Present Tense – Daily Post 29/1/14

I really should remember to visit Daily Post more often, sometimes it has some really great ideas. When I started my blog way back at the end of 2010, I used it almost completely to help me hone my blogging voice and really get some ideas for what to blog about. I hadn’t written much fiction in years and the idea of talking about writing and getting feedback was something I wanted to do but didn’t know how to do.

Ignore my blathering. I thought this would be an interesting exercise but rather than writing a post in the present tense, I thought I would rewrite one of my previous Snippet Sunday posts, specifically this one about the blue snow-like substance.

‘Why doesn’t it snow in June? Is it because it’s so warm?’ says the son.

‘That’s right son now stay in the house, please.’ He doesn’t want to explain that a couple of years ago it had snowed in Scotland in June and northern England had experienced snow in May five years ago but if he were to give him that response he knew he would get a whole host of other questions that he wasn’t prepared to answer. He steps out from the comfort of the house and finally sets foot onto the strange blue substance and closes the patio door behind him.

Not only is it coating the ground like snow, it feels like snow underfoot too. It makes that distinct dull crunching noise that only fresh snow can make. He is walking into the garden and following roughly where the path is supposed be. The fence is a little over five feet high and standing on tip toes, he can see across a path, down a slope and onto the railway line. He creeps precariously along the pathway as people do in snow and peers over the fence. The blue stuff is indeed covering the path, the grass slope and the railway line – he can only make out the rough shape of the track beneath.

Hmm, that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and though I am not keen on overuse of present tense (something that frustrated me greatly reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall) I can see how it might benefit prose. Some of the text above doesn’t work, particularly this:

Not only is it coating the ground like snow, it feels like snow underfoot too. It makes that distinct dull crunching noise that only fresh snow can make.

It feels… inappropriate I suppose for third-person narrative, it doesn’t belong and though this is the best fit to write that particularly sentiment in fiction form, nothing felt right when trying to write:

Not only did it coat the ground like snow, it felt like it underfoot too. It made that distinct dull crunching noise that only fresh snow made.

… into present tense. What are your thoughts on present tense writing?

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