Friday, July 30, 2010

Present tense is an abomination. Mostly.

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual links of interest to emerging writers. This week I think my favourite is Moonrat's disquisition on present tense. I don't know what happened a couple of years ago but these days it seems fashionable for beginners, especially in the YA and literary genres (oh, yes, litfic is a genre), to write their first novel in present tense. They are setting themselves up for a very hard time. Present tense is devilishly difficult. Present tense does not make the text more immediate--just the opposite, in fact. Present tense is the language of dreams and jokes, not realistic fiction. So do yourself a favour, use simple perfect instead.

Yes, I used present tense in one of Slow River's narrative strands. I did it to a purpose. (Which I think worked pretty well--hey, I never promised you modesty.) Yes, Hilary Mantel used present tense for Wolf Hall but, again, she used it to a purpose, and she's, y'know, Hilary Mantel.

If you don't understand tense, here's a handy page that will lay it all out for you. Go learn something.

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