Monday, May 6, 2013

Past and Present Tense

And...I'm back. Finals week was exhausting but now it's over and I'm home. The Red Wings made the play-offs for the twenty-second year in a row and Orb won the Kentucky Derby. So things are good. (I apologize for the random mentions of sports over the next few weeks, I look forward to Triple Crown and Stanley Cup season year-round.)

Past and present tense. They're both perfectly acceptable tenses to use in a novel, but sometimes one is better used than the other.

Past tense is the narrator telling a story that has already happened. It's probably the most commonly used tense and works well for most stories.

"You're the only one for me," he said just before he kissed her. 

It was used to Harry Potter, the Inheritance Cycle, the Mortal Instruments series, and many other novels. 

Present tense is the narrator telling a story as it happens. It's grown in popularity in reason years in young adult novels. It's a tricky tense to write and can be known to get very choppy and throw the reader off. It's typically used for stories where the tension is very immediate, to increase the suspense.

She throws the book aside. "Curse whoever invented the Pythagorean Theorum," she says. 

It's used in the Hunger Games trilogy, Perfect Chemistry, and Rules of Attraction.

Choosing a tense requires some definite thought. Sometime present tense flows better and sometimes past tense is more appropriate for the plot of the story. You might start out writing in one tense, and find yourself constantly switching to another. That's okay, as long as the tense is consistent in revisions.


Samantha said...

Ahhh that's exactly what I've been doing at the moment. I'm working on my first draft of my current WIP and am going back and forth between past and present tense each chapter! I'll probably end up going with the past tense when I edit because it seems to work better but gosh it's hard!