Present Tense

Posted August 19, 2012 by elizatilton in Uncategorized / 13 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall any books I’ve read that are written in present tense. I did read YOU by Charles Benoit, but that was written in 2nd person POV. I think that’s the only reason I want to say it’s in present tense.

Well, my current WIP is in present tense. I didn’t plan on writing it that way, but it just kind of happened. I sent the first few chapters to one of my crit gals and she admitted to not being a fan of present tense, but for this particular story it works. For reference it’s a YA romantic thriller.

So fellow friends, what are your thoughts on present tense. Have you ever read a book written that way? Would you? Why do you think most novels are written in past tense?

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13 responses to “Present Tense

  1. I don't usually write in present tense but I did for one novel because that's the way the story came out. I think you just have to go with what the story calls for. I've read plenty of books in present tense. Either tense can work well if it's done correctly.

  2. I think "The Summer I Turned Pretty" is in present tense, if my memory serves me correctly. I had written my book "Nowhere" in present tense, but my editor had me change it to past. I had to go through and fix every sentence. It was a lot of work, but it was the right choice. Now I always write in past tense. I like to read novels written in either.

  3. 'Divergent' is also in present tense. I'll be honest, I was more than halfway through 'Hunger Games' before I realized it was present tense.

    When present tense is good, it's really good. When it's bad, argghhh — it's so aggravating to read through the story. The tense shouldn't be the focus of the story — if I notice it, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

    That said, I think it can really add a new dimension to a story. In 'Hunger Games', it adds an element of tension and suspense that would have been lost in using the past tense.

  4. The first book I ever read in present tense was the late Ida Vos's Hide and Seek, which I read for the first time in late '92. It was such a revelation to me to discover you could write in present tense, and it inspired me to write my Russian novel in the present tense when I began it at the end of January '93. Besides my Russian novels, I also have a contemporary historical family saga in present tense. Everything else is past tense.

    What I really, really hate is first-person present tense. I've seen it done well in a few books (like Pearl Abraham's The Romance Reader, which came out years before this whole trend started), but usually it makes my brain freeze up. It just seems a really weird way to narrate a story. And if there are high stakes involved, it basically removes all suspense about whether the narrator will live or die.

  5. My WIp is also written in present tense. It started off in past, but it's a stronger story using present. I think each serves their own purpose and whichever is going to make your story the strongest – use it…it has to read and feel right.

  6. Interesting topic. I'm thinking of trying it with my next book but I want to think it through for a bit. I liked Carrie-Anne's comment about first-person present tens since that's exactly what I was thinking, but she may have talked me out of it. In any case, great topic.