Whose Skin Am I In

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A picture with a person extending two hands, palms upward. From upsplash.com.

I love first person present tense. For me it’s the most demanding of any point of view and tense, because it requires the utmost discipline and agility to work effectively.

There are plenty of utilitarian examples of first person present tense. The one which springs readily to my mind is The Hunger Games. It was first person present tense in name only. In reality it was first person past, or, third person past, simply in the way that it handled action, emotions, and description. This is not a bad thing. Collins was writing for a young adult audience, and the choices she made in her use of first person present tense were appropriate and helped her appeal to more readers. But it is a good example of utilitarian first person present — that is, a first person present which acts a first person past, or third person of any tense.

The rules of first person present are vastly different from those of first person past, or third person, and even second person. You don’t stop and describe the main character’s house, for instance, especially if that house is not new to them. You never stop to describe your own house. Why would your main character? Why would your main character stop to describe anything that wasn’t important, or cursory? And if they did describe something, would they really pause and go “gosh she is so pretty, with her blonde hair and legs that go on forever”? Probably not.