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Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad? : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad?

Postby DrG2 » Fri May 30, 2014 12:49 am

and just move on?

it's a lot easier to write clunky descriptions, and sometimes even action, in present tense.

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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri May 30, 2014 11:54 am


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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby updog » Fri May 30, 2014 12:21 pm

James, you speak so highly and so often of The Talisman, you've convinced me to read it. Hope it's as good as you say. ;)

I think present tense often feels clunky and unnatural too, and it's very popular in YA, which is what I write, so I end up reading quite a bit of it. To me the problem is that some writers don't know how to do present without using "I did this" and "I did that" over and over. It drives me bonkers. The other problem is in the transitions or sequencing of events. Even little things like "Tonight I go to the bridge" just sound unnatural to me. Why would you say "tonight" I go? If it is happening right now, I'd either say "I'm going to" or "I'm at the bridge", not "tonight I go". And when they list two or more things that they're doing, it sounds weird to me when they use "then". Again, if it's happening in the moment, it's happening now, not then. It's all very confusing and I think that's why it often reads funny.

Having said that, there have been two stories I've struggled with that worked much better when I switched to present. I think the problem is that people jump on trends, and write in present tense not because it feels natural to them, but because that's what the popular people do. :roll:
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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby mammamaia » Fri May 30, 2014 12:28 pm

'admit'?... as in you're assuming we all have written that way and now concede it was a fad?

or did you mean 'agree'?... as in we all just think they were a fad?
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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby MookyMcD » Fri May 30, 2014 1:10 pm

It's just like every other aspect of writing. It's never been absent, but is having a period of heightened popularity. Has the current wave of popularity crested? I don't know. I don't really care, either. But assuming it has, there will still be some novels written in present tense one, ten, and a hundred years from now. Some good and some bad. And that will ebb and flow like books about vampires or books set in dystopian futures and everything else.

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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby robjvargas » Fri May 30, 2014 1:44 pm

My MC's scream at me every time I try to convert to past tense. I hope it's the only one I do, but this one demands it.
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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri May 30, 2014 2:48 pm


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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby onceuponwednesday » Fri May 30, 2014 3:28 pm

I find present tense pretty unnatural. Past tense sounds more natural because it's part of the normal storytelling method -- like telling someone what you did today.

I don't like to read it either -- unless they do such a good job that you don't even notice it -- which is hard to do successfully.

So I have no clue why I've written almost three books of the stuff. Must be a fad.
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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri May 30, 2014 7:06 pm


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Re: Can we all admit that novels in present tense were a fad

Postby robjvargas » Fri May 30, 2014 9:16 pm

I certainly didn't aim for it. I wrote the first four pages three times. Each time, I started in past tense, and was typing out present tense by the end of page two. Usually earlier than that.

I won't say that I'm good enough to pull it off. Instead, I just realize this work ain't getting finished any other way.
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