As a writer i write usually in past tense but slip into present tense when doing characters thoughts or writing about something that is always from the characters pov. How to avoid tense change in fiction writing the classroom. Dramatic scenes fights, escapes, arguments could end up laboured if the writing isnt lean and rich. How to maintain good tense control over your writing. The present tense heres an overview of the present tense, with basic examples.
I have written four novels in the present tense because they are light fiction and a beach read. In english grammar, the historical present is the use of a verb phrase in the present tense to refer to an event that took place in the past. But after making the leap into the past to capture the rhythm of. What i did say, in an email to the telegraph journalist who asked me about it, was that the use of the present tense in fiction had been getting more and more common, and i didnt like it. Since most of the problems occur in the past and present, well leave future tense out of the conversation for now. I write blog posts in the present tense even if im writing about something which happened in the past, because its funnier to be present as the gag is unfolding. Here are some of the drawbacks to writing in the present tense.
In this post, we look at the pros and cons of past and present tense and ask the question. This is because it is the tense in which we relate the things that happen to us every day in most of the english speaking world. She threw the book across the room and screamed at the top of her lungs. When i write in the present tense in nonfiction, its a kind of withdrawal into all of the available memory and evidence i can find as i look for the shape that might be there.
The past tense is by far the most common tense used in novel writing today, at least if you exclude the kind of literary fiction that doesnt sell in meaningful numbers. But this morning i read something entirely new for me, at least. This makes it easy to weed out things i dont need to read. Put storytime action in present tense and put the entire flashback in past tense. That present tense writing really stood out the whole time i was. Its not uncommon for publishers to have present tense novels rewritten into the past tense. The disadvantages mentioned to present tense except those related to novels where the narrative is driven by the storys context, ie, temporal only make sense if the writer uses the present tense the whole time. Come to think of it, you see past tense everywhere in nonfiction, newspapers, magazines, the broadcast media, you name it. Philip pullman calls time on the present tense books. The pros and cons of writing a novel in present tense. Most writers and most readers find the past tense easier. In determining how to avoid tense changes in writing fiction, you would do well to follow the master of suspense novelists and stay only in the invisible and unobtrusive past.
My newest one is fiction but less fluffy and i am automatically writing it in the past tense. Would versus will will is present tense and should not be used when writing a novel in past tense. The past tense is most commonly used and is also known as the reporting tense. Recently, a listener named joy had a question about writing a flashback in a work of fiction. First person present tense is the bane of my existence. Occasionally the author will use the simple past tensetypically. Tense refers to verb tense, the tool through which you express action and its relation to time in your writing. Present tense, while rising in popularity, is still a minority. The present tense is often associated with literary fiction, short stories, students in writing programs and workshops, and first novels. A verbs tense lets the reader know when the action is taking place. Verb tenses in fiction writing are confusing, at least they were for me. I can write a story in present tense that happens in the middle ages, and i can write in the past tense for something that happens in the year 3350.
If your story is being told in the past tense, then write the first few verbs of the flashback in the past perfect and the rest in simple past. The hunger games and other examples of present tense novels the bleak house by charles dickens. In narratives, the historical present may be used to create an effect of immediacy. However, writing in present tense can make it harder to artfully shift to past or future events, resulting in a narrative linearity that some authors find claustrophobic. I grew up with first person past tense, and despite the pov challenges, its my favorite mode of writing. Writing in the first person present or thirdperson present is an effective way to create a narrative that. This episode is a little unusual because i usually deal with topics that can be widely applied to fiction and nonfiction writing, but recently i was on a plane reading seth harwoods crime novel jack wakes up, and i was struck by the fact that it was written in the present tense.
If you cant decide which tense you should use in your novel, you should probably write it in past tense. If theres no narrator in the present day, then whats the justification for using past tense. Present tense creates tension because the reader doesnt know what is going to happen is the. Past tense is appropriate here because you shift to an earlier time within the world of the story.
Im hoping i can help, and not confuse you more lets sidestep for a moment before you begin your novel you first need to choose the right pov. Writing in the first person present or thirdperson present is an effective way to create a narrative that feels as though its happening in the present. Since the past tense is familiar to readers, readers dont have to adjust when they begin a story written using past tense. In academic writing, the general rule is to use present tense when citing published sources. You can move between minds, between thoughts and objects and events with a curious ease not available to the past tense.
Would is the correct conjugation, even if the action will be happening in the characters future. Is it better the use the present or the past tense for a novel written in. I think i dont care whether a fic is written past or present tense as long as its done well and it captures my attention. An entire novel written in past tense is flat and one dimensional. One of the first decisions to make about a story is what tense you will use past or present. Definition and examples of the historical present tense. The narrative has to be in the past relative to something. You might think this means you should try writing a story in present tense. Some books just come alive in the present tense in a way i feel they dont when told in the past tense, says mitchell, suggesting the. Present tense introduces a host of challenges that might make it a poor fit for your story. Getting tense about tense in fiction the conversation. The past tense, along with all its wonderful many permutations, is the natural voice of all story telling. Writers, over the last decade, have been waxing lyrical about the rise of the present tense in english fiction. Decide which writing tenses would work best for your story.
Some verbs are easy to mix up when writing in past tense. I prefer novels in the past tense, but its just a preference, and i could get used to a story told in the present tense. Also called the historic present, dramatic present, and narrative present. Past tense is by far the most common tense, whether youre writing a fictional novel or a nonfiction newspaper article. I most often use the present tense in personal essays when i am writing about the pastabout events anywhere from the recent past to 30, 40 years removed. Past tense versus present tense writing tip 56 youtube. If the novel was a mystery the choice was nearly always past tense since as indicated the tense is best for the purpose of reflecting to the past or changing scenes and character actions. Thats assuming theyll accept it at all, some might see the present tense as a reason for rejection. That is frequently because of present tense writing. The past tense is easier to read and write past tense is the natural manner we use to share stories. I jump over the fallen tree trunk, narrowly escaping a nasty tumble. Here are some tips for using the tenses in a novel.
Tomorrow, she would run to the store to pick up ingredients. If you dont have a default, go to tense that you write in, this is one of the first decisions a writer has to make when starting a new novel. Literary present tense might take some getting used to, but its the right thing to do. What tense should i use for a futuristic fictional novel. Most people seem most accustomed to reading past tense, so it tends to not be noticed by the reader. You have two tense choices when it comes to writing fiction. Your explanatory writing would determine if the story is based in the past or the present. My first novel was written in the past tense, and once again im writing a fictional crime memoir primarily in the past tense. The pros and cons of writing a novel in present tense writers.
Verb tenses in fiction writing, pov, point of view of. Other errors are common too, such as flashbacks in present tense they should be in the past tense since theyre in the past. Maintaining good tense control is a writing skill new writers need to develop and master, whether it be for business, blog or fiction writing. Even if youre 100% certain your novel will be in the present tense, you should understand how the past tense works and why its so common. Using the past tense in fiction is timehonoured and for many, the default choice, but writing in the present tense is a stylistic choice that is increasingly used in modern fiction. Is it in the past ran, present run, or future will run. The tense you choose should also suit the personality of your main viewpoint character. There are two types of tense that are most often used in fiction.
You should also use present tense when bringing the author into the discussion. And as the author, youre writing the story in the present day. As soon as you exit the writer in the present, you do away your justification for using past tense at all. There are many reasons past tense is the standard for novels. While present tense was frequently used as an aside from. If you are sharing your own views about a previous study, it might be better to use the present tense, e. Most novels are written in past tense, but lately present tense has enjoyed some trendiness. For fiction writers, switching from past to present tense in a story is possible. If you use beta readers or writing buddies, ask them to comment specifically on your chosen tense. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both. Verb tense consistency in fiction write something you love.
Not sure whether to write your novel in the past tense or the present tense. Should you write your novel in past or present tense. Maintain verb tense consistency unless the timing of an action demands a change. The present tense is used more in contemporary literary fiction, in short stories and in writing that plays or experiments with form and also in a lot of. Any sensible person would probably accept that the past tense and the present tense are equally good and which is best will depend on the piece of writing and the author. It does not matter if you are writing in the past or the present when it comes to dialogue. Already i reckon there are a lot of people out there that would say that i shouldnt be thinking about present tense if im so new and that i should learn past tense first, however, im just doing this as an exercise for now so please forgive my decision. I thought that writing an historical novel in the present tense gave the.
If you find it too hard to write or it doesnt come. My two literary fiction novels are in both because they are composed of a present tense narrative alternating with flashbacks. Ive recently started trying my hand at some fiction writing for the first time. Present tense does not seem to come naturally to most writers, which leads them to flipflop between past and present tense. Present progressive also called present continuous. With present tense, the action takes place in the moment, now. The present perfect tense describes an action that happened in the past or is still happening now. Writing in the present tense can be effective in certain situations, but other narratives may call for the use of other tenses. Stephen king, in on writing, recommends present tense only for very short fiction. Your use of the verb to say should still be used the same way. It used to be a stunt perspective but im seeing a lot more of it now. However, when the protagonist gets to the action hes suddenly in the present tense. Sometimes, the present perfect tense is used if the research you are referring.
Im not suggesting it doesnt work or there havent been great books. The present perfect is formed using have or has and the past participle note that irregular verbs form the past participle differently e. When writing a scene for a novel, pick a verb tense and stick with it. Which one tells a better story different tenses suit different stories, certain genres, and various authors styles. Practice showing shadowy past or present actions using verb forms. Some readers find the present tense too artsy, and when i encounter a story in it, i usually need several paragraphs to adjust.136 742 270 37 695 1293 969 541 1534 415 1320 719 1208 577 759 237 921 288 398 84 979 498 10 83 203 1108 100 1450 744 104 642 93 739 574 736 152 1368 402 239 561 337 596