POV/tense

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kherezae

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POV/tense
« on: May 30, 2016, 11:08:07 PM »
What's your opinion on the various POV/tense combinations for writing? (We'll skip future tense unless someone has actually encountered/attempted it, yeah?) If I've missed any that you have encountered/have opinions on, feel free to add them in your response!

Close/Limited Third Person Past: Very traditional. To me this is almost default.  I don't think anything of it when I read it unless there are other issues with the writing style. I feel like this is a common view, and a lot of people will write this POV because of that, but I personally don't like the idea that you wouldn't write a POV you want to just because some readers might be taken aback by it because it's not the 'traditional' one to use.

Omniscient Third Person Past: Personally, I hate omniscient POV. It's very impersonal, and when it tells me what different characters are thinking or feeling within the same scene, it makes me want to pull my hair out. x_x To be fair, if the narrator is his/her/its own character, I'd probably be more okay with it. Like Lemony Snicket, perhaps. But other than that, no thank you.

First Person Past: This one comes right behind third person past in terms of feeling traditional. I always had a little meta crisis over it because when is the narrator telling this story from? How do they remember it so perfectly? AAAAHHH! But it's so normal that I can get past that and just read, so it's not a huge issue.

Second Person Past: I don't think I've actually seen this one? Aren't choose your own adventure types usually in present tense? It would probably have to be a really good story and writing style to draw me in with second person. I feel like it needs a purpose, and I'd be very particular about whether it accomplishes the author's purpose in choosing second person.

Close/Limited Third Person Present: I wrote this for a short story once just for kicks and liked it, but it felt too unusual to really work for serious and/or novel-length writing. Then I started running into it in Star Wars fanfiction. Then I read Aftermath, Chuck Wendig's Star Wars novel, which is also this writing style. And I'm rethinking my whole life because I really like it. It feels really flexible and organic to me once you get past how unusual it is. Think about how you tell a story naturally! Don't you hear people naturally slipping into present tense half the time? "So Chuck says, 'I don't know what you've been smoking, but I want some too!'" Right?

Omniscient Third Person Present: I've never run into this. I imagine I would loathe it just as much as omniscient past.

First Person Present: I really enjoy first person present. It solves the problem of "but when is this being narrated from?!" very nicely for me. I started writing it before I read my first book in this POV (The Hunger Games), which basically felt like a validation of my choice. I like that it feels very immediate. But I do think it can be challenging to do well.

Second Person Present: Similarly to second/past, I feel like this needs to be done for a purpose, such as a choose your own adventure book... but given a good writing style/story, I imagine I'd be fine with it.

I really like third person and first. I will admit that I sometimes go with first person purely because I know I'll have a lot of characters of the same gender and I want to cut down on pronoun confusion, though. Particularly when I'm writing a story with a same-sex romance or where for whatever other reason the two main characters are male, regardless of how diverse the rest of the cast is. Does anyone else feel my pain there?

Oh, and if you're lazy like me, here's the code for the POVs I looked at!

Code: [Select]
[b]Close/Limited Third Person Past[/b]:

[b]Omniscient Third Person Past[/b]:

[b]First Person Past[/b]:

[b]Second Person Past[/b]:

[b]Close/Limited Third Person Present[/b]:

[b]Omniscient Third Person Present[/b]:

[b]First Person Present[/b]:

[b]Second Person Present[/b]:

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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2016, 01:00:31 AM »
I honestly never think too much about point of view. I know I've done first person, and I know I've tried doing first person, present tense (which is how I was writing Riptide's Light, but with the point of view character switching every other chapter between two characters (sisters). I don't know if I want to keep writing it that way or not. On the one hand, I like the idea of writing about two sisters and showing both of their viewpoints throughout the story, but on the other...writing first person, present tense is definitely challenging, like you said.

Usually I write...close/limited third person past I think? And i think one of the reasons I do this is because I always end up focusing on one character's point of view, and I've never really tried showing multiple points of view (other than in Riptide).

I don't hate the way The Hunger Games was written. I think it worked for the story being told. I read a book a few years ago, Tiger Lily, that was...I can't remember the exact point of view, but basically it was Tinkerbell telling the story of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily from her point of view. It was...something to get used to, and I definitely feel like I noticed some strange things with the viewpoint.

First person can be really hard to write. I should probably try writing it some time, just to try something different and because I'm out of practice with it. But I don't know how far I'd get.

Oh, actually, I just remembered...I think I DID write one scene a few years ago in first person, but that was just a short scene that I didn't do anything with. Actually, I ended up using it as something to bounce off of and it led me to my idea for Riptide's Light.
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carnovalesque

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2016, 04:49:10 PM »
I absolutely LOATHE omniscient narration.  It's a huge part of the reason why I struggle to read "classic" literature, because for some reason omniscient narration is popular in those novels. 

I'll read pretty much anything else - recently I read N.K. Jemisen's The Fifth Season (which I  cannot recommend enough!) which actually makes really clever use of second person present, especially given the reveal at the end of the book.

In terms of what I write, I rarely, if ever, write in present tense.  There's just something about it that feels clunky to me, and the only time I will use it is if I am making a conscious stylistic choice.  I alternate between first person past and third person past, sometimes within the same book.

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kherezae

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2016, 05:36:44 PM »
I read the sample chapters for The Fifth Season and I am utterly intrigued! Definitely plan to read it. And yay for an example of second person used successfully!

I've wondered about alternating between first and third person in a single story. What makes it work for you?

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Ahryantah

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2016, 06:10:29 PM »
For novels I think I have always done limited third person past, because it is more or less "traditional," and thus feels the least clumsy to me when I write. I generally think the more unusual POVs/tenses are harder to sustain in a novel-length work, with obvious exceptions (I think just about anything can be pulled off if the author is good enough).

For shorter pieces I get more experimental. I've done third person present, third person omniscient, first person present and past (though that one bugs me too), and second person present. Basically whatever I think will work with the tone of the short piece. Short pieces are great because generally writers tend to be able to get away with more experimental stuff without annoying the reader right off the page.

kherezae, Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub is an example of a novel written in omniscient third person present. I read the book years ago and I remember that it took me a little bit to get into it because of the unusual POV, but I think it works pretty well (although I'm fairly sure that's the only book I've come across written in that style so I don't have anything to compare it to). But I don't totally hate omniscient POVs so someone who does might find it too annoying to deal with.
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kherezae

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2016, 06:15:45 PM »
Oh, interesting. I haven't actually read any Stephen King (yes I'm horrible) but.... I'll have to keep that one in mind. Maybe read the first chapter and see how it goes.

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carnovalesque

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2016, 09:02:05 AM »
Quote
What makes it work for you?

Honestly, it wasn't until I read other works that utilized this technique that I believed it could work.  Those works were The Young Elites by Marie Lu and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  I think Lu utilized it better than Kent (overall I think Kent's narration was a little confusing; it was bordering on third person omniscient and switched between POVs on the same page sometimes), but both did it well.  And as I read it in these works, switching from third and first person, I realized, hey, this is a possibility.  And I read N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season which also switches tenses nicely (between second and third, but still).

The way I do it is just make sure to keep tenses separated by chapters.  I think it makes for nice variety within a story!

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kherezae

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2016, 01:18:47 PM »
I forgot that The Young Elites did that! Which I suppose is a sign that it's very natural :P (I love The Young Elites. I can't wait for the third book.)

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Becca

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2016, 07:46:27 AM »
Jess, I don't think you'd like King's work because, as far as I can tell, it's all omniscient. I actually adore omniscient. I love learning little facts that a limited point of view couldn't reveal, or seeing different perspectives on the same scene. I try to do it carefully myself, though, not bouncing around often, but I've learned that I can't stop myself from using it, at least while in third.

I do sometimes write first, though, and for some reason I just tend to go present tense in that case. Not really sure why, it just feels natural to me.

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Conan

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2016, 12:52:22 PM »
Things can get heated when this subject comes up. Especially if one writer/reader doesn't like a POV that someone is fond of. It becomes a rivalry and toes get stepped on. A lot of it comes down to which books helped us fall in love with whatever genre/sub-genre trips your trigger. We liked that book, so our brains use it as a base line.

First person present is popular for many reasons. All of them valid. I find it strange to write and jarring to read. First person past is great for autobiographies and autobiographical fiction. The typical bone of contention being that you know the author will be alive at the end of the story.

My feeling, and I don't mean to ruffle any feathers...is that using first person present tense in fantasy is taking the easy way out. To each his own. I just don't think it's as challenging to the author. Sorry.

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kherezae

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2016, 09:33:11 PM »
Jess, I don't think you'd like King's work because, as far as I can tell, it's all omniscient. I actually adore omniscient. I love learning little facts that a limited point of view couldn't reveal, or seeing different perspectives on the same scene. I try to do it carefully myself, though, not bouncing around often, but I've learned that I can't stop myself from using it, at least while in third.

I do sometimes write first, though, and for some reason I just tend to go present tense in that case. Not really sure why, it just feels natural to me.

Ack :/ I'm sure I could find a book written in omniscient that I would like out there somewhere. (Not counting ones with distinctive, subjective narrators, of course. I'm sure there are lots of those I would like.) And I totally get falling into present tense when writing first person.

@Conan - I don't take it personally when someone doesn't like a POV style that I like or write. Everyone has their own taste. (I know some people take this sort of stuff very personally though.....) I understand how first person present can be seen as taking the easy way out since I did initially approach it as "I can't figure out when the narrator would be telling this story from if it's past tense." I do find that they both present their own challenges, and I think they serve different but equally valid purposes.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2016, 09:35:29 PM by kherezae »

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Conan

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2016, 10:24:06 PM »
Yep,

My wife loves first person present. She says it keeps her in the mind of the MC.

I can read it but I'm constantly thinking of how to rewrite it. Victoria Schwab does a fantastic job of writing in third person past. I like her prose. She is young so her writing should only get better.

I read the Dragonlance books 25 years ago. I think they are third person omniscient. I can see how that would be confusing to some people. It doesn't bother me but I avoid using omniscient.

Hunter Thompson is fun to read in First person past. I read the Rum Diary about once a year.

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Neviril

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2016, 04:12:21 AM »
Is it at all possible to write a scene in those different POVs and tenses as an example?
I'll be honest with you, I have no idea what the differences are, I also have no idea what POV I use?

See I *think* that I hate/dislike first person? 
~I walked to the bakery across the road.~ or ~I walk to the bakery across the road.~
But if I remember correctly Robin Hobb has book(s) written in one of these POVs? (I read one of her books in Dutch though)
And I did love her book. I also find myself writing short scenes in this POV and I think I'm better at portraying the characters thoughts and feelings this way, but overall I dislike reading this.

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kherezae

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2016, 04:20:29 PM »
See I *think* that I hate/dislike first person? 
~I walked to the bakery across the road.~ or ~I walk to the bakery across the road.~
But if I remember correctly Robin Hobb has book(s) written in one of these POVs? (I read one of her books in Dutch though)
And I did love her book. I also find myself writing short scenes in this POV and I think I'm better at portraying the characters thoughts and feelings this way, but overall I dislike reading this.

First person can be done very poorly! Especially when it's all "I did this" and "I did that." And they all have their advantages and disadvantages, of course. Let's see. Maybe I can do an example of the same scene from the different POVs....... Okay, I'm going to use one I just posted, since it highlights a disadvantage of 3rd person limited :p

Disclaimer, this is old writing and certainly not my favorite! But I think it will get the basic idea across.

Quote
Viktor curved in on himself, bowed over his knees as he shook. His eyes were trained on the bead of blood trembling at the end of the knife. It stretched away from the knife tip, the thin thread of blood that held it to the metal elongating and thinning until it snapped and the blood droplet fell to the ground. Viktor’s eyes followed it the whole way, then lost focus as he stared at the earth.

Mikhail knew then that Viktor was broken, and he sighed. He’d shown such promise. Such strength in his convictions, however utterly misguided they were. Another effort wasted.

Well, not wasted. It had been intriguing while it lasted.

“You were right,” Viktor whispered. “I’m no better than them. No better than you.”

It was true, of course. But half the fun was the stubborn, righteous indignation of a man who blindly believed he was better than his enemies -- better than Mikhail, who appeared to sell his services to anyone who could afford it. Watching the trembling, shrunken mess of a man at the center of the spell form drawn in his own blood, well, Mikhail knew it was over.

Such a shame.

I consider that 3rd person limited (past tense), in part because I could rewrite it in first person just by changing pronouns/verb forms. The disadvantage of it being 3rd person is that since I started off by describing Viktor, even though my intention is that he's being described through Mikhail's eyes, it doesn't necessarily come through clearly that way and may sound like it's omniscient and hops between their heads.

Quote
Viktor curved in on himself, bowed over his knees as he shook. His eyes were trained on the bead of blood trembling at the end of the knife. It stretched away from the knife tip, the thin thread of blood that held it to the metal elongating and thinning until it snapped and the blood droplet fell to the ground. Viktor’s eyes followed it the whole way, then lost focus as he stared at the earth.

I knew then that Viktor was broken, and I sighed. He’d shown such promise. Such strength in his convictions, however utterly misguided they were. Another effort wasted.

Well, not wasted. It had been intriguing while it lasted.

“You were right,” Viktor whispered. “I’m no better than them. No better than you.”

It was true, of course. But half the fun was the stubborn, righteous indignation of a man who blindly believed he was better than his enemies -- better than me, who appeared to sell my services to anyone who could afford it. Watching the trembling, shrunken mess of a man at the center of the spell form drawn in his own blood, well, I knew it was over.

Such a shame.

That's the same scene flipped over to first person just by switching ... I think five instances of pronouns? In first person it's more clear that Mikhail was observing Viktor, I think. Anyway, this is not to say that switching between third person limited and first person should always be as simple as flipping over some pronouns and verb forms! (In fact, if I were truly going to revise this scene to best use a particular POV, I'd make small changes to both examples, but for the purposes of this exercise I think this works.) There are definitely other strengths to take advantage of and weaknesses to avoid with each.

As for omniscient third person, it's a... different beast. And there are different types of omniscience, as well. Myself, if I'm going to read omniscient, I prefer subjective omniscient, in which the narrator is kind of another character -- not in the story, but his/her voice is so distinct as to take on a life of its own. Think Lemony Snicket or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Here's one article about omniscient vs limited third person writing. It gets into subjective vs objective omniscience, too, which is helpful.

And that's not even tackling tense!
« Last Edit: June 15, 2016, 04:22:53 PM by kherezae »

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Pischtoph

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Re: POV/tense
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2016, 10:15:53 AM »
POV, to me is irrelevant, since its all changed in my head anyways, to make me the Star of the book.