Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Pick the Right Tense for Your Novel

Hi everyone!

Over the last few months, I've noticed more and more people making interesting choices about the tense in which they tell their stories. I've always written in past tense myself and, until recently, I thought everyone else did too. However, I've started finding books (both published and otherwise) written in present tense and it's kind of thrown me for a loop.

It was bugging me so much that I did a little research to see what people say about it. There are tons of articles and blogs on the topic, but these two, one by Marcia Meier and the other at The Elegant Variation, explained to me the best.

To be honest, it bugs me when I pick up a book, only to find it's written in present tense. I feel like I'm missing out on something; it's like the past doesn't exist and there's no back story. I also get bogged down in the narrative. For some reason reading that Character X does A, then B, then C makes me feel much more impatient than reading that Character X did A, B, and C. I think present tense actually slows down the story, but that just makes me want to skip ahead to where the action is.

Now to be honest, I can understand why a writer might consider using first person. The in-the-moment feel and the intentional slowing of the narrative can build suspense and tension in the reader. There's also the mystique of being in the moment, of experiencing the story just as it's unfolding. Even so, I can't help but think that present tense just isn't worth the hassle when you can get the same effect for much less trouble if you write in past tense.

So, what's your opinion of present tense voice? Am I right? Am I dead wrong and deserve to be lynched? What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment