I'm working on a new WIP (yeah!) and I'm turning to you for help. My dilemma stems because I'm unsure if I'd like to use present or past tense. Do you have a preference? Something you typically use? Do you find it works better in some genres vs others?
Once done reading, there's a poll asking for your valued opinion. Feel free to also leave a comment if you'd like to elaborate on your preference.
Thank you so much in advance. Your opinion is greatly appreciated :)
What a neat concept! Wish I wasn't at work so I could take a look at your WIP, sounds facinating. I always lean towards past tense. For some reason I personally just don't like writing in first person. I don't mind reading it though, go with your gut!
Okay, I looked a little over the chapter. In regards to tense, you basically have to ask yourself what the point of telling is (i.e. is the narrator writing this down ten years later or is it happening now). Present tense creates more suspense. If it's written in past with a 1st person narrator then there's the idea that somehow everything will turn out alright enough (at least enough that the narrator can tell the story). You just need to weigh these ideas and decide. Good luck!
Hi, Leigh! for a silly reason, I couldn't access your post. However, I write first person past tense. I do put internal dialogue in present tense. Good luck. I hope you figure it out!
I think present tense is better, because it sounds more immediate. Plus, it helps you avoid using past-perfect, which always sounds awkward. (In other words, if you write in past tense, when you want to go further back in the past, everything is all "had been this" and "had done that".)
Despite that, I wrote my novel in past tense. I have chosen it for philosophical reasons. Primarily because there is another POV in the book, and that character literally lives without memories, so her chapters are distinguished by her present-tense voice. The protagonist is learning to let go of the past and live in the present, and in Part III, the book shifts to present tense once she has learned to let go. I may abandon the latter if my reading group thinks it's too weird.
Thank you all for weighing in!
Also, it appears that the html of the chapter & poll are not showing up in all browsers in the provided link. I'm not sure what's going on. It works on all my computers and even my phone. Sorry for those who are left blind.
Right now, I'm really resonating with Kelsey's POV that present tense creates a "happening right now" & "unknown fate" type of vibe.
I'm definitely open to hear more opinions, so feel free to keep 'em coming.
Thanks again, everyone! :)
There is a trend to write in the present tense at the moment, and it does make the story more immediate in one way, as if it's happening right now. However the present tense is very tricky to write in and takes great discipline to keep all the writing in the present tense. Writing in the past tense is far easier and familiar. I like to write in the present tense at times, but when I do I'm writing about subject matter as if it is occurring now. By the very nature of your historic material, the shooting of the Romanov family, you're asking the reader to make a great leap of faith by going back in time and becoming alive in the past as present, like a time traveler. Doable but difficult.
And I did notice in your excerpt in several places where you fell into the past tense here and there. When writing in the present tense you have to watch out for using past tense verbs. They may work in dialogue, you can say, "I went to see John yesterday but he wasn't home," I tell him as I scramble the breakfast eggs. However, you can't switch back and forth in time in expository or narrative segments.
My rule of thumb is write in the POV and tense most natural to you and your story. Try it several ways and see what comes easiest to you and reads the best in terms of getting what you want say across. Trust in the process.
Thanks so much for your thoughts. One of the reasons why I want to write in present tense is because I find it a challenge and it's something unfamiliar to me as a present-tense newbie.
This draft is definitely rough -- I haven't done much massaging or editing and it's likely I have slipped in areas where I hadn't intended to (whoops).
I tried to only use past tense in narrative when referring to prior events. I used the following blurb as my foundation for this approach. Based on your feedback, it looks like I'm going to have to put some added effort into smoothing out these transitions from present to past:
"Events do happen prior to the current experience, and describing them in a present-tense story requires a shift to the past tense. However, the author may need to include those events to help the reader understand the present experience or to provide the motivation for a character’s actions and thoughts. This is difficult to accomplish. The author must make these time shifts smoothly, without losing the present-tense perspective and without making the reader wonder when the event is taking place. The author has to separate present and past tense without damaging the readers’ engagement in the present tense events."
I have a few "present tense" books on my TBR list so I can get a feel for how other authors have handled this.
Thanks again for your thoughts. SheWrites is a wonderful source to learn from other authors :)