A while back, I was looking for a couple young adult books and came across a book called The Girl with Many Gifts. It was highly praised and I considered picking it up, but I realized to my horror after reading the first few paragraphs, that the whole thing was in present tense. At first, I thought I was reading some strange dream sequence that would turn into a normal book at any given moment. But the more I read, the more I realized that this book wasn’t going to change, it was like this all the way through. I puked in my mouth a little.
For some reason, writers today seem to think that writing in present tense is unique and edgy or something. They see it as a tool to make their story more engaging. This is not effective and it does not make for a great way to tell a story. Tom Torrington, a fellow writer in our little writing group on Gab pointed out that writing in present tense comes across very pretentious and I have to say that I completely agree. Every time I read any story in present tense, I automatically feel as though it was written by a 16 year old child complaining about getting a used car instead of the latest model. Every time I have to read in present tense, it makes me roll my eyes as if I’m listening to a whiny SJW complain about the non-existent “gender wage gap.” Frankly, I don’t like reading it and I don’t see how any serious person with any sense of what quality literature is would enjoy reading it either.
Tom also pointed out something that I think is even more compelling. We don’t think in present tense. Maybe on a rare occasion, but usually we think about places we have been or places we are going to go. Why force your reader to do something that is completely unnatural. When it comes to other odd styles like second person, at least we’re accustomed to being spoken to in second person.
I’m not against experimenting and I am certainly open to something different. But I have never read anything in present tense that I didn’t feel would have been much better if it were written properly.