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Third Person Present Tense – am I screwed?


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#1 E.L.H

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:57 AM

I'm writing my novel right now in third person present tense. I have four narrators and they are all in a deep third person, so it almost reads like first person but with "he" instead of "I." Here's the problem: I didn't realize there are a large majority of people who don't like third person present. It's just what I naturally write in. But then I had a beta reader look over the first part of what I've written and she pointed out third person present is really hard to sell to publishers and it throws people off. I'm devastated. I can't write in first person that well. It's not something I've mastered yet. I get thrown off even just attempting it. And I tried changing a section of what I've written so far into first and I don't know how I feel. 

 

Here's an example from my opening. Right now it's this: 

 

"It's a nightmare, almost.

 

He has been here before in his dreams. Running, legs moving through invisible water, sloshing and slugging him down no matter how hard he tries to push against it.

 

Only now, here, in real life, he's not running at all.

 

His legs are twitching, nerves shooting warnings to get out, get out, get out, get out. But out isn't safe. Inside is safe. Inside, locked in this dark room with twenty-two other people who are huddled along the wall.

 

It's a nightmare. He can't run, and even if he could he'd never get far."

 

 

I mean, am I just screwed? Am I going to need to change everything to first person if I want to be able to get an agent and get my book out there? I know I shouldn't write to please anyone, but realistically, if I want an agent am I going to have to cave and change it? Do people just hate third person present?



#2 Jeanne

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 10:28 AM

As long you have good control of 3rd person present, I wouldn't worry about it. Several years ago (10 or more), the use was considered to be irritating to readers, which is why your friend may have said it's hard to get published. But that has changed, especially since so many YA books use 3rd person present tense. I see it all the time in adult books, too.

 

The biggest problem I see with its use is with writers who do not have a good command of their tenses. They have trouble with flashbacks or near past events in this tense.

 

Jeanne



#3 AJTaylor

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:06 PM

Hi, I agree - no particular problem is present tense anymore if the book is YA. It has the added advantage of making it seem really immediate.

 

Four different narrators seems bold though. I think that will be more of a challenge to make work, as you will need four different present tense voices.

 

Good luck with your book/



#4 E.L.H

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:23 PM

As long you have good control of 3rd person present, I wouldn't worry about it. Several years ago (10 or more), the use was considered to be irritating to readers, which is why your friend may have said it's hard to get published. But that has changed, especially since so many YA books use 3rd person present tense. I see it all the time in adult books, too.

 

The biggest problem I see with its use is with writers who do not have a good command of their tenses. They have trouble with flashbacks or near past events in this tense.

 

Jeanne

 

That makes me feel a lot better. Are there any YA books you can recommend for me to check out that use third person present? I'd love to look at some to see where they work and where they don't and learn from it – especially from those writers who don't have a good command of their tenses. 



#5 E.L.H

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:27 PM

Hi, I agree - no particular problem is present tense anymore if the book is YA. It has the added advantage of making it seem really immediate.

 

Four different narrators seems bold though. I think that will be more of a challenge to make work, as you will need four different present tense voices.

 

Good luck with your book/

 

Immediate is definitely good in my case, since it's a very fast paced story! Luckily for me, my beta and the few other people I've had read it said the four voices are very distinct. The distinction is what made my beta wonder why I didn't just use first person though. Maybe one day I'll master the art of "I" story telling, but as for now I'm really relieved to find out third present isn't a problem in YA.

 

Thank you!!



#6 Thrash

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 02:36 AM

Something I learned the hard way--when you hear harshly put opinions from a few people about a way of writing, it suddenly feels like "majority opinion".  Personally. I can't stand FIRST person present because it feels like a stupid, clumsy lie.

The book:  "I'm running through the forest"  
Me: NO YOU'RE NOT YOU'RE TELLING ME ABOUT IT. 

Third present feels very movie-like, which can be good for some genres.  



#7 Gibber

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 04:37 PM

The book I just signed with an agent over is written in 3rd person present. So yeah. "Opinions are like assholes" and all.






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