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April 29, 2009


Lexi Revellian

1. Agreed - how tiresome the present tense is.

2. I think this ploy works in 'Rebecca', as it shows how entirely the heroine is in Rebecca's shadow. I did it myself once, admittedly in a short story, where the guy turned out to be the Angel of Death. I felt having him called Mike or Piers wasn't right somehow.

3. Chapter titles can be good, too, but why wouldn't an author want numbers?

4. A desire to know what happens next is what keeps you turning the pages. Stories fulfill a basic human need.

Laura DiIonno

I normally would agree about the present-tense narrative, but I've found one exception to my aversion to it -- David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series, which I now buy in hardcover. The first time I tried one of his books, I put it down immediately upon discovering it was written in the present tense, but for some reason (most likely, the fact that a dog was a major character), I decided to persevere with it, translating the present tense to past tense in my mind as I read. His writing and humor won me over in no time, and I was soon reading his books without any thought to tense.

But he's the only one I tolerate this from! And I do sometimes wonder what other gems I'm missing because of my dislike of it.

I agree with your other points and would add one more, maybe as an extension of number 4: I'm not interested in being dazzled by how brilliant an author is with words when the wordplay takes precedence over the story. Those authors should probably be writing essays rather than commercial fiction.

Jim Rozhon


I strongly disagree with #1. I actively look for stories written that way. Parker comes to mind with his Spencer books. You wouldn't buy "Looking For Rachel Wallace"?

I'm not looking for omniscience, a god-view or super powers. When I buy a mystery, I'm looking for a single human being that can solve a problem that affects him and live to tell the tale.

Suddenly, my opinion of you and this website has taken a hit.

Alan Orloff


I believe you're mixing up present tense with first person POV narrative (how Spenser is written, I believe).

Chalk me down as one who can't pick up a present-tense book. Too weird.

I agree with number four, too. Who wants to know what color the tree's leaves are? I want to know what happens next!


Sometimes I have been stuck on an airplane or bus with a book that I didn't know was written in present tense when I bought it (thought it would have been easy enough to have flipped through it first!) So I was left with the option of either not reading it and being totally bored, or reading it and "overlooking" the strangeness of the present tense. This makes me realize that I have read present tense books, but usually under duress, and always in a way that causes me to mentally reject the tense or pretend it's not there. Which makes me think how much can I really enjoy fiction when I am attempting to ignore a key part of it? Good post - thanks.

Jersey Jack

I love the present tense. Gets rid of almost all those stupid "hads" you want us to put in.

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