Tense and POV
I don’t know how much you have or have not experimented with tense. I haven’t that much. At least, not until this year.
We all know what tense is. It’s the time that the story takes place in basically. So right now, I would say, “Abigail types a blog post.” Whereas if I’m talking about something that has already happened, I can say, “This afternoon, Abigail role played online intead of doing her homework.”
The other element that I’m going to define is POV–point of view. POV shows up typically in first or third person. Yes, I know, second person can be done, but I’ve never even attempted that so I’m not going with that. First person is when you tell about something that happened to you. Third person is when you look at something that happened to someone else. Example can be, “I type a blog post,” versus, “Elianna plays the piano.” Same tense, different POV.
So why I am even bringing this up? Because both of these should be considered when writing a story.
When I typically write, I write in third person past tense. That’s probably because that’s how a lot of my books have been written it, it’s familiar, and it’s easy. I can then foreshadow and other things. Most importantly, I can easily bounce between POV’s of characters. (Write something from Nessa’s and then write something from Avi’s.) If I was going to help someone write, I would (at least up until recently) recommended writing in third person past tense.
However… I began writing in first person POV. And that has changed some things.
The first story I wrote in first person POV is Watching from a Distance. (Which I actually began as a response to the massive number of Paranormal Romance I saw. Not sure if that theme carried over though.) Anyway, I started that in past tense because that’s just what people write in, right? I mean, why not?
Then I began thinking about it. Reve, the main character, would have a totally different reaction to this story if he knew the ending. If he was telling this story later on, he would tell it differently than I had written. So I had two choices: I had to figure out how he could tell this story later (which I didn’t do until later) or I had to change the whole tense.
I changed the tense.
And suddenly the story began flowing like he was telling it as it was happening. It worked and I think it worked out well. This began having me tell all of Reve’s stories (I have three different ones, not including two I have yet to write.) in this first person present tense.
But, so what, you say? After all, many people write in first person present tense now. (I should abbreviate that to FPNT. First person now tense. :D )
What made the difference is that I wrote a story in first person past tense. Why? Because I wrote it in the manner that the main character is telling you the story of how he killed his wife. (Intrigued now, no?) Eventually, you (the reader) also finds out that he is asking you to marry him. Eventually this’ll all be moved into my novel, but for now, I’m working it as a stand-alone.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written something like this before. I actually think it came out pretty awesomely.
The other thing I should mention is that first person allows the reader to get closer to the character. I’m having a hard time switching back into third person and still showing the emotions, because I’ve been writing so much in first person.
To summarize, when you start writing your next story, consider the POV and what you can do with the POV. It’s not just something vague that means whatever. It’s something that you can use to further the story you have to tell.
It takes skill and knowledge of literature to know when and how to make use of certain tenses and POVs. For the most part, I’ve come to notice that most people write in first person perspective these days, probably because of how easy it is to tell a story that way while being purposefully vague. But nowadays, it’s as though they shy away from trying third person perspective because they wrote themselves into a comfort zone.
I appreciate the different versions of third. There’s the third omniscient, third limited, and third shifting. I’ve seen third shifting a lot more often, where you shift from chapter to chapter to different characters. Though that’s a version of third limited. I love third limited. I usually go really tight into the one character I’m following so it has some of the same techniques as first person, but in the accessible and reader-loved voice of third.