Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tense Tension

Not much to report. I'm toddling along, still rewriting that same scene I mentioned in my last post. Still more excited about what I'm reading than what I'm writing. Still trying to keep the wheels on the track while I wait out the unmotivated phase of the Pattern.

But there has been one interesting development: I'm suddenly writing in present tense.

Now, all of Act I was written in third person past tense, and that was perfectly comfortable for me. But Act II has been very difficult to write so far-- it's just awkward as hell. I know, I know: it's a first draft, it's supposed to suck. But there's difference between "Hm, that characterization is kind of trite" suck and "This sounds like it was Google-translated from Swedish" suck.

One of the books I'm currently reading is actually an audiobook I listen to during my commute to my evening tutoring gig: The Night Circus, recommended by the Priestess of Books herself, Library Hungry. I'm really loving it so far, and just as LH predicted, I am particularly loving hearing it read aloud. It is a Historical Urban Fantasy, but written in third person present tense. And within a day of starting to listen to it, I noticed that when I daydreamed about the book while making dinner or folding laundry, I was hearing the scenes in the voice of the reader of The Night Circus. So, tentatively, I went back to the beginning of the scene a THIRD time and changed it all to present tense. And suddenly it sounded fine-- not brilliant prose, but not Google-translated Swedish.

So I've kept on writing in present tense, and while it's not galloping yet, it's trotting at a respectable pace. I don't have any intention of switching the whole book over to present tense. At least, I don't think I do. I think this is just a trick to get me moving again. But just to make trouble for myself, I searched the internet for articles on the present tense and found an essay by Philip Pullman ranting about the young whippersnappers and their misguided attempts to write in present tense (kids today... with the hair, and the music...), and now I kind of want to write it in present tense just to spite him. I'm not saying that none of his criticisms of present tense had merit, but it ticks me off when authors decide that a genre or form that they don't personally care for (or write themselves) is a Sign of the Great Evil That Has Befallen Literature in These Dark Times.

And really, a guy who writes Young Adult Fantasy should know better than to indulge in such caa-caa.

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