Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Thoughts on How to Vote, literarily speaking

OK, let's vote.

As a reader, I'd love to hear your choice on these issues facing our literary world today. When you choose a book, what policies do you look for or do they even matter? Maybe you're not a "policy/platform voter." Maybe, you're strictly a candidate voter, and you choose based on the quality of the story, not its platform.

Literary Ballot 2016

Race 1
First Person or Third Person Point of View*

First Person POV means the narrator of the story tells the story from her or his own perspective, using "I" and "me."
“I can feel Peeta press his forehead into my temple and he asks, 'So now that you've got me, what are you going to do with me?' I turn into him. 'Put you somewhere you can't get hurt.” -Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My thoughts:
I like this POV because I get inside the character's head and can relate better. I find I'm more invested in the character because I knew him or her more intimately. I have to say, though, sometimes I'm dying to know what the other characters are thinking. I have found myself asking, "Why would he say that?" This POV certainly limits a story to the events and conversations in which the POV character participates, which can leave me as a reader wishing I could have read those scenes unfold for myself instead of in a retelling.
My first novel, RYAN REVISITED, is written in first person from the main character, Ryan's, perspective. I would love to write some scenes from other characters' perspectives some day just for fun. There was so much going on inside the other characters' heads with their own internal conflicts. The Prologue is written from Manny's first person POV.

Third Person POV means the narrator tells the story from the outside, using "he," "she," and "it."
"Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous..." -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My thoughts:
When third person is well written, I've had no trouble getting into the story. I am a huge Potterhead and devoured the Harry Potter books. In fact, I credit the Harry Potter series for making me a reader. All that being said, sometimes I read third person and am left with a feeling of "meh." I never got emotionally invested in the characters because I felt too distant from them personally. I have found third person books that "head jump" from inside one character's head to another to be distracting. I'm yanked right out of the story when I have to go back and figure out whose perspective I'm reading. But ... I do like reading some beautiful prose in third person books when the narrator is not limited to a character's unique voice but can describe scenes and give information with, for example, more sophistication of vocabulary or just more detail than a limited POV can allow.
I have never written in third person, although I would like to try it.

*Remember, this is not the primaries; it's election day. We've already narrowed the field. There are more specific POVs:
First Person as the main character, Hunger Games.
First Person as a supporting character, The Great Gatsby.
First Person Plural, The Virgin Suicides. (Uses "we" instead of "I.")
Limited Third Person, the Harry Potter books. (Narrator is limited to only one or a few characters' points of view.)
Omniscient Third Person, The Lord of the Rings. (Narrator knows everything.)
Second Person, Bright Lights, Big City. (ex. "You see a man approaching.")

Race 2
Past Tense or Present Tense*

Past Tense means the narrator of the story tells the story in the past tense, for example, "He said." and "I ran."
“'I am,' he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. 'I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.'" -The Fault in Our Stories by John Green
My thoughts: Past tense is the natural way we tell stories to one another, so it flows almost invisibly for readers to read books that way. I can dive right into a past tense story without even thinking about it. That's the goal, right? To live a book, not just read it.
All of my books are written in past tense.

Present Tense means the narrator of the story tells the story in the present tense as if the action is happening now, for example, "She asks." and "I turn."
"My head is thick with sounds, my mouth thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies—they’re laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, something else. Someone’s coming. Someone is speaking to me. Now look. Now look what you made me do.” -Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My thoughts: Some will say present tense is more immediate and therefore enhances action novels, and we have certainly seen a rise in the number of great present tense books. For me, present tense can be jarring. I have a hard time resetting my brain to read that way. It takes a few chapters for me to get into a present tense book. Sometimes, I even find myself translating a book into past tense so I can enjoy it. I have to admit again--a well-written story can suspend my preferences. I didn't find it at all difficult to read The Hunger Games. I have found that if people are going to have a preference on book "platforms," they seem to have the strongest opinions about tense. Some readers won't even read a book in present tense.
I started writing my second book in present tense. Because it was my first attempt, it was a slow writing process and I made a lot of mistakes. When I sent my first few chapters to my publisher, she put the kibosh on present tense and said she wanted me to rewrite it in past. Different publishers have different preferences.

*Again, this is election day. I don't mean to insinuate our country's real political situation is limited to the two-party system, but we are limited by it, maybe unfortunately. So there is this other "third party" tense, but I'm not sure you'd want to read an entire novel in it.
Future Tense, Aura. (I have never read this Spanish novel, but it's the only one I could find mentioned more than once on the web.)

Race 3
Platform Voter: These Things Matters.
Candidate Voter: You Don't Care as Long as It's a Good Book.*

Platform Voter means how you choose your book is limited to issues like the ones I mentioned. Maybe you only read First Person POV, or maybe you cannot read Present Tense books.

Candidate Voter means you'll read any book if it's a great story. Some readers simply don't care about tense or POV, they just want to read a great story.

My thoughts: I am more of a candidate book chooser. I'll read anything if it's a compelling story. I definitely have my preferences, but those issues can be quickly dismissed when I'm immersed in an engaging story.

*I'm just curious if your literary preferences influence your book choice decision, whether you're more about quality or qualification. Maybe you're in between. You have preferences, but if the book is well-written, you'll read it. That's me as a reader.

Thanks for playing! I'd love to hear from you. Cast your ballot by commenting here or on my social media pages with First Person POV or Third, Present or Past, and It Matters or It Doesn't.

Hope the next book you read is awesome!



  1. I am pretty much a Candidate Voter, however, I do have decided opinions on things like POV and tense. They MUST SERVE the story well. I am less of a fan of present tense, with the exception of emphasis, however, there are some present tense stories that are well done ... and those I would read. For YA, I tend to like the first person POV because it allows the reader to connect more firmly with the protagonist. For adult I tend to like 3rd limited better.

    But basically, give me a well-written story, tightly edited, that will keep me turning the pages and takes me into the characters' world.

    1. "But basically, give me a well-written story, tightly edited, that will keep me turning the pages and takes me into the characters' world."
      Perfectly put in my opinion!

      I'm glad you expanded on how you feel the different options best serve the story as far as readership. I'm curious if readers feel certain genres lend themselves better to certain POVs or tenses. Thanks for casting your ballot, LK!

  2. I guess I am a Candidate Voter. POV and Tense really doesn't matter to me. Formatting and writing style is what I'm most picky about. I could be rolling my eyes at the characters all the way through the book. If your writing style and formatting make my heart flutter you have a fan for life. ( I know I am weird)

    1. I love that, Ter! I definitely have my favorites based on writing style.



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