Tense

One of my deep, dark writing secrets is I hate first person present tense because it’s illogical in the present tense. In the past tense, you can rationalize it’s some kind of journal, diary, memoir, whatever. You could even argue something similar for future tense first person. They’re spinning a yarn. There are two narrative timelines, the yarn they’re spinning about the future and the time it takes them in the present to spin that yarn. Present tense first person simply doesn’t work. Present tense first person could be a lecture, it might be a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” but it seems narratively dishonest. I suppose you can argue for a multi-layered tense structure, like Frankenstein, but I found switching between tenses confuses readers today so much there’s no point in being ambitious with it. You could do present tense first person for a personal essay, of course. The essay itself is the writer’s act of writing that particular essay at that particular time. This post is first person present tense. It’s too much about the writer, not enough about the content. I don’t like it.

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