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DEBATES > Past vs. Present Tense

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message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimberly85) | 2 comments Hi Everyone!

I am writing my first YA fantasy novel, and when I started writing it the voice came out in third person present tense. After writing a few chapters I would like to continue writing in present tense, but I did some investigating on the internet and it seems like there is a lot of negativity surrounding the use of present tense in fiction novels. I guess I was channeling The Hunger Games and Divergent, both of which I loved. I actually hadn't even realized that The Hunger Games was written in present tense until I saw someone mention it in another group debate. But then, both of those series were written in first person, and mine is in third-limited. So I guess I'd just like to get some opinions from fellow YA readers on this tense choice.

Let me know your thoughts!


message 2: by Gisbelle (new)

Gisbelle | 27299 comments Normally I don't actually mind whether the book is written in present tense or past tense. It's the writing itself that makes the book worth reading.

But if I have to choose, I think I'll go with past tense.


message 3: by Jay (new)

Jay | 5197 comments Present Tense


message 4: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) Kimberly wrote: "Hi Everyone!

I am writing my first YA fantasy novel, and when I started writing it the voice came out in third person present tense. After writing a few chapters I would like to continue writing i..."


There appears to be a current fad for present tense, usually first person, and mainly in YA. Lots of people love it. I don't mind it if the writing is really good, but my personal preference is past tense.

I haven't yet read a book written in first person present tense more than one point of view that hasn't driven me nuts trying to figure out who's speaking. (I have learnt that I never notice chapter headings so this may be a personal failure of mine).

As Gisbelle has said, it's all about the writing. But I also have a preference for past tense.


message 5: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimberly85) | 2 comments Thanks for the feedback!

I think I'm going to move forward in present tense and hope that it's not a mistake to do so!


message 6: by David (last edited May 09, 2014 09:20AM) (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 72 comments I found myself in this position too, Kimberly, with my latest book. In the end I went with 1st person present tense because it suited the nature of the book. I think if either are written well the reader doesn't really notice if they are reading past or present. 1st person present allows the reader to get into the characters head space and so suits a psychological theme. 3rd person past allows for more action off scene so suits that kind of theme. Id say if it feels right to you, go with it.


message 7: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Frankel | 410 comments FWIW, I think you should find the voice you want to write in best. There's really no hard and fast rule. The only rule, if there is one, is to make the novel entertaining, and that means building your world(s), characters, action scenes, conflicts, etc.

Personally, I prefer to write in first-person POV using past tense. Many of my novels are like that. (Twisted, my latest, follows that formula)

However, my next novel, Lindsay Versus the Marauders, is third-person, and it worked out quite well. So it all depends on what voice you want to use and how comfortable you feel using it. JMO...


message 8: by Morrigan (new)

Morrigan I much prefer to read things in past tense.


message 9: by Angie (new)

Angie (agielovegood) I like both, but I enjoy to read in present tense :3


message 10: by Marinaserina (new)

Marinaserina | 39 comments It depends, but I prefer present because the reader gets to experience the emotions of the character at the same time they are feeling them.


message 11: by Briana (new)

Briana Gaitan (brianagaitan) | 1 comments I prefer past /third person. Present/ third person can get a little tricky. Even present first person can be tricky only because there will be sometimes you use the past tense of a word...depending on the situation. I suggest if you are gonna use present tense make sure you are using a good editor or study up. The good thing about past tense is that you can make time jumps without it seeming to confusing.


message 12: by Maya (new)

Maya Netanya | 20 comments If it's in third person, I would definitely use paast tense.


message 13: by Jojobean (new)

Jojobean | 675 comments either is fine with me


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 26, 2014 05:24PM) (new)

Present tense
past tense doesn't cut it for me


message 15: by Anna (new)

Anna Roberts (annajayr) | 22 comments Present most of the time, but past is ok.


message 16: by Alyson (new)

Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 303 comments I can read either one. It really depends on what tense best works for the story. However, more and more I am liking present a lot better.


Carrie (The Butterfly Reader) (sweet_cherry69) Either is fine but I prefer past.


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily | 90 comments Present tense I easy to write and read but a flashback is not to bad


message 19: by Petronėlė (new)

Petronėlė (limitlessliterature) Present Tense. I don't really have a good reason for my opinion though.


message 20: by Kamryn (new)

Kamryn Allbee (kamrynallbee) Present tense


message 21: by Josianne (new)

Josianne Haag (jhaag) | 9 comments Honestly, most of the time I don't even notice what tense it is.


message 22: by Lily (new)

Lily | 90 comments Lol


message 23: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Wade (awjo1991) | 29 comments Yeah, present tense seems to be the thing right now. But I prefer reading in past a lot more.


message 24: by Ilana (new)

Ilana (iscm13) | 33 comments i'm gladh tat you started this conversation. i don't know that i ever really noticed one or the other. i think that if i had to choose, i would go for present tense since past is often leading. it gives you hints of what's to come when you don't necessarily want to go there.


message 25: by Kris (new)

Kris | 1 comments Past tense.
Here are my thoughts. Stories have been told and written in the past tense for literally thousands of years. The new trend of writing in present tense just showed up in the last ten years or so. It's hard to say whether or not it's here to stay. It's become a familiar way to write, because it's become a familiar way to talk. (and movies seem to occur in present tense)
1. Yesterday this guy comes up to me and says...
2. Yesterday this guy came up to me and said...
Although #1 sounds fine and a lot of people say it that way, it mixes tenses - it occurred yesterday - in the past.
Pros of present tense (first person) it gives a sense of urgency. So if the whole story is really fast paced, tense, and urgent I think it can work. I think it would work for suspense/thriller genres. If you're not writing an edge of your seat story, I'd go for past tense.
Neutral - I think it's possible to feel & get into the characters mind in either past or present.
Cons - because so much storytelling has been in past tense, it can be jarring for some readers.
As the author, when you write in present tense, you have to write as if you have no idea what is going to happen next, so you can't let anything from the future leak into the story even a little bit. "I swim across the river to safety." No you don't - you swim across the river hoping for safety - you won't know it's safe until you get there, heck, you might even drown on the way! This means putting in a lot more detail. "I dive into the water. I'm swimming as fast and hard as I can. I reach the other side and drag myself out. I'm safe." In past tense you could just say "Ï swam across the river to safety" and be done with it. (Yes, you can feel the tension more in present tense, but is your ENTIRE story THAT tense?) Therefore, as the author, it takes a LOT more work to write "correctly" in present tense, even if it does seem to flow more naturally when writing.
I'd love your feedback on my thoughts...


message 26: by Kikijanika (new)

Kikijanika | 2911 comments I used to like past tense when I was younger but now I prefer present tense. So many books I've read lately have been written in present tense that when I sometimes start a book that's written in past tense, it feels weird for a while before I get used to it again.


message 27: by Miley (new)

Miley (mileyrowling) | 78 comments I would say it depends on the book. The Hunger Games would just be strange in past tense, while others would be strange in present tense.


message 28: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 821 comments I don't really have a preferred tense when reading, but I find it easier to write in past tense if that helps :-)


message 29: by Kyle’s (new)

Kyle’s Book Corner (lyfeinbooks) | 103 comments I feel like you can't have a good book without both. I like books that stay in the present, but then have a reflection that set's things in the past tense for a bit. That being said though it's always to each there own. =)


message 30: by Kristie (new)

Kristie | 132 comments I usually prefer past tense but there are some really great books witten in present tense too.


message 31: by Bailey (new)

Bailey Eilers Honestly, I've never really thought about this before but I think I have to say present tense because you get their real-time reactions and feelings. Sometimes I do like past tense though because it's nice to get a character's feelings as they look back and have more insight


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