We asked her if she could outline the advantages and disadvantages of Present Tense and Past Tense in writing. Present tense is powerful, but its power is also its limitation.
Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! Guest Column March 25, When the literary historians of the year write about the fiction of our time, I believe they will consider our use of the present tense to be its most distinctive—and, perhaps, problematic—feature.
Whereas present-tense narration was once rare, it is now so common as to be commonplace. And why was the present tense now omnipresent?
The best writers almost always seem to know, either consciously or intuitively, when to use present tense. Many of us, however, do not. Present tense has become something of a fad, and we often use it even when past tense would serve the story better.
Whereas the character Charlie Baxter fears the erasure of the past, his friend Bradley feels the present is, at times, less present than the past and therefore more subject to erasure.
I watch them go into the kitchen and observe them making a dinner of hamburgers and potato chips. They recover their senses by talking and listening to the radio.
I watch them feed each other. This is love in the present tense. Present tense simplifies our handling of tenses. Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time. It seems natural to alter the chronology of events in past tense, when the narrator is looking back from an indeterminate present at many past times, but it seems unnatural to do it in present tense, when the narrator is speaking from and about a specific present.
It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense. They also help us complicate a character by placing her in a larger temporal context.
Without the kind of context flashbacks provide, our characters tend to become relatively simple, even generic. The present tense can diminish suspense.
Because present-tense narrators do not know what is going to happen, they are unable to create the kind of suspense that arises from knowledge of upcoming events. The narrator of Doctor Faustus provides a good example of this kind of suspense: What we gain in immediacy, she says, we lose in tension.
Present-tense fiction can create another kind of suspense, of course—the kind we feel when no one knows the outcome—but not this kind. The use of present tense encourages us to include trivial events that serve no plot function simply because such events would actually happen in the naturalistic sequence of time.
The principle of selection can be applied more readily, and ruthlessly, in past tense. One of the great resources on writing around. Check it out here.
For more great writing advice, click here. Follow Brian on Twitter: WD Newsletter You might also like:For a post-apocalyptic action novel, is it better to use first person POV with the past tense, or first person with the present tense? When narrating a fictional story .
In a thriller novel, for example, you can write tense scenes in first person for a sense of present danger: A muffled shot. He sits up in bed, tensed and listening. The mode is very close to first person, past tense narration, except that the letters or entries are often dated.
Other epistolary novels consist of letters written by several characters, which is one of the oldest ways to tell a story from multiple perspectives.
In my own writing I made the decision, after five novels in third person limited, past tense, to delve into the present with my novel, I AM, written in first person limited, present tense. It was hard work, but also a lot of fun, and by the time I finished I believed I had taken another step up in my skills as a writer.
Sep 20, · My question is, if you are writing in first person past tense, can you/should you switch to first person present tense when discussing ideals, values, attributes that have not changed. For example, my protaganist is telling the story in past tense, but has segued into a .
There's one quick and powerful way to make your first-person perspective powerful: cut out the filter words. Slipping into past tense, however, can make it pretty clunky. Past tense. This is more popular (and a lot simpler to and is a good place to start for first-time first-person writers.
So what makes first person perspective so.