So, I was all excited about my foray into present tense. But, then my guy says that he hates present tense. He feels like it makes any writing feel amateurish and awkward. He was quick to note that it is simply his feeling on the subject, an objective subject, and I should write my story however I think it should be.
But now I’m worried.
I would love some feedback. Below, I have two samples. One is past tense, the other present. Let me know which you think sounds better, please!
Soft, blue, flashing lights fill my vision. They are mild at first, lethargic and steady, and almost unnoticeable. Slowly, the glow intensifies. The flashes come faster and faster, until I realize that I’m awake. Once my conscious mind has made its presence known, the flashing stops.
I shiver. My internal body temperature hasn’t come back to its preferred ninety-eight point seven degrees yet. I feel like a sheet of ice is lodged in my core. My limbs feel numb and fuzzy. I try to lift my arm, but it’s heavy and doesn’t want to obey. Every ounce of my being wants to fall back into slumber.
Distantly, I hear voices speaking.
Soft, blue, flashing lights filled my vision. They were mild at first, lethargic and steady, and almost unnoticeable. Slowly, the glow intensified. The flashes came faster and faster, until I realized that I’m awake. Once my conscious mind had made its presence known, the flashing stopped.
I shivered. My internal body temperature hadn’t yet returned to its preferred ninety-eight point seven degrees. I felt like a sheet of ice was lodged in my core. My limbs felt numb and fuzzy. I tried to lift my arm, but it was heavy and doesn’t want to obey. Every ounce of my being wanted to fall back into slumber.
Distantly, I heard voices speaking.
Richard Cluff said:
I’d have to strongly disagree with your friend about the idea that past or present tense has that big of an impact: it’s always about the content and the delivery. That being said, I enjoyed your present tense version better myself.
I always write it in the appropriate tense for when it is occurring: if it is happening now; I use the present tense. I know that seems a rather simplistic way to approach it, but it works well for me.
But the way I am writing my story is in the form of a time stream: I put dates instead of chapters, and everything is extremely time sensitive.
I hope this little bit of input helped you.
For me it’s about the stories length. Present tense works well in short stories, but I struggle reading it at novel length. Just an opinion though, you have to go with whatever feels right while you’re doing it.
I agree with Richard on writing in the appropriate tense for when something is occurring.
The tense is also a nice distinction:
Your paragraph in present tense is more intense. The reader is alert, anxious to learn what is going to happen. Depending on the person telling her/his story this can be creepy if she/he is a dangerous (human) being.
Your paragraph in past tense relates something that happened in the past, something that might still influence you (and/or your protagonist).
I hope my input helps you a little.
Thank you all for your input. It helped a lot. I think I’m going to continue writing it in present tense. It is a series of short stories, so, hopefully, it won’t be overbearing. Karen, I really like your point about it being more immediate and tense. I hadn’t thought about that, and I’ve been looking to write with more tension.