When to Write in Present Tense

When to Write in Present Tense

Sep 22, 2021

In my latest video - How to Make Your Sentences Awesome, Verbs and Adverbs - I talked about the two types of tenses you can use in storytelling: past tense and present tense.

Now, in that video, I said that I don't like present tense. I said it a lot. And I mean it, however, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it. My preferences shouldn't dictate your writing style.

That being said, I think there are some good times to use present tense.

#1 - Short Stories

Short stories are not big commitments, so even readers who are distracted by present tense can get through it. Short stories also need to get across more tension and plot within a shorter amount of space, so present tense might be just the thing your short story needs.

#2 - Literary Fiction

Any fiction that is not usually action-packed or gripping might benefit from present tense. My books have criminals and gangsters, so I don't need the extra tension. But if you're writing a story about a character who is looking for purpose, or who has just moved to a new city, or who is exploring the elements of good versus evil while going through their daily routine, present tense might be helpful to your story. It adds tension and thrill to stories that may be too relaxed if written in past tense.

#3 - Personal Stories

I would say that travel stories or personal experiences might benefit from present tense. It could add a little extra flavor to your story, keeping your readers in the moment as you explain your experiences.

My only caution is that if you use present tense, remember that you can't tell the story as if it happened in the past. That means no reflective sentences like, "If I knew then..." or "What I didn't know..."

Everything is in the moment.

#4 - If you naturally write in that style

I had a writing friend at one time that said she would never use first-person perspective in her writing. She didn't have any love for it. She naturally wrote in third-person, and that's what she focused on improving. Considering how awesome she is at third-person writing, I see nothing wrong with this.

You may naturally lean towards present tense. If that's the case, lean hard into it. Don't write in past tense simply because you think more people will like it. That's not a good reason to write anything. Write in the style you love and enjoy most, getting as awesome at your craft as possible.

Want to learn how to use make awesome sentences? Check out my series HOW TO WRITE A SENTENCE 02: Verbs and Adverbs



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