Oh lovely present tense

Posted: January 13, 2011 in process
Tags: , , , , , , ,

What I didn’t say when I wrote about Kipper’s Pride in the last post was that it is in the present tense.

Some people will say this is a no-no. But despite lots of books for children and young people being written in the past tense, there is evidence galore that some very good ones are written in the present tense.

Why do I like it?

1 It’s very immediate.
2 It keeps you in the protagonist’s or narrator’s head.
3 It prevents any trespassing into long descriptions.
4 It makes a realistic voice easy.

I’ve recently enjoyed reading Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. In chapter 7, she talks about viewpoint as being “a measure of the distance the narrator has from the story”. With the protagonist/subjective type of the “I” form, the distance is zero, she says, because all events are experienced by the reader.

For me, I love being able to show Jervan’s mindset/opinions/bias/weaknesses/strengths etc first-hand.

I read many young people’s books each month and these are some recent ones where the “I” form is used, and which I really enjoyed:

Keren David: When I was Joe (2010)
Sophia Bennett: Threads (2009)
Cathy Cassidy: Ginger Snaps (2008)
Emily Diamand: Flood Child (2008 winner of The Times  Children’s Fiction comp as Reiver’s Ransom)
Chris Higgins: A Perfect Ten (2008)
Linda Strachan: Spider (2008)

The authors may be all female, but the protagonists include boys. And interestingly, the publishers include Puffin, Chicken House, Hodder, Frances Lincoln and Strident Publishing. So we have a number of outlets that do approve of the first-person narrative in children’s books. Which gives me courage!


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