exist in the books. I like both. The books are okay, the writing could be better, I get pulled out of the story frequently by mistakes and other technical things. The main reason I have read 7 of the books in the series, is because I love Sookie as a character. She has a strength that I enjoy in a female lead.

    I just prefer the intimacy of the first person pov. I do think first person takes more editing to get right. Bad techniques can be glaringly obvious in first person pov, where as in third person they might not be as noticeable. First person is not easy, and every writing teacher I had said that. However, I didn't listen and I wrote first person for classes anyway. After revisions I always got an A, but now I look back at those pieces and think they are horrible compared to where I am now. If you want to learn to write first person you have to read first person. Just pay attention to how other writers do it when you enjoy it and incorporate what they did into your voice. I like to take those little micro post-its and stick them in books I'm reading in places I find amazing, so that I can later go back and really tear apart what they did in that scene to see how it works and how I might be able to use that in my writing. I don't take other writers style, it's learning how they crafted something and then making that process your own.

    Edit to add: I forgot about the tense part of the question. I think it varies. I've read both present and past tense first person, I think I prefer past tense to write in, but don't have much preference in reading it. I find writing in present tense first person can sometimes get confusing for me. But I do write present tense ever now and then. Present tense just seems to give more urgency to a piece. I tend to only use present tense in short works.
     
  4. Jammy
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    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  5. Blueflare
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    Blueflare Member

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    I almost always write in 3rd person, but for a short story I'm doing at the moment I'm using the 1st person. It's weird to write "I..." when I'm not actually talking about me, but sometimes it's just more appropriate.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write best in third person limited POV. Tense, as someone pointed out, is something else, and in that case I write in past tense (not sure exactly what that one is called specifically in english)
     
  7. Enzo03
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    I haven't written enough to really figure out where I would write best in. For the purposes of some of the stories I'm working on I'll have to stick with third person, mostly limited so as not to cram in a bunch of different people's thoughts into the reader's head. Maybe before long I'll be able to say that it's my best simply because I have more experience with it, but I have no idea.
     
  8. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    We say past tense. Narratives are usually written mostly in the imperfect, e.g. 'I walked', but you get perfect (I Have walked) and pluperfect (I had walked) sometimes as well in novels, and of course there's future, present and everything else in dialogue and thoughts and stuff. I Don't expect there are many novels written in just one tense throughout.
     
  9. beanbengo
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    i write best when i use past tense and 3rd person. strangely however, i always seem to naturally write present 1st person... :(
     
  10. Becca H
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    hmm.... my writing turns out best when i write in 3rd person but i love love love books with 1st person point of veiw so when i write i have to be sure that i write in the same tense... :)

    to your last question yes......
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes I was referring to those 'other' names to specify which kind of past tense and to be honest it's been a while since I was a student and it's not something you think about EVERY day in your day-to-day life and I hardly even remember the names in my own language. Thanks for clarifying. :)
     
  12. AmyHolt
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    I found that I had trouble writing in first person because my personality would spill through and it didn't match my main character. I probably could do it now that I have more experience writing but I think you really have to know you MC and be able to get in his/her head. I've thought about writing in first person and having the MC have my personality so it wouldn't matter if my personality bleed through, then I laughed real hard and realized it was a fools errand; my personality is all over the place and the character would only be suited for someplace with patted walls. :) 3rd person is way easier for me.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    I think I write best in first person POV, but have written in third person limited POV. It really depends on the story and how to best tell it to the reader. So, while I'm probably more comfortable and even maybe a little better with first person, I focus on what's best for the story.

    Luckily, I've not run across a story that requires omniscient POV. That one, for me, I think would be difficult.
     
  14. joanna
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    The show, which I've only seen a few times, seems to jump from character to character a lot. I like just being in Sookie's head in Definitely Dead, which I'm reading now. However, she is constantly describing new characters. I can't come close to keeping track of all of them.

    But the story's compelling enough, and Sookie's character is honest and raw and sometimes witty, so it holds my attention better than other fantasy stories generally have.
     
  15. joanna
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    I couldn't say if they're stupid, but there's a whole long list of such novels on the second-person narrative page of wikipedia. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny, is one of them: "You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy." I'd actually like to try reading one -- maybe I'll just start out with a second-person short story. There are more of those.

    And, those choose your own adventure books are written in second person. I read Million Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton last year -- really phenomenal writing.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    My favourite is first person, past tense. I find it is the most natural way for me to write but as a reader I feel that it has serious limitations. That's why I mostly use third person limited pov, past tense for the narrative, and dialogue as authentic speech (mix of tenses).

    2nd person narratives creep me out, like, stop telling me what I'm doing and feeling, you don't know me! :D
     
  17. Immy
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    Immy Member

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    That's the problem I have with writing in first person. I know my MC very well but when I'm writing "I did this.." "I did that.." then I can get confused between myself and the character. I wish it could be a little clearer but I guess that skill will come in time.

    Another problem I have is that I know for sure who should be my MC and that I should write from their point of view but in a way, I want the readers to get to know the other characters better than what they would through the MC's point of view. It's a romance, by the way - and my MC's love interest is a generally hard-to-read, misunderstood guy and I'd quite like to portray why he does what he does without the use of speech because I think that would make things too obvious. I guess my problem is that I adore all my characters and I want everyone to know them like I do but I guess I will find a way to do that :)
     
  18. Line
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    Line New Member

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    I find that when I write in 1st person, I some how get deeper into the story. I find that it seems more natural to put in the persons thoughts in.
    I've only written one novel in 1st, which is the one I'm currently writing, but it suits me very good. I'm having a lot of fun writing it.

    @jazzabel LOL 2nd person is creepy.
     
  19. Mjolnir
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    I don't know that I have a favorite pov or tense for writing or reading. They both have their own unique challenges and advantages. It really does depend on the focus of my story. Where do I want the readers attention to be? My primary project at the moment is a sci-fi novel. The plot and setting are both very prominent, however I really want it to focus on the journey and evolution of the main character. So, 1st person present seemed the obvious choice to keep the reader inside the character and prevent distraction from other elements that are important, but not the main focus of the story. On the other hand, I'm also working on a side project, which is a dark, modern fantasy. There the story still follows one particular character, but the focus is more fluid, so I chose to write it in 3rd person limited. I don't think I could stick to just one pov for all my writing, that would be a challenge.

    As for 2nd person, I've never tried it and don't have any plans to. I find it a little confusing to be honest. I think I'll leave it to more flexible minds. Besides, I wouldn't want to creep people out. ;)
     
  20. Anniexo
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    Well the story I'm hoping to get published is in third person, but I also enjoy writing the first person, as for second person, I've never tried it and I most likely won't, unless I wanted to write purely in horror and try to creep people out.
     
  21. Tesoro
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    as weird as it might sound, I find it easier to step into somebody elses (the characters) head in third person rather than first. if I write in first person, as I think somebody said, it's too easy to put (too much of) myself in their story, which doesn't always fit the story I'm about to tell. If I write in third person I can get a better feeling of what this person is like and how she thinks and why she acts the way she does. It gives me a better perspective. In first person I think I could only write a character that is very similar to myself with a good result.
     
  22. leke101
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    For me personally, I find third person limited works best although I agree with a former poster, if i was writing full romantic novel then first person would probably be better suited. I like writing in third person limited because I think its the best POV that allows you to get into a character's head as well as remain detached-like a good storyteller should. First person, I find, reads too much like a diary at times.
     
  23. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I find that the third person is more versatile, since you can switch from person to person and that really helps with a narrative, but that the first person is more useful for a more internal work, because when the reader sees things entirely form one person's point of view he or she (referring to the reader) really invests in the narrator of the story, and that can be really good. As far as character development goes (my least favorite part of a book to write), it's a little easier to show that in the first person because the narrator will realize, "Two weeks ago I wouldn't have done what I just did" or something like that. But it's harder in the third person, because for each character you're portraying how he (or she) was changed by the events of the book, which is more difficult and in general takes a good deal of skill. Mainly I write in the third person.

    For tense, I find that present tense works better with first person but that past works with either; usually I write in the past, but the first person/present tense combination is really good for capturing things; it seems more real, as if the reader is watching from inside the narrator. It depends for me on the style of the book - some types of writing better fit some types of book than others.

    I might add, one can see from the variety of responses how everyone is different and a writer writes what he or she likes best to read. Similarly, when a reader doesn't like the way a writer writes, he reads another book, or writes his own.

    Funny, isn't it, how no one ever writes in the second person, or in the future tense?
     

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