By Raelene Gorlinsky
Remember when first person POV was unusual in romance fiction? Then chick lit came along and made first person more common and popular. There are still some readers who don’t care for it, but most of us are used to it and even like it.
Now I’m starting to see a new “style” of voice for romance stories – present tense, either first or third person. Wow, this is different and can be a lot harder to connect with while reading. Here at ECPI, we have an anthology story coming this month that is written in first person present. Sample:
“I stroll down the well-worn path from my cottage to the lake, trying not to break into a run. My pulse races for no real reason except for the hope that rises within me. The tall grasses brush against my bare legs, reminding me of his fingers trailing along my skin.”
Another upcoming book originally had the prologue and epilogue in third person present. The rest of the book, the main story, was ‘normal’ third person past tense; the different style at the beginning and end was a way to bracket a shift in perspective and time. After much discussion by two editors and the author, we’ve decided to change those sections to first person past, in order to make it more accessible for the reader. It was:
“She pads forward and turns on the desk lamp. The room is a modest box too small for its simple furnishings. Books sprawl everywhere, some open, most in untidy stacks. She fingers their spines.
Her head lifts as the door opens and he steps inside.”
That has now been changed to:
“I padded forward and turned on the desk lamp. The room was a modest box too small for its simple furnishings. Books sprawled everywhere, some open, most in untidy stacks. I fingered their spines.
My head lifted as the door opened and he stepped inside.”
I must admit that as a reader I’m having a difficult time coping with the present tense. I think the theory is that having things happening "right now" will draw the reader into the story, make her feel part of it. For me, it has the opposite effect – it distances me from the character and the action, makes me feel I’m intruding on someone else’s life. But maybe I’ll get used to it if I start seeing more stories written this way. And I do appreciate variety in writer styles and voices, something different to read.
So what do you think? Would you enjoy reading stories written in present tense? Does it matter if it is first or third person? Could you write a story this way?