Thursday, 30 December 2010

Reading Pet Peeves

We all have things we do not like in books and try to avoid as much as possible, but once in a while I stumble into a reading pet peeve by accident once again.

I bought the above book as it's a historical murder mystery. I opened it to start reading to find it was written in:

Present Tense!!!

Let's state it once and for all:
Dear authors,

Please, if you're not Carolyn Crane do NOT write in present tense unless you've studied Mind Games very, very well and try to accomplish what Crane did there: Write present tense in such a way that I do not even notice it's written in present tense!

Because honestly:
Present tense sucks most of the time.
Nothing makes me lose interest as fast as present tense as (with the exception of Mind Games and Double Cross) stories in present tense create a distance for me and drag me out of the story as it just doesn't feel natural to me that a lead character is telling me about things at the moment that they are happening.

I had really wanted to read a historical murder mystery, but now I just can't get into the story and keep putting the book aside. I'm afraid this book will go onto my pile of will probably only read it if there's nothing else to read and all the shops are closed as well.


SusiSunshine {The Geeky Bookworm} said...

If an author uses the word glad more than 3 times in a book I won't enjoy it. Drives me crazy. And yes I'm counting. I hate this word.
See I'm even crazier.

Shaina said...

I totally agree! Thank you for being bold enough to say it. Present tense makes it harder for me to connect with the story. Past tense is easier for me.

SQT said...

Present tense is a big thing in children's books (I read to my daughter every night) and it's irritating as heck. I guess they push for it in children's books, (who knows why) but I think it should be avoided at all costs.

Gini Koch said...

Per Orson Scott Card (who would know), past tense reads to people like it's happening "now" and present tense reads like it's happening "in the past" (or worse, "later") and it's disconcerting.

I'm with you -- Carolyn Crane's about the only present tense writer I can read and enjoy. I can handle it for a short story, sometimes, but as Card says, unless you're really good at it, avoid present tense.

There seems to be a ton of it in YA these days, meaning I've shoved aside several books I'd originally wanted to read because I read a page, was in agony, and stopped.

Sullivan McPig said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in my dislike of present tense.
@Susi: we're not crazy. We're eccentric
@Gini: Hmmm, interesting theory. And yes: YA books are often in present tense these days I noticed.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hmmmm. I think Neal Stephenson does the present tense very, very well in Snow Crash. It's a sort-of cyberpunk novel in which "real time" is a very big deal, so I think Stephenson's choice of tense actually makes sense.

And Sully, have you read the Amelia Peabody mysteries? That cover, with the Egyptian background and the woman with an umbrella, reminds me so much of them!