Is present tense ever okay?

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by E McD » May 14th, 2010, 7:42 pm

GOING BOVINE is present tense, too. It won the coveted Printz this year.

That being said, I prefer past tense as a reader because I think it reads smoother, and I like feeling like the narrator has already got it all figured out.
-Emily McDaniel

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by CindyLou » May 14th, 2010, 10:34 pm

Allison Noel's, Immortals Series is written in present tense as well. And Jim Butcher shifts from past to present in his Dresden Files. I love present tense. I feel like I'm right there with the character experiencing what they are. Maybe I've been reading too much YA recently, but it's a go for me,.

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by margogremmler » May 27th, 2010, 10:46 pm

Great discussion so far!

I'm revising a YA dystopian manuscript in which my main character stops speaking (for the most part) in a volume-based society. I find that present tense helps compensate for some lack of dialogue by pushing the story along with "real-time" action. Her commentary comes more alive on the page, or at least I hope it does!

Outside of that, I've heard some compare present-tense writing to something more filmic... and I'd have to agree. Movies are another love of mine, so I'm comfortable using it.

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by deepsesh » May 28th, 2010, 2:09 am

I think present tense works!! But its difficult to stick to it :(

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by Wolfe3141 » June 5th, 2010, 11:15 am

If it is done right present tense is good. It is a little strange to encounter the first time but having read one book with present tense I think I could get to enjoy more.

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by Catenabi » June 5th, 2010, 10:30 pm

My current WIP is written in the present tense.
I tried writing a few scenes in the third person when I first started my novel... and I switched back to first person because I felt that's how my story needed to be told. But I also agree that the writing is the most important part... In my opinion, a great story with strong writing is a great story in any tense.

- Catherine
Catenabi Chronicles -

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by charlotte49ers » June 5th, 2010, 11:58 pm

I'm writing in present tense, but I have a reason for it. I need to be in the MC's head as the story progresses so her naivety to her situation can show. I think you need to know why you are writing it in the tense you are, if that makes sense at all. :)

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Re: Is present tense ever okay?

Post by polymath » June 6th, 2010, 1:04 am

In workshop discussions elsewhere, what are the challenges present tense create? has come up.

One answer, present tense impedes depicting in the moment retrospective thoughts during fast paced action. Thoughts generally are challenging to depict when logically a viewpoint character is reacting instinctively or making snap decisions. However, present tense can be ideal for fast paced action with a few quick thoughts unfolding in the moment of action.

Another, and this one is even more subjective than what thoughts are timely in present tense, present tense can challenge objectivity or enhance objectivity. A small remove in time doesn't allow for processing an immediate experience and evaluating its import. The immediacy of reporting unfolding action as it occurs can be seen as more objective, closer in time to events and therefore more reliable, or more subjective due to perspective limited by time elapsed and therefore less reliable, without the filters of judgments and intervening time transforming events into more believable or less believable reporting.

In most cases where I've read present tense narratives, in parts or in parcel, both the above come into play in some way.
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