Hi Susan-Present Tense or Not?


The Hi Susan letters are piling up so I thought I’d devote this Tuesday to responding to one of them.

Luanne sent me this one…

I’m thinking about writing my story in present tense. Do you think it’s a good idea or should I avoid it at all costs?

This is a question with no simple yes or no response because there are a lot of variables to think about.

You might have noticed more stories are being told in present tense these days. Not sure if it’s a trend that’s going to continue. Well, there you have part of my answer. If you’re thinking about present tense just because everyone else is doing it, then think hard about your choice. Are you comfortable writing a story as if it’s taking place right here and now? If you’re not then I’d stick with past tense.

Having said that, I’ve just given a clue as to why it’s a great tense to write in. Everything unfolds as it’s happening which gives the reader a sense that’s it could really be happening. Maybe that’s why so many authors are opting for it. I won’t go as far as to say it’s a little bit of cheating on the part of us writers but being able to pull a reader in so easily does seem like magic.

One other factor to consider, what genre are you writing in? What type of book are you writing? I’ve seen lots of literary fiction in present tense, women’s fiction, erotic romances, and erotica too.

I never thought about writing in present tense until about two years ago when I was revamping a back title. I wanted to give it a different spin (it was one of my erotica stories), and just for fun gave present tense a test drive. I loved it so much that it’s now my go to tense for my erotica stories.

If you’re combining it with first person narration like I do, it’s a double bonus for both you the writer and the reader because the story is not only told in the here and now, but the reader is living more vicariously through the character as they tell their story.

I know this has been a round about answer but the bottom line is give a chapter or two the present tense test run and see how it reads. Was it comfortable for you to write like this or did you have to keep stopping to think about what to write next?

Pick the style that works for your style of writing, plus the story and its characters.

Hi Susan

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