Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm Feeling Tense

But is it present tense? Is it past?

I've been told (and have read in various places) that present tense is a hard sell. Most books in present tense are from established authors. Some people may see the whole present tense as a gimmick. To that I ask, why?

I'm not sure I see the "gimmick" behind it. I've read books in both past and present tense, mostly past, as that is what's mostly out there, but did I miss something? Maybe it's just me and I'm totally clueless here, but past or present, if the story's there and the characters feel real, it doesn't matter what tense we're in. Right? I would think, anyway.

The ms I'm currently working through is in present tense. Someone asked me why. To that I responded "that's the way the story came out of my head." That is the way the characters spoke to me. That is how they told their story.

Mind you, the question came from a dear friend who I completely understand as looking out for me. I am sincerely thankful for that. In keeping with her advice, it honestly would not be difficult to switch tenses, if I had to. Chose to. And that is the dilemma that is sitting out in front of me right now.

So what do you prefer to read? Present? Past? Hmm ... maybe I should start writing in future ...


Eric said...

I don't know that I have a preference with regards to reading. I don't think I could write present tense well though, so I wish you good luck. I wouldn't switch it though, unless you're sure it will improve the story.

Elana Johnson said...

I like both. And I've heard it's a hard sell, but I don't get it.

Libba Bray's debut was present tense.
Joy Preble's debut was present tense.
Carrie Jones (not sure it was a debut) was present tense.

A LOT of YA books are present tense, more than I realized.

So if it's coming out that way, let it come!

Stephanie McGee said...

I can't even wrap my brain around trying to write in present tense.

Or maybe I'm just showing my naivete and I really am writing in present tense. Who knows.

But it's a mind-bender to me right now.

roxy said...

I like anything if it captures my interest. As a writer, I've always shied away from present tense. Yet, I have shifted the entire pov to present on the manuscript I'm revising now, and it is so much better. I agree that it all depends on the character and story. Thanks for a great blog!

roxy said...
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L.T. Elliot said...

I think you're right. It all depends on the story. I don't mind different tenses. The thing that really pulls me out is "head hopping" and that clearly happens more in 3rd person.

Dominique said...

I think as long as it's good it's the tense isn't an issue. I once read a book cover to cover without even realizing it was in present tense. If the use of tense had been bad, I would have noticed, but it all worked seamlessly, so my mind skimmed over the realization of the tense.