POV and Tense in a Romance Novel: How to choose what POV and tense to use

Once you’re all jazzed up about an idea or a story, you’re thinking about getting your idea on paper. You’re focused on plot, theme, characters, and setting. For romance, it can be exciting to think only about the pitfalls your characters will go through before they get their happy ending! You envision everything in your head, and then suddenly as you begin to put pen to paper, you might pause. You haven’t even thought about point of view or tense!

For some of us, we automatically lock into one POV and tense style because it’s what we know. It’s what we’ve grown up learning and reading. However, you’re not locked into choosing a certain tense or point of view. Especially now, things are changing and evolving in these areas, and if you’re writing romance, you really have a lot of freedom. But it does help to have some direction.

This article will specifically focus on romance and: 

  • POV and tense choices
  • Why POV and tense are important to the story
  • How to pick your POV
  • How to pick your tense
  • POV and tense mistakes to avoid

POV Choices

Before you even begin, it’s helpful to know what choices you even have for point of view! 

First person: 

This is when you use “I” and “me”. The perspective is the main character’s perspective or the narrator’s voice. Many subgenres of romance employ first person as it really gives the reader’s a chance to see things from the protagonist(s)’ eyes, but it can be limited by what the character can see. 

Second person: 

This is when you use “you”, and you’re addressing the reader directly. It’s not a super popular choice, but it’s been growing in popularity with the “choose your adventure” kind of books. 

Third person limited:

This point of view is when you use “he/him” or “she/her.” It is the retelling of events with a sort of neutral air. “He strode down the street wearing a green coat.”  It’s limited to one character, and you only know about their thoughts and feelings, not the entire cast as you would in omniscient. It’s the most popular choice of point of view and has been for many years.

Third person omniscient: 

This gives you as the reader a sort of bird’s eye view of the characters in the book. You can see everything and know what everyone thinks and feels, and the narrator interprets what the character’s think and feel, and so it’s objective. “She watched him leave, and in her heart, they both knew she had made a mistake.” 

Third person subjective: 

In this point of view, you can really get into the thoughts of the characters and their perspectives. It goes beyond narrating the character’s thoughts by telling the reader “she thought” or “he wondered.” And let’s you really in their head the way first person POV does. 

Multiple POVs: 

Many authors choose to use multiple POVs so that the reader can see the same story from various angles. This is especially used in romance, because readers enjoy seeing how the two lovers feel about each other as well as their feelings and insecurities. Most multiple POVs stories focus only on two characters, swapping each chapter back and forth from character to character, but some stories employ even more POVs. 

Tense Choices

Past tense: 

This is the most popular and has been for many years. It tells the story like it has happened in the past. “They ate together, and then they went home.” Historical fiction romance more often uses past tense. 

Present tense: 

This can really engage people in the story and make them feel like they’re there in the moment. Contemporary romance and young adult romance more often uses present tense. 

POV and Tense are Essential to a Good Story

Even if it might not be the first thing that you think of when you get ready to write, POV and tense choice are essential to a good story. Your POV is the perspective of your character and it shows who your character is. When it is done right, your reader can really get attached to your characters and what happens to them. Your POV affects the tone of the story and provides extra details or hides details.

With romance, you want to be able to show how the lovers in the story are feeling while also keeping some feelings from each other. Find the POV that suits your style and genre. With first person your reader can really relate to the characters because they are in a sense submerged in the story. With third person, the text is narrated to the readers as if they are watching a movie, not being a part of the action.

In the same way, tense affects the tone and mood of the story. Some stories are better served using past and some with present. If you want your reader to feel completely submerged in the action, present tense drives it home. 

Wrapping up...

Romance has a lot of freedom. There are so many different styles and subgenres in romance that it can depend on your subgenre which POV and tense to choose. But you do have some wiggle room to make your story the best that it can be. 

Before you start writing, 

  • Learn about POV and tense. What are your options? What does writing in a certain POV or tense mean? What are the pros and cons of all the options? What fits best with your romance? 
  • Do a little “romance research”. Your writing is your business so start checking out some popular romance books from your genre to see what the POV and tense are that you see most often. The POV and tense do differ depending on the subgenre. Take a look at the Kindle bestseller list for romance to get started!
  • Ask yourself questions. What do you like about it? What kinds of details and perspectives are you getting that really add to the story? What tense feels right? Can you fit this POV style in your story?
  • Do a little POV and tense practice with your characters and see what works
  • Figure out what you want and what feels best as a writer while also considering what suits your reader and the trends. 

At HGW we always follow the desires of our client, but we believe first person present tense is the best way to write your romance novel. And if you can alternate between the two love interests every other chapter, even better! This style gives your reader the most bang for their buck! 

Extra Resources

The POV and tense are essential to a good story, so don’t just choose willy-nilly and hope for the best. Take a look at bestsellers in your genre, see what’s selling and what’s popular, and see if you can fit the trends into your own story. But this is where good proofreading is essential! Your POV needs to be consistent and so does your tense in order to give your work just the style and the voice you want! 

Check out these other resources for choosing your POV and tense: 

Figuring out the right POV and tense for your romance story can be a big hassle, especially if you’re just starting out. Why not have someone else take your idea and write it for you? That way, you can leave the work to the professionals and end up with a great romance manuscript ready for publication! Check out HotGhostWriter and click on the messenger icon to get started!

Kerilee Nickles


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published