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First Person Present

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions First Person Present

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  • #150919
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Hey y’all, I’ve got a couple inquires for ya.

    Whether you’ve written first person present or not, do you have any tips for writing it? Any common mistakes you see people commit?

    Secondly, what are your thoughts on a first person present book with a few third person past interludes and possibly an epilogue? I’ve never seen a book with both past and present tense. Is that two jarring/strange? I wanted a few small scenes from another PoV, but I didn’t want those scenes to be first person, and third person present seems kinda strange. What would you do? Third person present as well?


    @r-m-archer


    @briannastorm


    @obrian-of-the-surface-world


    @joelle-stone


    @emily-waldorf


    @rose-colored-fancy


    @the-inkspiller


    @kingdomfire7

    #150933
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson is a first person present tense book alternating with first person past tense. It made sense, but I think it could easily have gone south. If you’re careful I think you could make it work. It would be easy to forget what tense/person you’re writing in. I’d suggest you try doing a short story or set of short stories, or even a few chapters before committing to a whole novel alternating between persons and tenses. Also, decide before hand whether it will be the same intimacy with both of them. First person is usually limited, (although I just finished a first person limited omniscient)

    I have written first person present tense for short stories. If you think it would be helpful, I would gladly share some with you.

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #150934
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    Hey Noah, (@noah-cochran)

    Story Embers did a podcast on POVs that might be good to check out.

    SE Podcast #40: The Power of Point of View

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by Brian Stansell. Reason: spelling

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #150936
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    Whether you’ve written first-person present or not, do you have any tips for writing it? Any common mistakes you see people commit?

    Okay, as you know I primarily write first-person past tense with interludes of third-person past tense.

    The biggest differences are psychic distance, voice, and unreliability.

    You already have all of these things in third-person limited, there’s an even larger focus on it in first-person.

    Your psychic distance is going to be really close, you can even afford some more introspection if you feel like it. There’s really never too much in first-person, as long as it’s interesting.

    You’re already good at voice, but in first-person that’s even more of a focus.

    Also, your narrator will be ridiculously unreliable. They might even say something that’s outright untrue because their opinion is so subjective.

    Secondly, what are your thoughts on a first person present book with a few third person past interludes and possibly an epilogue? I’ve never seen a book with both past and present tense. Is that two jarring/strange? I wanted a few small scenes from another PoV, but I didn’t want those scenes to be first person, and third person present seems kinda strange. What would you do? Third person present as well?

    I really like using a few chapters from different points of view. I think it depends on how important these characters are. If you have one clear main character in first person, I’d do the others in third-person. However, if they’re all equally important, you could do them in first-person as well.

    I wouldn’t change the tenses unless it was actually happening in the past, otherwise, it’ll definitely get confusing.

    Third-person present is unusual, but it’s not that it can’t be done. I believe Shaelin has a writing video on this specifically, she really likes using third-person present. It’s a more unusual choice but the alternative is confusing.

    Otherwise, you can make both past tense. It’s always an option.

    I don’t think I really told you anything new, but I hope it helps!

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #150939
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    Thanks man, I might check it out.


    @emily-waldorf

    The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson is a first person present tense book alternating with first person past tense. It made sense, but I think it could easily have gone south. If you’re careful I think you could make it work.

    Alrighty, I might take a look at that book. And yes, that’s what I’m worried about. I’m thinking that playing with tenses like that can easily exasperate a reader.

    I have written first person present tense for short stories. If you think it would be helpful, I would gladly share some with you.

    Sure, send one over, I’ll check it out.


    @rose-colored-fancy

    Also, your narrator will be ridiculously unreliable. They might even say something that’s outright untrue because their opinion is so subjective.

    Good point, I’ll keep that in mind.

    I wouldn’t change the tenses unless it was actually happening in the past, otherwise, it’ll definitely get confusing.

    Alrighty, that’s the main thing I was wanting to know, and it seems that it’s just too strange. I suppose my options are to have third person present povs, make it all past tense, or remove the third person povs. We’ll see.

    #150940
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran

    Alrighty, I might take a look at that book. And yes, that’s what I’m worried about. I’m thinking that playing with tenses like that can easily exasperate a reader.

    Could you perhaps skip playing with tenses and just switch persons?

     

     

    Shall I post the story here?

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #150947
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @emily-waldorf

    Could you perhaps skip playing with tenses and just switch persons?

    You mean say in present and use third person present? Yes, I might do that.

    Sure you can post it here. If you’re not wanting it in public view, you can email to me instead.

    #150948
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran yeah. Instead of switching from first person present to third person past maybe you could switch from first person present to third person present.

     

    Here it is. I didn’t edit before posting:

    ~~~~

    Really A Big Word

     

    I am waiting. Waiting for the train to come; for life to start; for the memories to stop.

     

    Just…waiting.

     

    The double tracks gleam dully in the thin sheet of rain that hangs over the platform. Passengers huddle together, away from the man with the convict’s clothing, but why should I change? 7 years for manslaughter can’t be taken off with a shirt.

    A car pulls up to the station to let off more people. A 1952 Cadillac Deville. I shudder. Why would anyone drive a Cadillac? Not everybody does what I did, I guess.

    A train whistle cuts the air, stabbing into my brain the memory of a car horn, begging a little girl to get out of the way; echoing her mother’s screams. My foot flattens against the wooden platform, frantically pumping the breaks in my memory. I’m breathing hard. Where is that mother now? Is the pain I created in her eyes still visible?

    The newcomers mount the platform and crouch beneath the skinny awning, trying to avoid the leak and the dripping eaves. A woman with a baby in one arm, the other hand clutching a little girl’s hand. The five-year-old looks around her with wide eyes, trying to look everywhere at once.

    I smile sadly. She looks like a girl I saw—for an instant—7 years ago, in front of my car. They are so similar. The same curly gold hair; the same innocence and wide-eyed wonder. Could it be…my eyes lift involuntarily to her mother’s face. If only it was her—!

    Her mouse-white hair is nothing like the shining blonde waves of the woman I’m looking for. Even if it was, forgiveness is a big word. Too big, for a person like me to hope for.

    With another howl the engine shoots into view and cannons toward us on the far tracks. At the same instant the little girl wriggles her fingers free from her mother’s grasp and dances across the tracks after a flower on the other side, brave and pink in the gray rain.

    The train keeps rushing forward. The second tracks are reserved for freight; it won’t stop at the station. With a shriek her mother starts forward, but the other passengers hold her back and begin shouting to the child on the tracks: the train is too close to risk another life.

    The engineer can’t see her golden head, shining brightly in the rain, and he urges his engine forward.

    The mother is sobbing now. She is trying to catch her daughter’s attention. Trying to sign to her, but she cannot hear the train, or the people shouting. She is too absorbed in her aster to feel the shaking of the tracks or notice her mother’s gestures.

    I squeeze my eyes closed, but I cannot squelch the memories. A vehicle that couldn’t stop in time; a curly head, with all the future crushed out of it; a mother’s agonized screams. Agonized screams. They jerk me back to Now, and I’m leaping off the platform, as the train breaks begin to screech.

    As I jump the first tracks, the girl suddenly feels the murderous vibrations, and turns to see the death engine plunging, unstoppable, toward her. I am screaming. Her eyes meet the engineer’s as a nightmare shoots through my mind. Then…

     

    Impact.

     

    I hardly feel it. Even the dislocating summersault through the air and the sick thud on the turf are meaningless. Only the limp little life in my arms is real. The locomotive thunders past, reverberating in what’s left of my heart.

    Dizziness. Noise. Running feet. Cold rain on my face. They’re all a blur. Someone is yelling for a doctor, but it only makes my headache worse. Then the mother is there, still clutching her baby and sobbing. As she bends to pick up her uninjured daughter, I look back over 7 long years, into the eyes that had overflowed with the pain I caused. Recognition and disbelief flash through those eyes, and something like love. Forgiveness really is a big word.

    My eyes flicker closed, and I am waiting.

     

    Just…waiting.

     

    ~~~~

    I also have one where the tenses switch from past to present, but I don’t know how helpful it would be for you to read my work ad nauseam. Hope this was helpful!

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #150953
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @emily-waldorf

    That was excellent, thanks for sharing!

    Even if it was

    You used this phrase in regard to a woman’s hair. I would use that precise phrase in the same context in past tense. So are there just some places where past and present tense will overlap, like that?

    I also have one where the tenses switch from past to present

    I think I’ve decided not to do that, but we’ll see.

    #150954
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran

    Thank you!

     

    Ah! No, “was” is incorrect, but not quite in the way you’re thinking. These two sentences are similar in that the MC is thinking hypothetically:

    Even if it was, forgiveness is a big word.

    If only it was her—!

    When something is a wish or otherwise hypothetical, it is correct to use “were”, although people will use “was” because it sounds right (like I thought it did). I might say, “I wish it were summer!” This is present tense, but I still use “were”.

    I’m 99% percent sure that is correct, but I didn’t know that at the time. I’ll have to double check with my grammar dictionary sister. 🙂 Thanks for catching that!

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #150958
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran

    Said grammar-dictionary sister said (as far as we could tell without reading my story together) that what I said in my previous post about “Were” is probably right, but is a situation that should be avoided.

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #150960
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @emily-waldorf

    When something is a wish or otherwise hypothetical, it is correct to use “were”, although people will use “was” because it sounds right (like I thought it did). I might say, “I wish it were summer!” This is present tense, but I still use “were”.

    Alright, so let me make sure I’m understanding: If writing something hypothetical or as if someone wished for it to happen, you use the word ‘were’ and not ‘was?’ For instance, are these two sentences correct: If only I were home. OR Even if it weren’t raining, I still wouldn’t go outside.

     

    #150962
    Emily Waldorf
    @emily-waldorf

    @noah-cochran To my understanding, yes! You hit it right on the nail.

    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"
    https://silverpenstrokes.wordpress.com

    #151219
    Joelle Stone
    @joelle-stone

    Great questions. XD I don’t really have any tips for writing in first person (tho I tend to like that POV), so I’ll skip that question.

    As for the other… I say go for it. Having interludes in the middle of the story in a different POV/tense would be pretty jarring, but if you had an epilogue/prologue in a different POV/tense, it would definitely bring attention to those. 🙂

    #151228
    Jess R. Plowman
    @toljamedia

    I feel like first person present tense is quite popular right now. The Hunger Games was in that viewpoint if I’m not mistaken, and a lot of YA series seemed to follow suit – Divergent, at least, off the top of my head. Hunger Games did it well, but following that, in my generation at least, there seemed to be a huge influx of hobby writing that used it, um, not as well lol. The main pitfall there, in my humble opinion, was that it becomes really easy to slip into introspection, while using present tense as a crutch to create the illusion of action. You still have to have things happening on the page.

    I don’t know if that’s much of a tip… I don’t do a lot of writing in that POV myself, but that’s my observation from a reader’s perspective at least.

    But there is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent.

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