Past or present tense when writing about literature

Tips, tricks and thoughts from one writer to cyberspace every M,W and F. Why Use Past Tense? Truth be told, you could write the same exact story nearly word-for-word in past or present tense.

Past or present tense when writing about literature

Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! Guest Column March 25, When the literary historians of the year write about the fiction of our time, I believe they will consider our use of the present tense to be its most distinctive—and, perhaps, problematic—feature.

Whereas present-tense narration was once rare, it is now so common as to be commonplace. And why was the present tense now omnipresent?

The best writers almost always seem to know, either consciously or intuitively, when to use present tense. Many of us, however, do not. Present tense has become something of a fad, and we often use it even when past tense would serve the story better.

Whereas the character Charlie Baxter fears the erasure of the past, his friend Bradley feels the present is, at times, less present than the past and therefore more subject to erasure. I watch them go into the kitchen and observe them making a dinner of hamburgers and potato chips.

They recover their senses by talking and listening to the radio. I watch them feed each other. This is love in the present tense.

Present tense simplifies our handling of tenses. Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time. It seems natural to alter the chronology of events in past tense, when the narrator is looking back from an indeterminate present at many past times, but it seems unnatural to do it in present tense, when the narrator is speaking from and about a specific present.

It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense. They also help us complicate a character by placing her in a larger temporal context. Without the kind of context flashbacks provide, our characters tend to become relatively simple, even generic.

The present tense can diminish suspense. Because present-tense narrators do not know what is going to happen, they are unable to create the kind of suspense that arises from knowledge of upcoming events.

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The narrator of Doctor Faustus provides a good example of this kind of suspense: What we gain in immediacy, she says, we lose in tension. Present-tense fiction can create another kind of suspense, of course—the kind we feel when no one knows the outcome—but not this kind. The use of present tense encourages us to include trivial events that serve no plot function simply because such events would actually happen in the naturalistic sequence of time.

The principle of selection can be applied more readily, and ruthlessly, in past tense. One of the great resources on writing around. Check it out here.

past or present tense when writing about literature

For more great writing advice, click here. Follow Brian on Twitter: WD Newsletter You might also like:For most purposes, “literary present tense” is the same as present tense. It’s called literary present tense to remind you that, when discussing literature and other arts, such as artwork or films, you need to write in present tense.

Mixing past and present tense in fiction | WordReference Forums

VERB TENSE FOR ANALYSIS OF LITERATURE AND HISTORY. Writing about literature. 1. Whether you are dealing with fiction, poetry, or nonfiction literature, use the present tense (also called the literary present tense) to discuss the actions and thoughts presented in the text.

Use past tense when writing about historical events, even those. Either past or present tense is reasonable for a literature survey. You could argue for the past tense since the work was already completed, or use the present tense because the papers currently exist and describe something that can be found now.

I have confusion in using present and past tenses in writing about history of english this for me [closed] up vote 0 down vote favorite American literature is also divided into periods for convenience because of its common traits and characteristics. The difference is that A uses the present tense “show”, whereas B uses the past tense “showed.” Most of the time, I use the past tense to discuss papers that were published in the past.

Recently, however, I was a coauthor on a paper where we had inadvertently mixed past and present tense in . Because their actions span past and present, present perfect tense is best for the first parenthesis.

past or present tense when writing about literature

Moving on: The second parenthesis addresses the comments that exist on the blog. While blogs don’t generally rise to the level of literature, they are written works, so present tense applies in this situation.

Past, Present or Future? (Tense Use in Academic Writing)