Discussion: Point of view and tense in young adult fiction

                     point of view

So, I was trawling the blogoverse the other day and hit on something that stuck me.  In a review, a fellow blogger stated that the third person point of view in the book she was reading "grew on her", and that normally she finds it very jarring.  Which jarred me.  What?  Third person POV is jarring?  I regrettably can't remember the name of the blogger or book to give credit, but the line stuck with me for a couple of reasons.  

(a) Firstly and selfishly, my in-progress series of young adult fantasy novels is written in third person limited point of view, past tense.  

(b) Second, I've always found first person to be jarring.  I've long been quoted (if anyone cared to quote) as saying that first person POV in books is less appealing to me, particularly the first person present tense that's spread like wildfire in the last few years.  

(c) Most importantly, the third person limited and third person omniscient points of view (largely past tense) are traditionally associated with and used in fantasy literature.  Think Tolkien, Harry Potter, oldies and goodies like Tamora Pierce, Neil Gaiman, and Diana Wynne Jones.  Okay, they're not all so old.  But all these rely very successfully on third person POV.  

So it stuck with me, because third person POV is like baseline for me, and first person is what's weird.  Until I started to reflect back on the young adult books I've read in the past year and hit on the stark reality that nearly every single one of them was written in first person.  So apparently that doesn't jar me as much as it used to.  But how would those books have been different in third person?  How would my reading experience have changed?  And what is the norm for readers these days?  Is third person limited as jarring for young YA readers as first person is (or used to be) for me?  

In the interest of compiling some of these thoughts and putting them into a more formal Writing Tips post, I'm very curious to hear how other readers (and writiers!) approach the point of view (and related, the tense) problem.  All genres and levels (adult, new adult, young adult) are welcome to comment, but I'm especially interested in young adult books.  You know, given what I review here mostly and the special features of this genre.  

And please, tell your friends!  I'd love to get a lot of ideas generated here to put into a post--and will of course quote and link back to original commenters.  (:  And if anyone wants to write a guest post about this topic, shoot me an email (see pretty little email icon on the sidebar).  

Discussion Points 

(a)  As a reader, what is your favorite POV and tense?  Do you prefer first person or third person?  How about second person?  Limited or omniscient?  

(b) What about past tense or present tense?  

(c) As a writer, how do you decide what tense and POV to use in each individual work?  

(d) How does the POV and tense of a story affect your reading experience?  Does it impact the way you perceive the characters, your engagement in the story, the sense of urgency you feel, etc.?  

(e) Do you even think about POV and tense when you're reading?  Is this a moot point?  

(f) What are some other issues around POV and tense that your friendly blogger here hasn't even thought of?  

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said, I prefer reading from third person, past tense. In the past I hated reading from the first person especially if it was written in the present tense, I was really hesitant to pick up Divergent because of this. It was only after I read and loved that book that I became more open to the writing style. It doesn't bother me as much anymore.

    I thought first person was weird because it felt really personal, like I was in the character's shoes when I just wanted to read the story. I'm horrible with words so I can't really explain it. I guess I've read so many first POV, present tense books, it's become my norm so I can't remember too clearly the hangups I had over it.