OMG! Present Tense is Bugging Me
When I made the decision to go back to my novel TFTS, my first object was to become reacquainted with my main character Iphim. I was really looking forward to this because I had finished the first draft back in 2006 and with my memory the way it is…I wanted to ensure I remembered every piece of her mind and heart.
My other objectives were to fix any areas where I had fallen into 'tell me' rather than 'show me' and, to make certain it was my character’s voices and not mine coming through. Because I had already had my manuscript professionally edited I was not concerned about any major problems with my content and grammar therefore, this really was more of a “get to know Iphim” exercise. Or, so I thought...
As I began to reread my manuscript which I had written in present tense, I found that I was incredibly irritated by the flipping around of tenses, so much so, that I really wasn’t getting to know Iphim again. Finally, 80+ pages in (why I didn’t tackle this 10-pages in is beyond me…actually, not really—it’s called DENIAL and I’m VERY good at it) I stopped and dealt with the way I was feeling about my use of present tense.
I used to like to write in present tense because I wanted the reader to feel like they are going on the journey with my character as it plays out in the moment—much like a movie. To write in the present tense was very much a conscious decision and a conversation I had with my editor hence, my editor proceeded with this direction from me and 10+ years ago I was happy with this decision.
Fast forward to 2018, and I was not so happy with my decision…it was driving me nuts. Before I proceeded any further, I went back to novel writing basics and did a list of pro’s and con’s for writing in past and present tense--thank you Writer's Digest for the assistance. To all fellow writers, here's
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Verb Tenses
Advantages of Present Tense
1. Present tense has more “immediacy” than past tense.
2. Present tense can contribute to the characterization of a work’s protagonist.
3. The present tense can reflect not only a character’s nature but a work’s theme.
4. The present tense can reflect not only a character’s nature but a work’s theme.
Disadvantages of Present Tense
1. Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time.
2. It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense.
3. The present tense can diminish suspense.
4. 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.
Advantages of Past Tense
1. Can jump more freely around the timeline of story.
2. Traditionally used more often so readers are better acquainted with it =’s more enjoyable.
3. Because event takes place in past have the ability to further develop an event.
Disadvantages of Past Tense
1. It can slow down pace.
2. It’s easier to slip into ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing.’
Look at #2, in the advantages of writing in the past tense. Can I tell you this point jumped out at me BECAUSE…I am now one of those people who find reading in the present tense irritating. Further research revealed this is actually quite common.
A Tense Decision
Sooooo, what was a getting to know you exercise has now potentially become a much larger editing exercise. I must confess, I haven’t looked at my manuscript since I made this discovery because I want to be sure before I embark on this little revision exercise. When I have my head wrapped around what I have to do, I will do it and realistically I know what I have to do and yes, it involves using the past tense. But either way….my dear Iphim, I look forward to getting to know you again and to see how we’ve both grown over the last decade+.
What tense do you write in?
2. patrizeproperties.com/ and 3. www.huffpost.com/entry/from-stressed-to-inner-peace-to-flourishing_b_9453738
Story Teller. Content Writer. Traveller. YouTuber.