Sunday, March 21, 2010

POV and YA

It's spring break for me! Which means I have consumed almost an entire box of cookies today, slept thirteen hours in one night (to be fair, I pulled an all-nighter the night before I left college, but don't worry - it wasn't for homework; it was because my friends and I are idiots), and am being forced to confront my final paper on Pan-Africanism and decolonization in Ghana and the veritable mountain of primary sources in my bag. The horror!

It also means I can sing everywhere and all the time, which I can't do in a dorm room because it's embarrassing.

But it also means I can do more reading for fun! Right now, I've checked out Stay With Me (Garret Freymann-Weyr), Alligator Bayou (Donna Jo Napoli), and Cybele's Secret (Juliet Marillier). I have a new project being rolled around in the back of my head. The main character's name is Clare. She is half-Asian. It's an urban fantasy and has Irish/Celtic mythological influences. I haven't fully decided what POV and tense it's going to be in (sorry for the acronym-happy blog title).

It seems to me like a lot of people hate present tense. With a passion. Well, let me rephrase that. It's one of those extreme things. You either love it (like I do) or hate it to the point where you will literally put the book away because you can't handle a whole novel written in that style. It also seems like one of those things that could potentially kill your novel for publication if done badly (which is often, supposedly). 

I've also noticed that progressively more people enjoy YA. I, for one, definitely read more YA than any other category. But do you think that YA has stylistic differences that set it apart from other fiction? For instance, it is not abnormal for a YA novel to be in present tense. Actually, there are a lot of novels that are in present tense. It brings the narrator and the events more directly to the reader, and I think it connects better with teens. Maybe. And maybe it's a newer movement, so it reads strangely to older readers, but not to younger ones? I've noticed a trend to present tense, especially if the author wants to talk about "serious" subjects, like present tense makes a book more "literary" and "deep." I think this way too, actually, so the quotes aren't meant to be ironic.

The point is, do you think present tense is more acceptable in the YA genre than in other ones?


  1. Wooohoo spring break! No classes, extra reading time...what's not to love? Enjoy!

    I happen to love present tense but due to the fact that I read nothing but YA these days I can't help with your question about it being more acceptable in YA than other genres. Two examples of series I love that are written in present tense are The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Awesome stories that I think were made even better by the POV.

    Though I love it I haven't ventured into writing in present tense. Yet. But you're so right about people loving or hating it. Such strong feelings over a tense! haha

    Totally random but I thought of you the other day when I ordered my hardcover boxed set of the Percy Jackson series. Can't wait to get started but I'm keeping it as my reward for when I finish my new WIP. I know once I start I won't get any writing done. ; )

  2. The main difference I've seen in YA is that so much of it is in first person - I'd say a far, far larger percentage of YA is first person than any other genre fiction.

  3. I adore well-written present tense.

    I think the first person pov might be a part of it, because reading third person present is like having gravel stuffed in my ears. ;) But in first person it has an immediacy that I think YA readers can relate to and it fits with the fast pacing of many YA stories.

    I did just write an urban fantasy, not YA, in first person present with four distinct pov characters.

    The book opens in the pov of a 19 year old Chinese-American college student/gymnast who discovers she knows even less about her real heritage than she thought, so in many ways my characters are dealing with identity and maturation like a YA novel even though they are in college. And the plot is very fast-paced, so I'm sticking with present tense, and hoping people will read it!

    Have a relaxing spring break!

  4. Yay Spring Break! My sister is on break too, and I am insanely jealous. The return of nice weather is making me itch for vacation time, but alas, thwarted by the non-school world! D:

    I think first person and present tense is definitely more common for YA. I read this great article that posits this is because there's more freedom in the YA genre thanks to how much the genre covers. When you say YA, the kinds of books that fall under it span from literary to specific genre to light, sorta "for fun" type reading. Since it's so broad, I think you can get away with more experimentation. The rules are less hard, fast, or expected.

    I like present tense if it's done well. I like it better than I like first person, which I also don't have a problem with if it's done well. Although, I think I'm nicer to present tense because I think I read quite a few fanfic written in present tense, and some of those turned into my favorites.

    Your new project sounds intriguing!

  5. I hope you're having a superb spring break! I used to be a snob - I liked first person, past tense and nothing else. Then, I decided first person, present was okay. I've found it harder to get into 3rd person (especially present tense).
    I do think present tense makes everything feel a little more immediate, a little more accessible, which is why it works well for YA.
    YAY for your new project! It sounds great!

  6. Yes, I definitely think it's more acceptable--this along with first person. When I read books for my adult book club, it takes me a second to get used to third person because most YA books I read are first person (although not all, of course). Anyways, I'm not a huge fan of present tense, but after I get used to it, I'm fine. It kind of reminds me of a movie script. Have a fabulous Spring Break!

  7. Definitely hope you enjoy yourself. You've worked really hard, and deserve the break.

    New project sounds fab too!

    I don't mind present tense.