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I've run into people that hate a particular tense and will not read anything written in that tense. I know the majority of books are written in the simple past tense and third person. I'm guessing there is a reason for that. It sits well with the most people. Was wondering if people feel that selecting the wrong tense for their narrative is a book killer.
 

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From what I've seen people say, it depends on the reader. Personally, I don't care whether it's first or third, past or present, as long as it's done well. I think that's the case for most readers. The people who loudly complain about one or the other are the minority. I would say that if you want the broadest accessibility, as you say, go with third person past. That seems to be the least jarring for readers (maybe because that's how other writing like the news is usually written). (That's the tense that I tend to stick with when I write.) But I think present and/or first can work in any genre, and it's pretty common in some. You have to do what's right for your book, and sometimes that's present/first.
 

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I remember reading that genre has a lot to do with it.  Like, YA tends to have more first person and present tense where adult thrillers tend to have more third person past tense.  I'm not 100% sure, but I remember reading that in some kind of trends article somewhere.

Readers may be selective with tense, but then again, readers are selective about a lot of things.  Just remember that you will hear a lot of feedback from the people that have issues with something and almost nothing from people who are okay with it.  Sometimes it might sound like everyone has a major problem with one particular thing, but it might just be that you are only hearing from the people who have a problem.

That all being said, third person past tense is a pretty safe play.  I think readers generally accept that that's how books read.  Anything other than that could turn some people off.
 

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mike h said:
Was wondering if people feel that selecting the wrong tense for their narrative is a book killer.
It depends on the writing. Some people don't like reading stuff as it happens. Some feel like present tense is unprofessional. But present tense can make things more exciting and immersive, when done well.

Half my books are present tense, half are past. Half my books are 3rd limited, half are 1st person POV. As a reader, I care more about the writing than what's chosen. I enjoy writing both, in fact, in my current novel, I'm returning to 3rd person limited.

I also think genre make a difference in choice.
 

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It's not a "book killer". But the more you stray from the trends/norms of your genre the more you'll run into some readers that will rule your book out for that reason.

I prefer limited third past, but I just read The Chain which is omnicient(!) third present and it was basically fine after some initial nose-wrinkling. Most readers aren't absolutists.
 

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Depends on the writer and how immersive the writer can write. I believe it's more difficult to write present tense and remain on the timeline.  But, if a writer can do it well, it's actually more captivating, but often less forgiving. 
 

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I really don't enjoy reading first person present tense. I don't know why, there's just some clash with my suspension of disbelief. It takes me out of the story.

Maybe cos the back of my mind just keeps screaming at me every time I read 'I reach for this... I walk towards the...' that it's not actually me who's doing it.

I much prefer third person past tense. Feels more like a story to me.

But everyone's different.
 

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Gareth K Pengelly said:
I really don't enjoy reading first person present tense. I don't know why, there's just some clash with my suspension of disbelief. It takes me out of the story.

Maybe cos the back of my mind just keeps screaming at me every time I read 'I reach for this... I walk towards the...' that it's not actually me who's doing it.

I much prefer third person past tense. Feels more like a story to me.

But everyone's different.
Present tense does not require first-person ... author can write in third-person present as well. Altho, any present-tense story will contain past-tense for back story narration as well. In my opinion, the best present-tense stories contain both past and present.
 

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boxer44 said:
Present tense does not require first-person ... author can write in third-person present as well. Altho, any present-tense story will contain past-tense for back story narration as well. In my opinion, the best present-tense stories contain both past and present.
Can't say I've read many third-person present tense stories, none that have stuck in my mind, at least, so can't really tell you how I feel about that writing style.

I'm always willing to keep an open mind, though.
 

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ShawnaReads said:
... Personally, I don't care whether it's first or third, past or present, as long as it's done well. ...
This. I can't say I've never read present tense books, but many I've tried to read sounded awkward/bad to me, which in turn has naturally colored my perception of it in general. But I have read a few books that do it well, so that it's not obtrusive or annoying. (Same with POV, for me.)
 

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Jena H said:
This. I can't say I've never read present tense books, but many I've tried to read sounded awkward/bad to me, which in turn has naturally colored my perception of it in general. But I have read a few books that do it well, so that it's not obtrusive or annoying. (Same with POV, for me.)
Maybe this is it - maybe I've just read some less well-written examples of the tenses/POVs I don't like.
 

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An example: Present - no first person.

      Raindrops, light fog, and warm breath slightly cloud his vision. “Gotta quit breathing,” Birch mutters, chuckles to himself. No one hears it. Alone in an old banged up van, hidden behind darkly tinted windows, he lifts his binoculars.
      A balding thug-looking dude wearing ragged blue jeans and a sleeveless pullover exits a warehouse across the street. Thug shuffles along an alley between the old hotel and a real estate office, neither one open or operating, boards nailed across the windows. Unintelligible at this distance, Thug grumbles a couple words, and dumps trash into a rusted metal bin.
 

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A little off topic, but...

Now, I'm not saying I recommend this, but I have done a few first person books that have a shifting tense to get a particular effect.  I wanted to make the story seem less like you are the main character and more like you are sitting down with the main character and they are telling you the story.  So, the story is mostly in first person past tense, but when it gets to more action-ey parts it switches to first person present.  Kind of like somebody at a bar describing when something crazy happened to them.

An example would be like, "It was late and I was walking home from work.  It's usually easy to keep to yourself in this city, but sometimes you just walk down the wrong street at the wrong time, and when I did just that, and I knew it right away.  Two guys get up from the stoop.  They follow me for a few quiet minutes before they get close.  My head thinks a thousand thoughts, my nerves worry themselves to shreds, but my hands, my hands just tighten up."

Heh, that's kinda off the top of my head, but just an example.  It's a subtle switch, but I like how going to present makes things more urgent.  And, I'm not saying that this is the best thing ever, but it's kind of a trick I like to use in first person past tense.  I don't think it would work for third very well.
 
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