The Friday Factoid: Past vs. Present Tense, Inspired by Emlyn Chand

Published July 6, 2012 by Jennifer Elizabeth

Factoid #2

Today’s topic: Past vs. Present Tense

This week’s post was inspired by a conversation via Twitter that I had with Farsighted author, Emlyn Chand.  I asked Emlyn why she wrote her novel in the present tense, thus her response developed this week’s factoid.

She said,  “The present tense works well if you want to convey a naive narrator.  Past tense implies they’ve already known what’s coming.”

I have been struggling with tense for months now.  I began writing my YA novel in the first person, present tense.  And then, I started to question myself.  Why was I writing this way?  Are there many books out there written like this (ie. The Hunger Games)?   Is it odd for a reader to read this kind of point of view?  How difficult is it to write, continuously, in the first person, present tense?  In my opinion, very.

But, once I read Emlyn’s response, everything made sense. My main character, Samara, is naive to her past and to her future.  Thus, her story has to be told from this perspective.  Everything I learn for the first time, she learns for the first time. It all makes sense now.  This will be a difficult journey, but I am willing to undertake it!

Thank you, Emlyn, for inspiring me this week. 🙂

Do you struggle with verb tense when embarking on a new writing adventure?

How do you overcome it?

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2 comments on “The Friday Factoid: Past vs. Present Tense, Inspired by Emlyn Chand

  • Do you ever see a word written, and it’s like you never saw it before? The spelling looks funny? That’s how I felt after writing for a while…it was like I had never read a book! I started over-thinking tense, especially. Emlyn’s comments make sense, but I think I am still screwing it up – esp. consistency with tense. Ah, well – that’s what editors are for, right?

  • Aww, great post, Jenn. One thing I will say is that I’ve had difficulty switching back to past tense narration. I’m just very comfortable in the present, I guess. What can I say? It suits me. When do we get to see excerpts from your WIP? DARN IT! 😛

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