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Curious...

Many film scripts are in third person present like this...

Dave sees a car collide with another. He hurries across the street and screams for help.

There is a sense of immediacy, suspense.

We also are seeing this in novels. Some of which have become bestsellers.

Does it put you off?

Do you prefer first-person present?

I see a car collide with another. I hurry across the street and scream for help.


Or do you prefer the good old past?

Dave saw a car collide with another. He hurried across the street and screamed for help.

I saw a car collide with another. I hurried across the street and screamed for help.
 

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Curious...

Many film scripts are in third person present like this...

Dave sees a car collide with another. He hurries across the street and screams for help.

There is a sense of immediacy, suspense.
Yeah, it's the worst. If you want to write screenplays, write screenplays. It's unreadable for novels. There actually ISN'T a sense of immediacy because you put so much distance between the story when you write in screenplay style. Which third person present is... You're reminding the reader at every possible moment, this didn't really happen, but wouldn't it make a cool movie?

You're afraid to make even one simple declarative statement: This happened. You are so uncertain about your own story!

Scott Turow does it, and it's awful even when he does it. And you're not Scott Turow.
 

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I have no problems with it. If the story flows and is written well, I don't care about the tense. Don Winslow's books do it. I've written in 3rd person present and not a single reader has complained.
 

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To me it seems a bit clumsy to read, but that's just me. I suppose if one can make it work, then go for it. I always do third person past. Rarely, first person past. Both have enough latitude to get the story across.
 

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The reason present tense works at all is because that's how people casually tell stories, so I think with present tense third you're going to need a strong narrative voice to prevent it from sounding like a screenplay. Could be a good voice and tense for one of those devices where the narrator turns out to be a dead friend from the afterlife or God or the author breaking the fourth wall.

Dave's standing on the curb shoving Taco Bell down his gullet while all the people who actually work for a living whiz by him in their skirts and suits. A loud crash and honking horns is enough to momentarily distract him from double-fisting chalupas. He runs out into traffic and stands there screaming like a little girl, but the poor bastard doesn't have enough brains to take the phone out of his greasy pocket and call for help.
 

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Present tense is good for excitement, or in first person, it can be effective to show a "frantic mind" point of view. Like, in an action sequence, your character isn't thinking about anything other than the action. That's effective in present. But I don't really care for it in third, and I really don't care for it through the whole book. A book shouldn't be trying to be exciting the whole time. Even a movie can't be exciting all the time, and it's an hour long. Extend that into a book that takes weeks-months to read, and if you don't give the action a chance to breathe, then nothing feels exciting. It's the same with suspense. You can give a reader a feeling of suspense that stays with them through the whole book, but you can't try to give them suspense on every page.

But doing first person can give you a lot of room to filter things through you character perspective. You can absolutely change tense, if you character changes tense. You can leave things out or tell sides of a story or add the mystery of the simple fact that your character doesn't know everything that's happening. Third person has more limitations in a lot of these things because you the writer have a voice. If you change tense from one chapter to another, it comes across as the writer changing tense. It sounds gimmicky, and it comes across as awkward.

I still think that third person past tense is the easiest to read. First person can be great, but the reader really has to like the main character. Third person present though, I don't know. Maybe it would be okay if I read it more. But I've seen it a few times in the past few years, and it always feels ham fisted. Like, there's no good reason for it. It's different for the sake of different, rather than different for the sake of the story.
 

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I’m writing my first novel. It is first person present tense. To be honest, third person psyches me out. I suppose when I gain more confidence with a narrator voice merging with the characters I might feel differently.

As a newbie, I’m still figuring things out.
“I blink, trying to focus on the tile floor in my face. I push up from my hands and knees to get on my feet.”
vs
“I blinked, trying to focus on the tile floor in my face. I pushed up from my hands and knees and got in my feet.”

I catch myself flipping too often.
 

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Writing the next books in my Martin Billings series.
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I suspect you'll find that staying in the present tense is more of a challenge than past tense although I'm sure it doesn't feel that way. With present tense you are restricted to events happening now. Any reflection in the present is awkward:
"I think about the time my father told me,,," and with that single 'told' you are back in the past.

And the future is tricky too. "I think about what I will say when I look out over the faces of the audience and my heart pounds." Is the heart pounding in the present, or when staring out at the faces, or both?

All doable, but to my mind, requires a deft touch.
 

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I’m writing my first novel. It is first person present tense. To be honest, third person psyches me out. I suppose when I gain more confidence with a narrator voice merging with the characters I might feel differently.

As a newbie, I’m still figuring things out.
“I blink, trying to focus on the tile floor in my face. I push up from my hands and knees to get on my feet.”
vs
“I blinked, trying to focus on the tile floor in my face. I pushed up from my hands and knees and got in my feet.”

I catch myself flipping too often.
I mean, I think an interesting book comes before all else. If it's interesting, then tense and correctness and anything else can get thrown under the bus to make room for an interesting book. Or at least, that's how I feel. Plus, it's kind of great to experiment with things in those early books. You never know what your style will be without some playing around with things.

But, these are the problems that get better over time. It's hard to get better at having a passion for writing. It's easy to get better at the aspects of you writing. Hope it goes well for you! And, who knows, your flipping style might be great, if it works great.
 

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Third-person present has been widely used in science fiction novels and short stories since the fifties and sixties. Robert Silverberg, one of the acknowledged masters of science fiction, used it in many of his novels.
 

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Curious...

Many film scripts are in third person present like this...

Dave sees a car collide with another. He hurries across the street and screams for help.

There is a sense of immediacy, suspense.

We also are seeing this in novels. Some of which have become bestsellers.

Does it put you off?

Do you prefer first-person present?

I see a car collide with another. I hurry across the street and scream for help.


Or do you prefer the good old past?

Dave saw a car collide with another. He hurried across the street and screamed for help.

I saw a car collide with another. I hurried across the street and screamed for help.
When I look at Amazon and think a book looks interesting, the first thing I do is to check the look inside to make sure it is not written in present tense. I absolutely hate it; it doesn't belong in novels.
 

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I wrote my witch trilogy in first person present tense. I believe it comes across more personable and cinematic and I'm glad I chose it. I'm not sure how third person present would have gone, though.

First person has limitations as it's harder to visit the story through multiple character POVs. It's far easier to write in multiple character's heads with third person limited. In Wonder, the author achieves multiple characters with first person by splitting the book in thirds from the perspective of different characters. So it can still be done. In my witch series, I just never veer from the MC's point of view.

My favorite book of all time is Catcher in the Rye which is first person/past tense. That brings up another thing. If you're gonna do first person, you better have really good narration.

Of course, present tense is a also a challenge to explain. Why is everything happening before us? Who talks to someone while something is happening? (I like to think my witch series is a magical book ;)).
 

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I think there's nothing wrong with it. If it's a good story, then that's good enough for me. 1st person present tense can be more dramatic as even the character does not know what is going to happen next. Many people say a story must be in the past. That depends on the kind of story. If the events are finished, sure, you're talking about the past. But the MC might want to tell you about events that's happening as they see them. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned. It's like a documentary in some way whereby we see the action unfold though the presenter's eyes.
 

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I write primarily in third person present, and it can be very difficult to pull off. It does give a "cinematic feel," however you run the risk of confusing readers.
 

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I wrote my witch trilogy in first person present tense. I believe it comes across more personable and cinematic and I'm glad I chose it. I'm not sure how third person present would have gone, though.

First person has limitations as it's harder to visit the story through multiple character POVs. It's far easier to write in multiple character's heads with third person limited. In Wonder, the author achieves multiple characters with first person by splitting the book in thirds from the perspective of different characters. So it can still be done. In my witch series, I just never veer from the MC's point of view.

My favorite book of all time is Catcher in the Rye which is first person/past tense. That brings up another thing. If you're gonna do first person, you better have really good narration.

Of course, present tense is a also a challenge to explain. Why is everything happening before us? Who talks to someone while something is happening? (I like to think my witch series is a magical book ;)).
I don't care if a book is first or third person but present tense I refuse to read.
 

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I'd be curious to know why some folk despise present tense so much. What is it about the tense that you really don't like? For me, I like its immediacy, and some of my favorite books were written in first person. Just off the top of my head - The Hunger Games, Red Rising, Paternus, The House of Sand and Fog, The Handmaid's Tale, Annihilation, The Broken Earth series . . . . For me, it really depends on the skill of the author.
 

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my problem with it is that it "sounds" wrong (even though i'm reading, i tend to hear things). nobody tells a story in present tense when talking, so reading present tense doesn't work for me.
 

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I'd be curious to know why some folk despise present tense so much. What is it about the tense that you really don't like? For me, I like its immediacy, and some of my favorite books were written in first person. Just off the top of my head - The Hunger Games, Red Rising, Paternus, The House of Sand and Fog, The Handmaid's Tale, Annihilation, The Broken Earth series . . . . For me, it really depends on the skill of the author.
I don't agree. My favourite author is Stephen King, but I won't read the book he wrote in present tense.

As already said, you describe something verbally in present tense, synopsis, blurb, present tense. A book needs to be in past tense. I read one once; it was a crappy book anyway, ridiculous story, and being written in present tense only added to the swamp.
 
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