Present tense? It’s happening right now!
The other day I was browsing in a bookshop and picked up a crime novel that has been well reviewed. I opened it and it was written in the present tense. Back it went on the shelf. It was the same with the next one I looked at. Is it just me, or are more novels written in the present tense these days? I have a real prejudice against this. It isn’t that I absolutely won’t read one written in the present tense, but my heart sinks when I see it and it is a barrier to be overcome. It has put me off reading Wolf Hall – though eventually I may get round to it.
True, I have written in the present tense myself – but only in a couple of short stories. I quite like the present tense for a short story – though there too it can be overdone. For a novel the past tense comes more naturally to me. It seems more logical: the events of the story have happened in the past. They are not happening right now as they are being recounted and as one reads. This kind of immediacy is of course what is aimed at with the present tense and as with all fiction it is a matter of suspending one’s disbelief. I just find it harder with the present tense. I’d love to know what other readers – and writers – think.