Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why I write in the present tense

As you've seen in my two posted chapters of Beholder's Eye as well as many of my writing examples, I write in present tense.

Not many books are written in the present tense, and here's the weird part: I've always written in the present tense, it seems, with rare exception.  In the seventh grade, I started work on a ninja trilogy--ninjas and the martial arts were all the rage when I was growing up, thanks to actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.  When I wrote it, I might've started writing in past tense but soon the present tense emerged from somewhere without my knowing.

When I started writing my deer hunting horror story back at Bemidji State University, I was using a Brother word processor.  The word processor had a printwheel on it (with a standard font, probably Times Roman) for when I printed out pages, and if I wanted to change the font, I needed a different printwheel.  Here was my dilemma: because I needed to tell the reader on my flashbacks that they were indeed flashbacks (not sure why I needed to explain it, but I'm sure it was my naivete in the writing realm), the only way I could do it without changing fonts was to put it in a different tense (i.e. the flashbacks were in past tense and the rest in present tense).

The main reason why I love present tense so much is because it gives a feeling that I'm taking someone on a journey.  Past tense, in my opinion, is the equivilent to someone saying, "Let's sit here by the fire while I tell you a story."  There's nothing wrong with it.  I just love the feeling of grabbing someone by the shirt collar and saying, "Let's go on a journey, you and I."

Besides, I recently read John Grisham's Calico Joe, where he switches from past to present tense.  I don't see much present tense written, and Grisham's was especially refreshing and powerful to witness firsthand.

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