I Shouldn’t Use Present Tense

Posted: January 26, 2014 in short story, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I started a short story the other night about a family that moves into a haunted house (yes, that’s been done before a hundred times, but I’m trying to do something new with it. Hopefully I’ll succeed). For some reason I started writing it in present tense, something I rarely ever do. Most stories, especially the ones I’ve read  and the ones I usually write, are in past tense. I think I was trying to make the story unique by writing it in present tense, or maybe it sounded good at first to write it in the present tense.

But as this short story’s been coming along, I’m finding it harder to continue going, and I think the tense of the story is a major contributor to that problem. The only story I’ve ever written that’s been in present tense and that I’ve barely had any trouble with is Addict, one of the short stories I included in The Quiet Game, but that was also in second-person, and that kind of made it easier to write. Heck, it was practically begging to be written in present tense as well in second person (“You walk out of the bathroom and you rejoin your buddy. He asks you a question and for a moment you’re not sure what he said”. See what I mean?). But this is third-person, and I think unless you’ve had a lot of training in writing in present tense or you prefer that tense, then it’s just not the sort of tense you write in.

Okay, the TARDIS doesn’t have much to do with tenses, but it does with past, present and future.

Well, I’ve certainly learned my lesson. I can’t write this story in present tense and I’m definitely not going to attempt to attempt future tense (never seen an entire story of any length written that way). So tomorrow (or the next day, depending on the amount of homework I have), I’m going to through the short story and switch it to past tense. Then I’ll go through it again, adding, editing, and deleting where I see appropriate. Luckily I’m only about seven pages into this short story, so I can probably get both tasks done fairly quickly.

For now though, I’m going to go to bed. I’ll let my mind swirl this short story in my head overnight and see if I can come up with any other ideas to improve this short story. I think it could be great, but since I’m trying to do something new with a familiar trope, I really have to work hard to make the story believable and enjoyable to the audience. Hopefully I can do that.

That’s all for now. I’ll post again when I’m done with the short story, or when I have something else to post about (whichever comes first). Goodnight, Followers of Fear.

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Comments
  1. In writing past and present tense serve a purpose. Sure, a lot of people write in past tense, but that doesn’t make it right, just common. When ever I write k default to past tense. But a story in present tense give the events a more fast pace feeling. Things are happening there and now for the reader. Some times this can be too exhausting, but in a short story it could be just right.

    In my opinion, if your story needs to rip the reader into the horror and back out again, maybe try sticking in present. And also, its a pain to change tense, you never seem to catch everything.

    Best of luck

  2. Present tense has its uses in story telling (I’ve used it once or twice) but it can be tricky. If it doesn’t suit you or your story it’s probably for the best you let it go.

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