Writing: Tenses and Voice

Spent the day reading excerpts from various books. The tenses used are all over the map. One style really pushed me outside the book and made me feel like I was not involved at all. Just a random bystander caught up in someone else’s drama. I found it interesting that the author chose to use that tense. It was very difficult to stay interested and motivated to keep reading. The voice used for the story was also off-putting. Imagine my surprise when I realized it had been named a best book for 2014 (not sure what category).

Another author wrote in such a way that I had a difficult time figuring out what the narrative was. It appeared on the surface to be just random character chatter about what was happening and so little happened in the ten pages I read, I hesitated to continue. However, the character’s “chatter” was compelling as it gave great insight into the character.

It doesn’t seem to matter as much what tense a book is written in (whether past, present, first person, third person, omniscient or even multiple viewpoints). It seems more important that the writing have a strong voice that compels the reader along and makes us want to find out more about them.

One thing that really surprises me about what I read today is the range of voices that are being used in stories today. The ability of the writer to infuse their characters with flaws and quirks, to describe in a sometimes painfully accurate way the hidden flaws of the psyche, and to flip and skewer words in such a way that makes me reexamine the beauty and complexity of the human language and to make me feel inadequate in my own writing such that I simply lay my head down on my desk and cry. B

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