Tag Archives: grammar

First Person Present

Am I the only person who doesn’t like this?

I’m currently reading A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I like the story, the world she’s set up, and the subversive dystonian society she’s created. The only thing that keeps pulling me out of the damned story and taking me forever to read is the way its written. First person PRESENT.

I don’t mind the first person. I write in first person. In fact, I have a hard time writing in anything else. It feels too removed for me. I want you right there with me as I go through hurdle after hurdle to overcome whatever beastie, I’ve created. It’s the present tense that really bothers me. I’m not even sure why. People love this perspective. I mean how many people bought a copy of The Hunger Games? A bagillion – which is a technical term, by the way? *snort* That trilogy was also told in first person present. Clearly, this is a thing and I should probably get over my ire at the writing style, but I can’t.

I don’t know if it’s the clunkiness or the constant back and forth between present tense and past tense. You have to go back and forth because not everything happens in the present tense. Backstory and character development require past tense. Here’s where we get a little grammatically nerdy. If you’re writing in first/third person past tense, the back story would then be mentioned in past perfect tense or past perfect progressive (depending on what you’ve got going on). I had done this. I had been there. Cause let’s be real, English has a lot of tenses. Just to give you an idea, see the chart below (thanks Language Learning Base).


This is complicated I know but…and this is a big “but” {ha ha}, moving between present and past is jarring. Moving between two past tenses is not. At least for me.

I’m powering through on the plot and the world but I find myself getting exhausted from the read. I’m only able to read a few chapters at a time which is taking FOREVER.

Let me know what you think!