Thursday, 2 February 2012

Writer's Corner: Tense Abouts Tenses (Oh! And A Giveaway)



If you guys haven't figured out by now that I am using you as guinea pigs for my writing exploits...well...I am :)
      This week, I've been completely agonizing over the dreaded tenses. During my extensive internet procrastination time, I've been reading up on the use of past or present tense in first person novels and which one is more popular. It seems that first person/present tense is the YA equivalent of the literary tense world. By that I mean that it gets a pretty bad rep.
       There are a lot of arguments against first person, present tense. The most common one by far would have to be that it's born of laziness and doesn't allow for additional character scope. I won't go into all of the arguments, but suffice to say, as a predominantly first person POV writer, I am slightly freaked out by this.
       Of course, I am aware that first person/present tense POV is pretty popular in YA books these days, but when I grow up from writing YA, I want to try and branch out into other age ranges and I'm not sure how my affinity for first person/present tense will translate. Not to mention the other difficulties I have writing distinctive female MC's. 
        Here comes the guinea pig bit: I want to do a survey  of what you guys think is the best tense and POV to read or write is. To sweeten the deal, everyone who posts a comment with their opinion will go into the draw to win a book to the value of $15 dollars from The Book Depository. Anyone can enter as long as TBD delivers to their country. The giveaway ends on 12 Feb 2012. I will draw the winner on the 13 Feb 2012. Don't forget to leave your email contact address.
        I'm looking for your honest opinions so don't be shy in saying what you really think. 


Good Luck and thanks guys! You're the best!
      
a Rafflecopter giveaway

88 comments:

  1. I prefer past tense and 3rd person's POV.

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

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  2. I prefer 3rd person past tense POV, too.

    But, it really doesn't bother me reading books in 1st person present at all. It just gets repetitive because I read so many books written that way, and wonder that the author just did it because it's trendy, not because it was the best way to write the story.

    Some books lend themselves to it, though, like The Hunger Games, which seemed to start it all. So many books that have copied it are not books that should have, because they didn't have that sense of immediate danger/threat that TGH has in it organically.

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  3. I'm also jumping on the 3rd person, past tense bandwagon. I've read book in 1st person, present tense and it doesn't bother me but you really have to be careful with it because just like it can make a book better, it can just as easily turn against you.

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  4. I've tried writing in the Omniscient and First Person POV but they just didn;t work. It was clumsy and awkward. Personally, I prefer the Third Person POV.

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  5. Oh, and I'm a first time visitor. Its great to meet you. I tried your Goodreads link but it didn;t work.

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  6. Wow, Lan! This is so cool that you're posting this now because I was just about to create a poll asking the same thing! :) <3 I've just started writing books in each of the tenses and I kept stressing over which one was best too. (I asked my older sister but she doesn't really read LOL!)

    If you asked me last year when I started blogging, I would've said that third person past tense was my favourite (because I really liked the sort of innocence it gave to the characters, if that makes any sense haha)! But lately, I think I prefer first person present tense. I've read so many more books now than before and I just really like the way that it's easier to get sucked into the story with first person! And I pick present tense because I like the way it flows and the way it feels more current.

    I'm kind of confusing myself LOL so you don't have to understand the garble I just wrote! x) But I like first person better now than I did before. I find that I finish them more often than I would with third person books that I can't get into. :)

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  7. Gosh, I write first person present and past tenses. I actually switched from past to present in my last MS and I gotta tell ya, I like it MUCH more in present. It felt as though everything happening was more intimate than in past tense, which felt like I was retelling a story. I've always found that odd in first person. Are they reliving the moment? Are they journaling? Are they looking back and telling the story? To me, it just doesn't fit. Then again, I write romance in dualing POV's. This makes first person present tense less myopic.

    Thanks for the info and the chance to win a gift card! erittelking at gmail dot com.

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  8. BTW, the widget didn't work for me. No biggie though. Thanks again for the thought-provoking question!

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    1. Emily, not sure why the widget didn't work for you. Blogger does that sometimes and you have to refresh the page. I entered for you anyway :) Thanks for the insight!

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  9. I used to hate first person but there are so many good books written in that POV that it started growing on me.

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  10. present tense and 1st person point of view

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  11. Ugh, POV's are the most frustrating to me. I read a lot online about POV's and how first person present tense is overdone and numerous people have made issues of it. Personally, I mostly like first person books. Reading, most of the time. Writing, all of the time. Third person books for reading I can take or leave. There's just something about bouncing from person to person to view their thoughts that bugs me. Some books it works out perfectly for and I like them like that, but most of the time I just pass. Writing in third person would probably be most difficult for me, since I don't read much in third person and don't like being anywhere but my MC's head. Sometimes it takes away from the surprise, knowing what other characters are thinking.

    As far as tense goes, it depends on the book. I don't always pay much attention to whether something is in present or past tense when I'm reading. I kinda only think about it later on. One of the books I'm reading now is telling the story in past tense, and it works for the story because the MC is talking about what went wrong and what happened to herself to make her change so much. I can go either way for reading a book, present or past tense. Writing, I'm not sure. I haven't had much experience with dabbling in both. I know that a few of my story ideas (including my WIP) need to be told in present tense. If it's told in past tense it would take away from the discovery and the direct feelings my MC is going through. Maybe someday a story of mine could do well to be told in past tense. I have one idea that would need to be told in present tense, BUT I have an idea for a novella talking about a summer in the past where the MC meets her best friend. That might be my first opportunity for it.

    But... I guess what it comes down to is which one works best with your characters and your story. I'm not much of an expert, and I'm kinda going against what a lot of people have been complaining about, but it's my opinion anyways... aaaaannnnddd this is probably one of my longest commentaries on a comment on your page. Lol.

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  12. I am a fan of past tense in any POV. I'm not sure why but it feels weird to me to be thinking that the book is happening right then.
    lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

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  13. Oh and I like having multiple POVs in books to see how other characters are reacting to the same situations.

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  14. i prefer 3rd person and past tense.

    i've read 1er person and present tense but i don't like it as much, when the book is full of action it can be good but i prefer 3rd person

    all the best

    isabelle(dot)frisch(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. What's good about first person POV is the immediacy - you bond with the character. I don't know why it gets a bad rep when most of the best-sellers use this POV. I personally love it. third person, to me at least, now pulls me out of the character. And lots of adult books went with first person - look at The Help. It was all first person, with different narrators. Past or present? It depends on the feel of it, I think. Both work fine, I think.

    If you want to pull in more POVs then use third, but remember that each scene must be from one POV only. Otherwise it's head-hopping. And confusing.

    Basically, I'd tell you write what you want, what feels better to you. I don't think one is better than the other, in terms of how they're perceived in the literary world.

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

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  16. I like POV books but I prefer in the third person.

    @Tibiux

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  17. Past tense, third person.

    roniwalker7(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. Um, I'm getting really sick of present tense POVs so I have to say no, just no. I prefer past tense (obviously) because I like to feel like someone is telling me a story not giving me a play by play. Whether it is in third or first person doesn't really bother me, though. What DOES bother me, is third person omniscient. I hate jumping from head to head mid paragraph! Drives me nuts! But third person limited is fine and just as personal as first person, if you ask me...which, hey, you did. ;)

    eeyorjames(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  19. I am not a huge fan of third person. So first person for me all the way. It just helps me relate to a character better for some reason. I enjoy it more. As for present or past tense, I don't have that much of a preference. First Person present tense does not bother me in the least. In fact, I like it.

    chelle2006[@]aol.com

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  20. I'm use to reading and writing in first tense. I don't know why, but I find it harder to write in any other tenses. I feel like the book, if not in first tense, is not mostly about the main character and we don't know her thoughts. I don't know. that's just me.

    thanks
    thunter_5@yahoo.com

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  21. I prefer a past tense first person POV. That helps me bond with the characters more, and I agree that it gives the character a wider scope of reflection.

    I really, really hate alternating POVs. It's more often than not confusing, and just brings a wider gap between character and reader. I can only think of a few times where alternating first person POV has worked for me.

    Another great one is limited third person. It's a tie between first and limited third for me.

    Bekka
    prettydeadlyreviews(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  22. I had to think there. I like reading first person, past tense.
    Thanks for the givewaway.
    swak50 at hotmail dot com

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  23. i like to read third person and past tense.
    thanks for the giveaway

    mariannguyen16(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  24. I don't really have a definite preference when it comes to the different types of POVs. However, I think the success of the first person POV depends on the character "narrating", mainly because even if everything in the story is from a certain person's viewpoint only, the story will still go smoothly if everything is well-described and if that character's voice is amazing in itself.
    There are books I've read that used first person POV that I totally love, and then there are those that I can't help but loathe.
    When it comes to tenses though, I really prefer the past tense over the present tense. Although I think usage of present tense sometimes works too.

    And thanks for the giveaway! :)

    njeleen01@yahoo.com

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  25. I like reading and writing for a first person point of view! The character becomes attached to you and very life like!
    tirnanog@gmail.com
    tirnanog(at)gmail(dot)com

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  26. I will read in any tense, I'm not really fussy, but I prefer third person past tense. Allows for a wider scope of characters/emotions/events etc.

    I do like first person too, past tense probably better, but present tense can be good - can make you feel like your experiencing everything they do at the same time. Their discoveries are also your discoveries.

    I think as long as the author is confident in their choice, it works. Only if someone is writing to try and please someone else or do what they think they should be doing, then it goes wrong.

    :D

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  27. I have no real preference for first or third person when I'm reading. I like both, though if you're writing from multiple PoVs in the first person then you need to be very careful that your characters' voices all sound different, which isn't so much a problem in the third person.

    With tenses, though, I much prefer the past tense. The present tense is very restrictive. It's all about the here and now and it makes it hard to incoporate stories from the past. I read The Hunger Games recently and every single time she went off topic to talk about a story from the past it jarred me when she came back to the present tense. It's much easier to tell side stories like that in the past tense.

    I checked my GR faves shelves and I have a mix of first and third person but all but one is a past tense narrative.

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  28. To be honest, I don't really care about the tense or point of view as long as the story is good, but it does get a bit annoying when you can't really know hat the other characters are feeling. Maybe it'd be better to either have a book written in first person with alternating POVs (like Maggie Stiefvater's YA series) OR third person and narrative (like most books have). :) Hope I was able to make myself clear. LOL.

    Thanks for the chance.

    kah-cherub at hotmail dot com

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  29. sorry, I made a mistake in my e-mail: Kah_cherub at hotmail dot com :)

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  30. Hey Lan! Made it to your giveaway!!! Woo hoo. and I'm going to enter here first, just in case I forget to do the rafflecopter when I get home from work this evening, which, as we all know...I do a lot.

    I love first person sooo much. It helps me get into my books. Actually I get a bit peeved when I read 3rd person, especially multiple POV's. I can never remember who on earth is talking until like 2 pages into the chapter, and that makes me lose interest.

    I would like to note that if the MC is an annoying, whiny, overly sensitive..............that first person doesnt work. You grow to hate the character and then the book.

    You know my email, so I'll probably just enter it into the rafflecopter later.

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  31. Hi Lan,
    I never really paid attention to the tense - if a story is good, I'm in, if not, I try harder and if that doesn't work, I put it aside for a while (although for "The Catcher in the Rye" I suspect it's going to be a really loooong while).
    When writing a story I find it easier using the third person & past tense combination.
    nedelia11(at)gmail(dot)com

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  32. the first and the third POVs are okay for me. Past or present tense are also okay for me. I'm not a really picky person, just make sure that the story is good. :)

    me_winy AT yahoo DOT com DOT ph

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  33. I'm not a great fan of present tense because I have seldom enjoyed a book written in this form. Most of the stories I enjoy are written in 1st or 3rd person past tense. Even in 1st person you can alternate between characters to give your story some depth if you think it needs it.

    But ultimately you must write in the style that suits you and your story. Tense and POV are just tools - it's how you use them that count.

    Shelagh (wordfiend AT mighty.co.za)
    The Word Fiend

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  34. I prefer first person 100%. I prefer present tense. But if something is written well i'll give anything a chance.

    jennifer k
    (email is in the rafflecopter)

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  35. I honestly find it very difficult to connect with YA books not written in the first person, although I don't really mind whether the tense is past or present (present can be jarring at times, though), but if I end up with a book written in the third person, I will give it a try. I also get very annoyed by multiple POVs, but for the same basic reason: it's hard to really get into a character's head and come to care about him / her when your attention is constantly being diverted by something else.

    This is a preference thing, though, and in the end I truly believe that you should write your story in the way that feels the most comfortable for you AND your story, because it does ultimately come down to quality. I've loved and hated all kinds of books, the styles I prefer just take a little less time to suck me in.

    maria-malan [at] hotmail [dot] com

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  36. I have a tendency to write in first person and yes, past tense. I tried alternating narrators once and the editor told me to stop it. But while a good present tense book can make me forget it's in present tense(in which case, why bother?) any other makes me grit my teeth. Unless there's a good reason for it,a VERY good reason, it's just pretentious, IMO. LAN, just do whatever feels right for your book. Don't go changing to present tense just because it seems to be all the rage these days.

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  37. I generally prefer third person as it always takes me awhile to get into a 1st person story but if the book is good enough after awhile I don't notice which person or tense it is.

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  38. I like first person and past tense. Present tense frustrates me but I'm not sure why

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  39. Depends on the author. First person in the present tense is my fav when done correctly.

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  40. I think the best POV for me would be the third person, I've read mostly third person books and I think I really enjoy reading it.

    fallendream03 AT gmail DOT com

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  41. When reading, it depends, the main point is that it suits the character and that it conveys the story and emotions well. However, when writing, I prefer third person POV and past tense - I even start thinking about the story I'm going to write in the third person POV/past tense.

    beyondstrangenewwords(at)gmail(dot)com

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  42. The POV could set the emotion of the text. Say if you were to write first person, past tense. You could foreshadow, make more references to the current time the narrator is in (he later blah, blah, blah), you could make your story more ominous (Little did I know that...), etc.

    If you were to write first person, present tense, urgency and more mystery could be added into the text since your character does not know what will happen next.

    Third person (I recommend limited omniscient) could see into the thoughts of other characters and could add more detail to any surroundings or profiles.

    Think about what works more for you and your story. Which one seems more natural or comfortable?

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. I prefer 3rd person and past tense. First person POV is okay sometimes but I hate present tense.
    email- callaghanlinda2@gmail.com

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  46. I'm really not picky on the POV as long as it's well written
    mariahoverlockATgmail.com

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  47. 3rd person, past tense is my favorite, but first person is okay too, if it's well written :)
    I'm also not too picky, so I'll read a book in present tense too, if the story is promising.
    Thank you for the giveaway!

    cayce006 at yahoo com

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  48. As someone who only a couple years ago developed a passion for reading, I have not come across a POV that I didn't like. I do enjoy first person POV where others may not. I understand that you may not get the full story that way but when first person is done well, it shouldn't make a difference!

    I do, however, think that if you want to challenge yourself you should try writing from another POV other than the one you are most comfortable with.

    Whatever you decide I wish you the best of luck with it!

    Pam

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    1. Shoot ... for email.
      vanillaorchids69(at)gmail(dot)com

      Delete
  49. I prefer third person and past tense since it doesn't put me to sleep. I felt like I'm wading through the character's personal thinking and it slows down the momentum in the book.

    Good luck!
    ossiriand10(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  50. I prefer first person told by a girl. I like to get into a girls head but if I try to get into a boys- it ends up with me confused.

    I also like past tense on reading because it makes the writing flow easier for me.

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  51. I prefer past tense, Lan, whether in first- or third-person narrative. I'm afraid I find present tense a little jarring and I think it limits a writer's flexibility more than you'd want.

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  52. NO NO NO! Do NOT be freaked. I don't think there's a 'best' tense—there’s the tense that works for your story.

    For instance, The Hunger Games are written in first-person present, and, in addition to it working perfectly for the story, they books are incredibly well written.

    Tahereh Mafi does something AMAZING with 1P present tense in Shatter Me... and then you get books which aren't as well written.

    Until recently, I always though 1P-past was the 'norm' in YA, and you know, it can be beautifully done... or not. Please don't get me wrong—I like Twilight a LOT... actually, that's not true. I kind of LOVE it, despite its issues. But it’s past tense, and not particularly well written (in the technical sense—Meyer does a real job at building tension and creating real emotion). She has an over-fondness for adverbs, repeats herself constantly, and doesn't do anything overly brilliant.... but then you have Harry Potter... which is brilliant. Past tense, and it works there (yes, I know, dif. POV).

    I just read something that points out that Hunger Games being written in present not only works, but is kind of necessary. If you read it in past, it'd suggest that Katniss survives, and take the suspense out of it.

    I'm really sorry, I've spent 15 mins searching, but can't find this... I remember reading something a LONG time ago, and Suzanne Collins actually said she started out writing THG differently, and went through a few samples before she settled on present tense. This isn't laziness—this is carefully considered research and planning.

    Honestly, if a book is well written, it doesn't matter. The POV, the tense? They're tools. Like any tools, when they're in the hands of a gifted craftsman will either show the creators’ talent, or show their failings. But it's a matter of using the right tool for the job—you can't hammer a nail with a screwdriver. Actually, hey, you can try. You might have some success. But using the right tool for the right job will render the best result.

    Please, please, PLEASE do not second guess yourself because of something someone else has said. I can find arguments for either side of the debate (see above :P). There are a lot of people who don't see the literary worth in Young Adult AT ALL. And they're wrong. Just because someone (who CLEARLY doesn't know what they're talking about) maligns the entire 'genre' (sorry, I know 'YA' isn't a genre in itself, but you catch my drift?), doesn't make them right, and we wouldn't listen to those people—Young Adult fiction brings some of the most creative, imaginative stories currently being published the world. We've mentioned The Hunger Games, but how about Harry Potter? His Dark Materials? Maggie Stiefvater's Mercy Falls books are so beautifully written the prose is verging on poetry. We have beautiful, uncompromising, extraordinary works of fiction, and the people who want to get on their soap box and say something is 'right' or something is 'wrong' are only looking at the negative. My point is, if we wouldn't listen to someone making sweeping generalization in the above scenario, we shouldn't listen to them then.

    I'm sorry, this has gotten out of hand, but I hope it helps. I think Michael J. McCann has a point, but at the end of the day, each and every POV/tense has its limitations to flexibility. First person will give you much greater intimacy with a character than third. Third *may* give you a greater scope of characters.

    At the end of the day? I don't care about the tense, as long as it's the right tense for the book, and it's well written. If you've chosen first person? I'm sure you've done it for a reason. There is no right or wrong in general—only what is right and wrong for you.

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  53. I don't have a preference. Thanks for the giveaway.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  54. Third person past tense for me too. I think it requires greater care on the part of the writer when using first person POV to avoid the narrator coming off an egoistical tosser. Unless that is the effect one is going for :)

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  55. Honestly, I don't have a preference as long as it sticks to one tense. Too many times I have started a book in first person, only to get to the next chapter and have it be third person about a different person in the story. Drives me crazy!

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

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  56. I like past tense with first or third person

    skidmore333atgmaildotcom

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  57. First POV while writing, while reading it doesn't really matter :)

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  58. I love past tense and first person. I do not like present tense, especially when I have to translate it!

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  59. I prefer past tense and I like both first and third person.

    musmekipi at gmail dot com

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  60. It really depends on the story. Most of the books I read are in 1st person present tense, but I enjoy 3rd person past tense more in general because it creates more of a story. Sometimes I just can't take being stuck inside an MC's head.

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  61. My favorite is first and third person.

    jmesparza821(at)gmail(dot)com

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  62. There's something about 1st person present that when its done well has a great immediacy. When it's done poorly, though, it's bad.

    mrsethjones AT yahoo dotcom

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  63. I love writing in third person, but I prefer to read in first person.

    muse_in_the_fog@Hotmail.com

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  64. I like first person, but any POV is fine for me as long as I get the story.
    Latoya

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  65. I like first person POV in past tense

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  66. i like 3rd person, past tense

    catherine0807 at hotmail dot com

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  67. I prefer reading in first person in past tense :)
    stephbarkerdrew at hotmail dot com

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  68. I think I prefer reading in first person and in past tense:)

    bookaddiction.annejude@gmail.com

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  69. I prefer third person past tense. I find that first person narratives often involve a lot more exposition that feels forced.

    workingforthemandroid at gmail dot com

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  70. i prefer reading in 1st person in past tense.. :)
    rics_1203@yahoo.com

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  71. I definitely prefer 1st person and past tense, but the book The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was 3rd and past and it was my fave book so far in 2012, so my tastes may be changing.

    jade-walker@hotmail.co.uk

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  72. I prefer reading past tense - not bothered about first or third person. I think it's because when I'm reading in present tense it feels more like I'm involved in the story, and it annoys me on some level when things happen differently to how I would expect. Perhaps that's the control freak in me :D

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  73. hi, i found you through the giveaway link! i'm adding you to my blogroll and will be poking around some too :)

    personally, i love a find a first person POV - in present tense - really engaging. but it really depends on what the story is, isn't it? that being said, while i have a preference, it depends on th,e material you're writing and what effect you want your on your readers

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    1. email: readerrabbit 22 at gmail dot com

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  74. I think third person is the most unnoticeable to me. I like it when I don't have to "get into" the tense, when I just adjust smoothly. I've heard it's the easiest to write in, too, so I'm not attempting anything "hard", yet.

    burgandyice at Live dot com

    thx for the giveaway!! I'm a new GFC

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  75. I think first person present tense is actually harder to write. You have to keep it in the present and all that. I prefer writing third person past tense, but lately I've been unintentionally writing first person.

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  76. I really like it when the POV alternates between chapters, and I prefer past tense.

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  77. I kind of like first person present tense, the feeling of being inside that person's head and knowing what they're thinking as events unfold. I think it can add layers that you can't get in third person.

    That said, I don't really have a preference, I read any and all tenses happily. :)

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  78. I prefer 3rd person point of view and present tense.
    iheartmemorethanyou at yahoo dot com

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  79. I will be honest and say that my reading preference has nothing to do with what tense and person in the book is written. I usually don't notice that I am readin in present and it would have been better in past or vice versa. But I noticed that some readers and authors deem this very important, so I am the exception I think.. I can say that if the tense and pov fits the story and the stlye of the author perfectly, I will not complain. One thing that puts me off a little, is when an author writes two differenet povs, and the heroine' pov is from first person, while the hero's pov is from third.. But I think it's also just me:)
    I hope I helped a little!

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  80. For me it doesn't matter if it's 1st or 3rd POV and I like past tense the best. :)

    stephanie.verhaegen@hotmail.com

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  81. Any, actually! I love all of the POVs

    email : foreverlostinbooks(at)gmail(dot)com

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  82. I'm struggling with whether or not to change my first person present to first person past - or leave it as is. After reading much YA fiction, I find first person present (when done well) to be most effective, but it doesn't flow quite as naturally and feels more difficult for me to pull off. The story I'm working on now feels more immediate than the others, and thus the ... struggle.

    Thanks for all of the input. I'm wondering what you decided to do. The comments on here are helpful but also add to the confusion. LOL (Such is life.)

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    1. Hi Patti, In the end, it was sort of a 50/50 response between past/present tense and those encouraging me to write what feels natural to me. It was Saz101's comment that really hit home for me and I decided that I write how I feel comfortable and that's how it's going to be!

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