On Saturday I presented a craft workshop for my local RWA Chapter. It was on point of view and tense – i.e., do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and which characters get a point of view? Sounds kind of ho-hum, but it got me thinking about how far romance novels have come.
Once upon a time (of course this was long before I was born, wink, wink), they were always written from the woman’s point of view, in third person past tense. “Nurse Wimpy gazed starry-eyed at the handsome Dr. Studly, and wondered if he’d ever deign to speak to her.”
But you know what? We women always want to know what guys are thinking – in our real lives, and in our romance novels. Or maybe the guys just wouldn’t settle for being silenced by women writers. However it happened, heroes started to get a point of view. But still, in the third person past tense. “Jason stared at Esmeralda, shocked that she’d rejected his gift. What the heck was wrong with the fancy food processor he’d given her for Valentine’s Day? It had all the latest gadgets.”
In the last few years, you may have noticed some different styles in romance. Chick lit made first person popular, and to some extent present tense as well. “I stare into the mirror and can’t believe that one little slice of death-by-chocolate cake has somehow morphed into five extra pounds around my waist. Note to self: give up food for at least 2 days.”
Now, more and more, first person and/or present tense are finding their way into romance. Aphrodisia is a great line for this. The editors pretty much trust to the authors to figure out the right voice(s) to tell the story.
And I think that’s what it comes down to. When I’m writing, it takes me a while to get to know my characters, but once I do they tend to speak in pretty clear voices. Sometimes it’s third person, sometimes first. Sometimes it’s past tense, sometimes present. Sometimes the heroine wants to talk and sometimes the hero does.
As a writer, or a reader, do you have a preference? Do some styles work better for you? Or do you even notice the craft stuff?