Friday, May 21, 2010

Present Tense?

So at my brothers suggestion I started Reading The Hunger Games. It's a little like the book I'm writing. It's about kids fighting to survive in a post apocalyptic future. I haven't got very far but I noticed that the whole book is written in present tense. Did anyone else pick up on that? My brother didn't notice. What do you all think of that technique. I've had creative writing teachers suggest it before, it's supposed to add intensity and directness to the writing. It's good for action sequences. I originally wrote the Brazil piece below in past tense but I changed it to present tense. Here is the first paragraph in its original form

Crying In Brazil

I sat on a hard thin bench, in a tall thin church, on a strangely cold morning in Sao Paulo. Light from the stain glass windows cut through the darkness of the chapel and landed on the cold marble at her feet. She stood before the altar, her head bowed, her hands folded lightly. Slowly her head rose, her dark hair framing her pale olive face. She raised her hands, palms turned upward. She began with a single note as thin and delicate as her own tiny frame. Her song floated about the room like a mist. The saints in their niches and the stone carved angels leaned in to listen. She worshiped God with gentle praise and delicate passion. The roar and crash of the metropolis outside faded into a silent reverence. Her eyes closed, dark wet lashes. Tears on her soft cheeks, sparkled in the sunlight, like crystals.

What do you all think of this present past tense thing? Post your thoughts.


Jodi said...

I haven't read a book in present tense for years, but I remember reading one in junior high maybe? and it felt really weird to me. I should try it again and see how I like it. I've noticed, however, that sometimes when I'm telling a story in my journal or blog I tend to write in present tense. So maybe I just need to pay more attention to it and see what I prefer.

Lona said...

I agree with your creative writing teacher. Writing in the present tense can be a subtle difference sometimes, but it adds to the intensity of the writing. I think it puts the reader in the same place as the character, existing in the moment, unsure of what is coming next. Instead of the character describing what he saw or felt or experienced he is describing what you see.
The reading becomes more of an experience than a story. When I read a piece written in present tense, I find myself putting it down more often, particularly if it is powerful, because I want to ponder on the day I've lived with the character.