So, I realized that I haven’t really mentioned that I’m a present tense author for a while on this blog. The way I realized this was by getting a few messages about ‘typos’ that turned out to be present tense. I routinely run into people who mistake my present tense style for being horribly unedited. Now, there could be typos in there because I’m human and those who help me edit are human too. Yet, I’ve found that there’s a 50/50 shot at it being a misunderstanding. There’s also the fact that Amazon can screw with the format of a book after it’s uploaded. I remember comparing one of my books to the file I uploaded and I found rearranged and missing words. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that stuff since I can only do so much with the tech.
Long ago, I wondered why present tense throws people off so badly and then I stumbled onto a possible answer. Stick with me on a story and theory here. Back when Beginning of a Hero came out, my friends had picked it up to read. Now, one of my high school friends and his wife were listening to an audiobook of The Hunger Games (another present tense book) before getting to my book. My friend’s wife had never read my stuff before and she said something was off. His response when she explained was ‘That’s just how Charlie writes’ and he had no blips on his radar. The reason was because he’d been reading my stuff in high school since we did a lot of English projects together. So, hearing present tense was fine, but reading it was awkward. That is unless you’ve been exposed to both and can transition without a problem. Kind of strange, right?
Not really if you think about it. We talk in real time, so we’re used to hearing present tense directed at us. Meanwhile, writing is primarily past tense. Why? Because it was originally created to preserve history and pass it down the generations. Fiction came after non-fiction, so the early stories must have been written to mimic history and then gradually get more and more diverse from reality. This would have required that early fiction authors write about their fake events as if they already happened. There was never a purpose to writing present tense and the use of past tense ended up becoming the norm and more natural way of reading. Simply because it was what people learned on. Think about it. All of the classics we read throughout school are past tense. We don’t realize that we’re conditioning ourselves to be more comfortable with past tense than present tense. When we do run into the latter, it’s jarring and many can mistake it for poor writing or an unedited work instead of a difference in style.
Again, this is just my theory from experience and thought. It doesn’t even connect to why I write in present tense. Way back in high school, I always mixed up my tenses even in mid-sentence. My English teacher sat me down and explained that I had to pick one or the other in order to get taken seriously. I ended up picking and running with present tense since I wrote with the images in my head acting in real time. Honestly, I didn’t even know present tense was frowned upon until after I released my first book in 2013. That means I’d already been doing present tense for 17 years, so it was locked in. I’ve tried to change stuff to past tense once or twice, but it doesn’t feel natural. Guess I conditioned myself on that one too.
Anyway, that’s basically a long reminder of me being a present tense author and throwing some thoughts about it out there. I’m never really sure what else to say, but I have to talk about it from time to time. Definitely makes my author journey harder than it would be with past tense, especially since flashbacks and exposition to explain the history of a place doesn’t really work. Not like I expected this gig to be easy though . . . Okay, I didn’t think tense would be a battle. It’s an oops that I’m willing to live with.