Thursday, April 2, 2009


Past vs. Present

When it comes to tense in YA literature, do you have a preference between past or present tense?

It seems that there is a greater range of popular books out there that are written in present tense. Recent ones that come to mind include Wake, Fade, The Hunger Games, etc. to name a few.

Now, traditionally I've been more of a reader of books written in past tense. (Heck, there was a time when I wouldn't even be able to read past the first chapter in present tense!) I think the first (most memorable) book/series I read written in present tense was Libba Bray's The Sweet Far Thing.

And now, I'm actually quite comfortable with it. In fact, I'm even considering employing the present tense for my next WIP (yes, The Kevlar Moustache has been, for all intents and purposes at the moment, completed).

Is this an actual trend towards this direction in the YA publishing industry, or just something I hadn't really picked up on before? Because it seems like these books are doing well nowadays.

So, what are your thoughts on this issue, do you have a preference for one over the other? Do you think the market is naturally transitioning in this direction? Are there specific pros and cons between the two?


Steph Su said...

I couldn't begin to tell you why there's this recent trend towards present tense, but sometimes it bugs the hell out of me. Present tense only works when it's not GLARINGLY OBVIOUS. The good examples that you listed (Hunger Games and the Gemma Doyle trilogy), I didn't even remember were written in present tense, that's how unobtrusive the tense was in those books.

Ultimately, then, I guess that tense doesn't really matter, only the quality of writing does. :)

cupcakewitch said...

I like them both for different reasons. Something about past tense is cool because it is like the character is telling you the story and you know they survive it and ultimately learn something...
Present tense is interesting because it is like you are right along with the character as the story unfolds.
I think it all depends on the type of story...

deltay said...

Steph - ah, well at least it's reassuring to hear that it is a recent trend, and not just me being ignorant of present tense books ;) That's true. Actually, I haven't read the Hunger Games yet - I know, I know, shame - and the Gemma Doyle trilogy just came to mind bec it was one of the first. Definitely unobtrusive ;)

Cupcakewitch - yeah, I guess with present tense there's just a sense of immediacy, like being there as it happens, whereas past seems more like... yep, so this already happened. Hindsight, somehwat.
For sure :)

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