Should you write in present tense?


As a storyteller I have often felt that the best tense to write in was past tense. I’m telling my readers the story so it’s already happened, right? But while writing Heavyweight  I found myself fiddling a lot with the POV (point of view) and the tense.

The story ended up being a lot of firsts for me: The first story I wrote in first person POV. The first story I finished with a male main character.  The first story I had to tell that I didn’t feel right talking about in the past tense.

After writing and re-writing the first couple of chapters, I decided I wanted my reader to experience the story as Ian was living it. I felt like it would make for a better connection between my protagonist and my readers. I really want the reader to feel for him and yet be kept in the dark about what was coming and how things would end up.

Some of you may be thinking “I was always told you shouldn’t write in present tense.”  From what I’ve read, that’s a fallacy. While it’s not the most common to see, there’s nothing that says you absolutely shouldn’t do it. People may find it unusual and some won’t be able to enjoy the story written that way, but there are plenty of books out there written in present tense that people enjoy. For example: The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Next time someone tells you would shouldn’t write your story in present tense, you stop and think about the amazing success of those books and do what you feel is best for your story.

There are many occasions where writing in present tense will be a huge asset to your story, especially if you’re writing thrillers or mysteries. I think it helps keep the reader right there with you on the edge of their seat.  I do think if you opt for present over past tense  you have to be super cautious to make sure you’re not switching between the two as you’re writing (a problem I found myself having throughout the rough draft) but other than that, just think of it as another way to pull your reader into the story.

Do you enjoy writing and/or reading present tense stories? Why or why not?



Some links on the topic by some great resources, Maureen Johnson and Grammar Girl!


6 responses »

  1. I started writing in present tense and then for some random reason I can’t remember switched to past. Now I like past tense better. Present tense always takes some adjusting to when I’m reading a story that uses it. Although, when I read Heavyweight, I didn’t notice the tense at all and it didn’t bug me one bit.

    • Yay! That’s always good to hear! 😀 I don’t think I’ll probably use it often but I definitely think it can work well with certain stories.

      • I tend to struggle to see how it could really affect the story. Maybe I haven’t read enough present tense or if I saw a story written both ways and could compare, I could get how it can affect a story.

  2. I’m a present tense and first person fan. Two of my novels are written that way and my latest project is too. It’s a very here and now approach but isn’t easy. Fifty Shades, Twilight, many bestsellers use it. No guarantee of success though and some readers will put the book down if it’s in a narrative voice or tense they don’t favour.

    • This is very true. I don’t find that it bothers me when I read stories unless they switch back and forth and haven’t caught it in edits. Then I get annoyed…but if the story has pulled me in already, I’ll suffer through.

  3. Pingback: Present Tense: Breathlessly Waiting to Read About What’s Already Happened « change it up editing

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