Why So Tense?

Again, I did not know what I should post but then I received quite the revelation in my email today. As a subscriber to Writer’s Digest, my mailbox is filled with updates on webinars, competitions, agents, publishers  and presses, and author posts, etc. I mostly discard some of the emails, however the ones that mention competitions and agents and publishers looking for writers, gets more of my focus.

And then every once in a while an article catches my eye that I can not not continue reading. And today’s post, The Pros and Cons of Writing in Present Tense , was one of those posts. Brian Klems makes no distinction on which tense usage is right or wrong, but rather discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using present tense. As well as comparing and contrasting the benefits of using past tense over present tense.

Besides the points taken to illustrate the usage and benefits of either tense, the best part of the article was how it made me think about my writing. I mostly write in past tense but why is that? I’ve often been told that I sometimes switch between writing in past tense and present tense.  I’d have to pick and use one or the other, so why am I using both? It can be a variable of reasons but what comes to mind is that a great deal of what I want to write is more like a retelling of a past event in present time. And that is why I’m switching from
past to present but then what tense should I be using? Present perfect tense or simple past tense? Sigh; no wonder they say that English is the hardest language on Earth.

A second possibility might be because I’m writing how I live and that I’m living in the present (as its counterproductive to live in the past), influences the tense I write in. Or I’m just grabbing at straws trying to clarify it all.

Or it may be due to the mass amount of books I’ve read which were pre-self publishing/E publishing boom, were mostly written in past tense. Ex. Aside from Harry Potter, I love and have reread such books as Huckleberry Finn and Bram Stoker’s Dracula an infinite amount of times since junior high school, when I’d first gotten my hands on them.

If  you are what you eat, then maybe you write what you’ve read. If so, then explain to me why do we write how we write? What tense do you prefer to write in? Is it that you have no preference but let the story dictate the tense form used? Does genre or subject matter influences the tense of the story? The point of view? Or all of the above?

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