It’s Going To Be Tense

Get it?  Tense?

*crickets chirping*

No one?  Oh, come on.  It’s literary humor!

…Okay, okay, I admit that was a bit unnecessary.  But it was my way of awkwardly introducing today’s topic.

The question is: past or present tense?

Books have traditionally been written in the past tense (he said, the dog jumped, I sat).  Lately, though, I’ve noticed a trend in young adult literature, which is that increasingly, books are written in the present tense (he says, the dog jumps, I sit).  I first noticed this with The Hunger Games, which is probably no surprise to you readers if you’ve been with me for a while.  (If you haven’t, I LOVE The Hunger Games and talk about it WAY TOO OFTEN.)  This series is written all in present tense, which I think helps to put the reader in the middle of the action and gives an increased sense of involvement with the story.  After all, we don’t live our lives in past tense, right?  Although you could make the argument that technically we live in present progressive tense…

Spanish class: killing all my arguments with basic grammar lessons.

This is a really good book. I think the second one is out now, too.

Anyway.  Since reading The Hunger Games last summer I’ve noticed this trend continues with other books.  Divergent, another INCREDIBLE dystopian novel, is written like this.  So, I think, is Matched, although I don’t own that one so I can’t make sure.

But here’s the strange bit: all of these novels are dystopian.  Readers, if you’ve read any present-tense non-dystopian novels, please comment and correct me, but for now I’m going to go with the assumption that ALL PRESENT TENSE NOVELS TAKE PLACE IN THE FUTURE.

When I think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense.  I mean, books written in present day or in the past can be said to have already happened, so naturally you would use past tense.  But novels like Divergent and Matched happen in the future.  They can’t technically be said to have “happened” yet (I say “happened” with quotations because they’re fiction and thus will never actually happen).  Therefore, it would make sense when writing the novel would be to put it in present tense, as if you’re writing it as it happens.  Past tense, to me, would just sound strange for something that is set in a future time.

At least, that’s the argument I came up with when wondering why exactly authors would choose to do this.  Another reason could be aforementioned placement in the action of the story, or even because that’s just the “thing to do” nowadays.

Does this make sense to you, readers?  Or am I just mindlessly babbling like always?

I’m sorry if the latter is true.  It’s just that I’ve had this on my mind for a while, especially since I love this type of novel so much.  I feel like I need to finally get this out there and get someone else’s opinion on it.  So, readers, please, fill up that comment box with your thoughts.  Am I going crazy?  Or are dystopian books nowadays simply destined for the present tense?

Here’s another thought: should present tense be used at all?  I think it’s an effective way of getting a story out there.  I’ve even written in present tense.  I personally like it, but maybe not all of you think the same way.

Okay, so I did a Google search some extensive, in-depth research into this matter, and I found this article, which names at least two older books (Jane Eyre and Bleak House) that use present tense at least in part.  But as far as I know, these two don’t use it all the time, which is what I’m mainly concerned with.  But still.  Good to know.  And here’s another site that also deals with the subject.

Happy reading!

UPDATE: Liam, whose blog is This Page Intentionally Left Blank, has informed me via the comments that there ARE, in fact, modern-day books written in the present tense (The Mother-Daughter Book Club).  Thanks for clearing that up for us, Liam.

This Is Why I Love Dystopia

Hi there!

Today’s post is about Divergent, which I said I would talk about but never actually did.  So this is my attempt at a review.  Here goes.

Such a pretty cover.

Divergent is the story of Beatrice Prior, who lives in a post-apocalyptic Chicago.  The city is closed off from the outside world, and within the city there are five factions.  Each faction values a certain character trait and thus its citizens model their entire lives around that trait, sometimes to extremes.  The factions are: Amity, which values peace; Candor, which values honesty; Abnegation, which values selflessness; Erudite, which values intelligence; and Dauntless, which values bravery.

At the age of sixteen, each citizen is required to choose the faction in which they will spend the rest of their lives.  In steps Beatrice.  She has been raised in Abnegation, but ultimately chooses Dauntless.  In the initiation process that follows, the newly renamed Tris must make some difficult choices and, ultimately, learn what bravery really means.

This book was A-MAZE-ING.  I’m not kidding you.  It’s by far the best new fiction I’ve read in a long time.  I’ve always had a soft spot for dystopian post-apocalyptic fiction, but this really knocked it out of the park.  Everything is so fresh and unlike anything else on the market.  I applaud Veronica Roth for her ingenuity.  Speaking of the author, I’ve put up a link to her personal blog over in the AUTHORS’ BLOGS section of the sidebar.  (Did I mention this is her FIRST novel?!?!  Apparently she wrote this in COLLEGE.)

There were a couple of really surprising parts in this book, I’ve gotta say.  Ms. Roth shows a definite knack for plot twists, if you want to call it that.  I can’t wait for the next one, which is called Insurgent.  It won’t be out until May, but we already have the cover, and I, for one, can’t wait:

This one's pretty, too!

The movie rights have already been purchased, before the book even came out according to this article, but I’m not expecting anything much yet- the possible film is still way in its infancy.  That being said, I think this book would be absolutely incredible and engaging as a film, and I hope the people at Summit see that.  It’s such a richly imagined world.

Here’s the book trailer: (And may I just say how much I LOVE book trailers?  Because I do.  A lot.)

Also?  Whole bunch of cool stuff on the Facebook page.  Just in case you’ve read it.  Even if you haven’t, there’s an aptitude test for what faction you would be in.


Happy reading!