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To not like the fashion for writing novels in the present tense?

(43 Posts)
TheHiphopopotamus Sat 16-Jan-16 15:07:38

Just that really. It gets on my nerves for some reason but I'm not sure why.

A lot of chick lit writers seem to be doing it at the moment and also those paperback thriller types of books.

So, is it just me and I'm being unreasonable or does anyone else not like it?

EmmaWoodlouse Sat 16-Jan-16 17:46:06

I like past tense better in a conventional story, but I think if the book is interesting enough I stop noticing after a while.

First person narrator present tense sometimes has a point, in that it feels like you're seeing things through that person's eyes as they unfold, whereas with past tense you'd expect the narrator to be writing at some point after the end of the story and perhaps have insights they wouldn't have had at the start. I think it can be quite effective in an action or suspense story.

RenterNomad Sat 16-Jan-16 18:43:38

I know what you mean. It can be really annoying. However, if it sets up a situation in which the reader can't be sure the narrator hasn't died, and isn't telling the story from some safe future perspective, that's interesting! It also depends - for me - on how good the rest of the writing is.

TheHiphopopotamus Sat 16-Jan-16 19:24:52

All good points in favour of present tense grin

I agree that it's good when occasionally used as a literary device, but I must admit when I open a book and it's in present tense, my heart sinks a little. It just seems to be everywhere at the moment.

BrianButterfield Sat 16-Jan-16 19:32:44

Second person, present tense is the WORST. I feel myself shrivelling with embarrassment for some reason.

hefzi Sat 16-Jan-16 19:51:26

I agree - it seems to be the fashion at the moment: along with "time slip" books, where every other chapter moves era. When the writing's good, you stop noticing - unfortunately, it seems a lot of things I've read recently haven't been that well written, as I've noticed it a lot grin

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Sat 16-Jan-16 20:41:09

It's high on my list of things that put me off when I look at a book before buying. It makes it feel too urgent somehow, adds tension where there doesn't need to be any.

ComposHatComesBack Sat 16-Jan-16 20:55:16

I can't stand history documentaries where the actions of long-dead figures are described in the present tense 'Churchill storms into the war office and demands that....'

TheHiphopopotamus Sat 16-Jan-16 21:08:01

composhat yes, it's usually accompanied by some crap reconstruction of the event filmed using actors who look nothing like the historical figure they're supposed to be portraying grin

squoosh Sat 16-Jan-16 22:00:12

I don't think I've ever come across it but just imagining it is irritating me.


squoosh Sat 16-Jan-16 22:02:09

Or rather 'squoosh didn't think TheHiphopopotamus was unreasonable to dislike the fashion for books written in the present tense'.

RenterNomad Sat 16-Jan-16 22:05:37

Oh, dear. Well, okay, I'll confess to having written something in the second person recently (and it wasn't even my domestic 'blog: those are great in the second person!). However, it was about (and to) my baby, so it would have seemed very cold an unsentimental not to have "included" her!

I'm not trying to be perverse in pointing out advantages. If the story doesn't have these justifications for present tense, second person, little-known dialect, etc., it may just be a bit crap! wink

TheHiphopopotamus Sat 16-Jan-16 22:07:46

grin thanks squoosh

But now it's been pointed out, you'll realise it's bleedin' everywhere! (And it is irritating).

TheHiphopopotamus Sat 16-Jan-16 22:16:40

renter I'm happy to hear justifications for it and I think it does have its place. For example, parts of 'Jane Eyre' use present tense effectively. But the entire novel would have been ridiculous if it was all in the present tense.

It just seems like a fad that writing is going through at the moment and I find it quite distracting reading a novel that's told entirely in the present tense.

Tartyflette Sat 16-Jan-16 22:20:53

I loathe it. It doesn't give a sense of immediacy, It's just clunky and intrusive and just gets between me and the narrative. It's also 'false' -- even if something happened one second ago, it's still in the past!

VeryBitchyRestingFace Sat 16-Jan-16 22:23:02

I - can - quite like it.

But then I am rather partial to stories written in the 2nd person too. blush

SleepWalkingToTheGrave Sat 16-Jan-16 22:27:01

Arrrhhhhh! I hate it! I thought I was the only one who found it so irritating! grin
The only novel that I've managed to get through in the present tense is A Tale of Two Cities

villainousbroodmare Sat 16-Jan-16 22:31:09

I can't stand it. I'll put a book back if I flick through it and it's written in the present tense.
And I cannot bear when pseudo-historians people discuss historical events in the present tense either - although, if you pay attention, they never manage to be consistent with it anyway, so continually revert to the past tense and then swing back again.

SenecaFalls Sat 16-Jan-16 22:38:39

I have to admit that I hate it. It's the reason I haven't read Wolf Hall.

RenterNomad Sun 17-Jan-16 10:36:35

Oh, yes, it's definitely crap when used inappropriately. I imagine it was first picked up as a "signal" of good writing and then staryed to be mis-used by writers who... let's say... weren't as competent (please note the reported-speech past tense, there! wink)

IfNotNowThenWhenever Sun 17-Jan-16 10:39:46

Please can someone give an example of second person present tense?

Hygellig Sun 17-Jan-16 11:04:24

I prefer the past tense for novels, but if it's very good, I can overlook it. I found it worked quite well in Elizabeth is Missing - present tense for the narrator in her 80s and past tense when she is describing her life as a teenager.

I really hate the present tense used to describe historical events. Everyone seems to use it nowadays.

MissBattleaxe Sun 17-Jan-16 11:08:01

I didn't used to like it, but I just read Paula Daly's "What kind of Mother Are You?" and parts of it were in present tense. It worked very well and I loved the book so much I changed my mind about it when done well, which in this case it was.

CallieTorres Sun 17-Jan-16 11:22:59

From wiki

Second-person narrative
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. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

Makes me think of those adventure books that you have to make a decision on

Tartyflette Sun 17-Jan-16 11:24:05

Am also finding it hard to visualise a 2nd person/present tense narrative --- you say, you go etc? Quite limiting. Unless it should be third person present tense - he says, she goes? Still not great but better.

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