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A Note About Tense.
A Note About Tense
I've never really thought about my writing and what tense I use...I simply use what's in my head, and I think in the present, in the moment. Things HAPPEN in my head.

I am not a writer. I am a thinker.

When my choice in present tense was pointed out by someone in my last writing, I thought...why prefer one tense over the other when the present sounds just fine to me?

I was curious, and did some research. I found several reasons to use the present tense, and several more not to.

Apparently, the present is useful for giving a sense of urgency to the narrative and give the reader some suspense...you're not sure what might happen next since it's all caught up in the moment. Well, that's obvious. It's my main reason for using it.

However, this sort of writing is apparently frowned upon by editors and publishers and they won't touch that tense. It is "a departure from conventional story telling" and needs good reason to be written that way. One person pointed out that using present tense makes it sound too much like an article. Someone else commented that it should only be used in screenplays. Yet another simply stated that it reflects the mental capacity of a 4th grader. Hm.

I found this blog entry that makes a valid point about using present tense when there essentially isn't anything really happening...but I feel as though I'm justified in using the present tense in the first chapter of Justice Lives because I wanted the situation to be thrown at the reader just as the situation was thrown at Light. As long as the grammar isn't confusing or jumbled, I intend to use both the past and present tense as I continue writing, though up until now I haven't used anything but present. Then again, I haven't attempted to write anything so ambitious.

Taking the first paragragh in my next chapter as an example, here it is written in the present tense I'm planning to write it in:
"Could you repeat that?" Near speaks sharply as his fingers clutch a puzzle piece. He was going over the final paperwork from the Kira case so that he could settle matters with the NPA’s task force when Gevanni came in with some less than good news. Near sets the piece down slowly and reaches for his bangs with his free hand. The young detective, now with the proper title of L, is clearly not amused.

And here it is all in past tense:
"Could you repeat that?" Near spoke sharply as his fingers clutched a puzzle piece. He was going over the final paperwork from the Kira case so that he could settle matters with the NPA’s task force when Gevanni came in with some less than good news. Near set the piece down slowly and reached for his bangs with his free hand. The young detective, now with the proper title of L, was clearly not amused.

Which sounds better to you?
Any thoughts on the matter? Comments? Suggestions?






User Comments: [1]
Eshidu
Community Member





Thu Nov 12, 2009 @ 02:25pm


I enjoyed both passages, but I have to say that I preferred the past tense. That is only because it is the way most books I read are written. It's proven that people prefer what they're used to over what is new. I really couldn't care less in which tense a story is written just as long as the story itself is worth reading.


User Comments: [1]
 
 

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