The shift from past to present tense in amateur writing.

The standard tense that most novels are written in appears to be past tense but more recently, especially in amateur writing like fanfiction, there is a shift towards writing in present tense. Why is it shifting?

Perhaps it is due to the immediacy and the ability to better characterize in the moment that lends itself well to the fast-paced, character-driven structure of fanfiction.

It would be interesting to look at this shift and see if it enhances the writing, if these stories tend to be more popular, and then perhaps compare fanfiction to its published counterpart. Is this same trend happening in novels? If so, why? Does it say anything about the current media-consuming generation’s predilections and preferences in story telling?

  • You need to be very careful with this topic not to fall too much into personalised opinion! It is a difficult subject as writers might just choose their tense for style or by preference - there might not be enough behind it to build a whole article! But definitely worth exploring :) – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 8 years ago
  • I hate (present tense, ongoing) reading present tense and, even worse, listening to present tense. "So then he goes..." is just a cheap way to try to make a story interesting. It's either worth telling or it's not and present tense sets off my bs detector that someone's trying far too hard to get me on board. I'll pass. – Tigey 8 years ago
  • It's interesting you bring this up and I suppose I've noticed this too in fanfic vs non. I believe you're right, when it comes to fanfic it's the immediacy, people want to put themselves in the moment. It's less exciting when everything is in past tense so the reader looking for a thrill knows everything is already resolved. Does the tense matter to people and on that note, does the perspective? I recently started writing a novel and am playing with tenses. First person present tense is most engaging and probably easy for amateur writers but does third person present-tense work the same way? Do we care about first person past-tense unless it's an autobiography of someone famous we already care about, would that get boring? Finding a published paper on the popularity of published work and which tense/perspective they used would be very insightful. – Slaidey 8 years ago

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