As of late, I've been trying to decide on the tense for my story. It's such an important decision that can truly make or break your MS. There's a part of me that wants to attempt present tense, work a little harder to see it if will pay off. Lately I've read many books that were written in present and were executed flawlessly. When written correctly, I believe, present tense can bring a character to life, put the reader in their head, connect you to the MC on a completely different level. However, I've also read books were I found the present tense distracted me from the story, leaving me to only focus on the fact that the book was written in present tense. I don't want that.
And then there's this other part of me that loves the feel of past tense, and the ease of which it comes so naturally. So, needless to say, I'm torn. Past or Present. Present or past. I haven't a clue as to what I will, or even want to do.
So, per the usual, I've been practicing my techniques. And since these will be put to no other use, I've decided to share another writing exercise. (I'm full of them, apparently.)
Past Tense: Here's what naturally comes out when I write. It kind of just flows out of me effortlessly.
My father blatantly avoided the topic of “my car” as we drove past it on the way to school this morning. Though, I could tell the way the crinkling lines lightly furrowed along his brow, he wasn’t very happy with me. Not that I could blame him, I wasn’t very happy with me either.Until last night, I had a car. It wasn’t new, but I loved it—even despite its age and missing paint chips. Okay, okay… and the huge dent in the front fender, which actually was the only one not caused by yours truly. I know it wasn’t much, but it was mine. All mine. And that made all the difference.This morning, my blue Civic was exactly where I had left it last: nose deep in mud, teetering tail up in the shallow creek at the end of the vacant, vineyard lined road that lead to our house.
Present Tense: And here's the same snippet (for the most part) in present tense. It took a little more work, but turned out okay, I think.
-->My father blatantly avoids the topic of “my car” as we pass it on the way to school this morning. I can tell by the crinkling lines that appear and furrow along his brow, he isn’t very happy with me. Not that I can blame him, I’m not very happy about what happened last night either.
I love that car. Well, I think a correction may be in order now: I loved that car. It wasn’t new or anything, and it wasn’t even in perfect condition. My little black Civic had weathered many years in the salty breeze that blew in from the San Francisco bay. The missing paint chips proved its loyalty to the Bay Area. It even had what I like to call a, “love tap,” permanently decorating the front fender.
I'm still torn. Ultimately it is a decision that will have to be made soon, and I think that Past vs Present tense is something every writer tackles on a case by case basis. It greatly depends on the "feel" you want to achieve for your story.
Obviously, I'm still trying to figure the "feel" I want to achieve. But I'm curious: How do you all choose a tense for your stories? Does it come by decision or just happen to flow out naturally, one way or the other?