1. theincrediblemrc
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    theincrediblemrc New Member

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    Fiction written in the present tense

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by theincrediblemrc, May 20, 2010.

    Can someone PLEASE tell me why the trend of writing fiction in the present tense continues to exist?
     
  2. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Because some people like to write in present tense. I don't do it myself, but don't have a problem with others who do.

    Other people like to read things written in present tense. So isn't it nice for them there are writers who oblige them.

    In ten words or less: Different strokes for different folks.
     
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  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thankfully, it's not a trend, only an occasional aberration...
     
  4. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    It's just something people do to be "new agey", for want of another expression. Not to my taste.

    Once I read this article where the guy suggested that any writer should break the fourth wall within the first few pages... I think he used an example like "I can't believe was killed off in the first few pages!"

    Now that is a stupid idea. I don't know what they were smoking when they wrote that down. God help anyone who decided to take this advice

    I suppose that would be "new agey" as well.
     
  5. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have, in the past, written in the present tense.

    But, at the present time, I write in the past tense.

    As for the future.... ;)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, I find the use of present tense narrative voice in fiction a bad idea. One authro I ordinarily respect, Patricia Cornwell, has used it for a few of her novels. In my opinion, they are her weakest novels, and I believe it is because of her use of present tense narrative. Other readers I know who don't look as analytically at the writing also find those novels less enjoyable, even though they can't put a finger on why.

    Present ttense narrative voice locks the pace of the story to the reader's reading rate. Past tense can modulate the "pastness" from milliseconds to millenia, thus giving a much finer control over the story's flow.

    So instead of asking why others are choosing present tense narrative, ask instead why you should or should not. It's a much more fruitful avenue of inquiry,
     
  7. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    It’s quite common in good literary fiction. There’s nothing wrong with it. Although it does require great skill to use well.

    Only a few minutes ago, I finished reading a short story in The New Yorker that was written in the present tense. Superb.

    It’s nothing new. For example, Rabbit, Run (1964) by John Updike; The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus; the first part of Notes from Underground (written in the 1800s) by Dostoevsky.

    I’ve just finished reading the winning stories from the BBC’s 2009 short story award. Out of the five winning entries, two were written in the present tense.

    It sometimes works well.
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It's really a literary trend more than with other genres. It deliberately defies the conventional narrative tense, often stopping the reader getting immersed in the novel deliberately, leading them to focus on the writing itself rather than escaping into the story. It's also something that is quite trendy in literary fiction (after some of the great modern masters began doing it), and something, I've noticed, that seems to be more popular in British fiction than American (although there are certainly American writers who use it too).
     
  9. hyperspace!
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    hyperspace! Member

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    I don't think I've ever read anything in present-tense, so this could be wrong, but it seems like it could work in maybe a short story told in first-person. Because a lotta people tell stories in present-tense - like, "So then she turns to me and says 'no way' and I'm all like 'gurl whaaat?" Or something.

    Though you probably shouldn't write "and then I was all like" in a piece of fiction. That'd be just silly.

    It seems like it'd get kind of annoying if it was in a whole novel. Or a story told in third-person.
     
  10. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Present tense works persist because they can be done well. Not often, in my opinion, but every now and again an author will write something in first person that turns out well.

    Since readers (and, after all, most writers were readers first) notice unusual stylistic devices that work well, they are likely to ignore so-so stories written in present tense but admire and remember the good ones. Then when they begin writing their own stories, they remember how nice those present-tense stories were, and try to imitate that style.
     
  11. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of the YA novels published today are written in present tense--The Hunger Games, Forest of Hands and Teeth, Break, to name a few. Perhaps because I read a lot of YA stuff, the tense doesn't bother me at all or take me out of the story. It's what I'm used to reading.
     
  12. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Recently read Midnight's children by Salman Rushdie which is a first parson narration. The MC has telepathic power, so it worked very well for the novel. Throughout the 650 pages novel the first person narration never bothered me. So, first person works better for some stories.
     
  13. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    My last two novels were (are?) written in the present tense. The first two were in the past tense. The next one, I think, will be a mix of the two. I like the present for its sense of immediacy and urgency. I also like the way you can describe intense, momentary details that no one could ever possibly remember (and that would, therefore, be technically unbelievable in the past tense.)

    I'm sure there are examples of bad books written in the present tense, but then there are thousands of bad books written in the past tense, so what's the difference?

    First parson narration? Is that where a vicar tells the story?
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Sorry guys..... I guess I posted in the wrong thread..... *stupid grin* (have been reading too many threads)


    But what I said is true for present tense too...... Present tense narration works for some stories.
     
  15. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    I fail to see how anyone could describe present tense as an aberration; plenty of literary prose is written in present tense, and sometimes even present first-person, which seems to receive a lot of unwanted criticism around here. Nausea, arguably the magnum opus of Jean-Paul Sartre's literary (non-philosophical) work and the existentialist canon, is in present first-person.

    It does seem that genre fiction written in first person is often mediocre, but considering a plethora of genre fiction is mediocre at best, I consider that hardly indicative.
     
  16. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    Exactly, Delphinus. FPPT FTW.
     
  17. Reis
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    Reis Member

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    I like to use present tense a lot since it gives me the feeling that I'm there and that this story is happening in my mind. I especially use it during a fight scene or something that has live action like a good chase along with the active voice.

    Past tense is often too easy in my comfort zone to write and to sometimes it even dulls me. Of course I see more of the past tense more than the present and past tense narrative has always been a traditionalist. But despite that, I prefer past tense when I write something of a timeless classic or a story with a calmer pace.

    This becomes a bonus when I write in collaborative though as I'm actually versatile to either style but make no mistake, I sometimes confuse the two tenses in placing so I still have yet to master both style narratives. Either styles I see nothing wrong with it, I think one might get more errors in present tense because it is less practiced and ventured than the past tense or it's tricky to set up in some cases.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    okay, so if not an aberration, it's at least an annoyance to many readers... including moi-meme...
     
  19. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Christ, why do people find present-tense so infuriating? Life is present-tense! Writing in past-tense is a tradition passed down from the days of telling stories by the campfire; no reason to continue it unless it serves your medium. Some people write present-tense prose very well, and it really isn't any less flexible than past-tense. If you dislike it, fine, but don't pretend your distaste for it says anything about anything other than your own preferences. It isn't a "trend".
     
  20. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm in the same boat. It doesn't bother me to read it when it is chosen for the right reasons. I don't use present-tense a lot because it has to be just right for the story for it to work. In the novel I just completed, I do use present-tense, but this is for a character who spends most of her time in her own head, thinking things out, planning, so what I write is not that different from what would actually be going on inside her head, only told in a way that is coherent for reading and puts what she sees and does into words as well as her thoughts.
     
  21. theincrediblemrc
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    theincrediblemrc New Member

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    Well, nobody has convinced me to convert. Maybe it's an old writers versus young writers thing. Maybe it's like reality television-- it's been around long enough for an entire generation to absorb it as normal. I still can't stand it. It's like trying to swim in a lake of glass. Just doesn't work for me...
     
  22. Sapphire_Trickett
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    Sapphire_Trickett New Member

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    Well, can't say I make judgements based on tense; writing is either good or bad. Tense is just style, like Converse versus Vans.
     
  23. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stuff it. I'm gonna write my next novel in future tense just to be different! ;)
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The narrative tense is a significant choice the writer makes, and it isn't an arbitrary one. It can nmost certainly be a factor in whether or not the writing is good. There are many good reasons for choosing a past tense narrative voice, but few for choosing present tense.

    I hear those who believe that present tense can be used effectively in fiction. Undoubtedly, there are examples in which it is done well. What I have seen of it is NOT done well. Therefore, I would advise against it. But I also know I am only one voice among many. So if you are sure you know what you are doing, and feel you have a compelling reason for telling your story in present tense, by all means prove me wrong!

    But I still think you are making things more difficult for yourself if you choose that path.
     
  25. Fallen
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    I can't understand why people draw such definite lines between past and present writing. Past will use present/future tense both in dialogue and narrtive, present tense will use past in dialgoue. There's a balance betwen the two, sometimes it tips one way, then the other, then back again just for the fun of it. You may choose to write in past tense, but it will use manipulation of other tenses too.

    It's like saying poetry is a creative genre all on it's own. Many techniques you use in poetry is carried over to fiction and non-fiction, even to commercials. All are related in some way.
     

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