Writing Exercises

Author Aerobics: Tense Challenge

Here’s this week’s Author Aerobics challenge! Answers to the challenge will be posted on Friday. If you want to participate just post a link to your entry in the comments below and I’ll update this post with links to yours. Everyone’s welcome!


Tense Challenge

Have you ever tried writing in the present tense? It can lend a sense of immediacy and urgency to your writing, but if the tense is used improperly it can be strange and jarring to the reader. There are traps to watch out for such as how to handle discussing past events, or changes in perspective.

This week’s challenge: Write a scene of 1000 words or less, in the present tense. The theme this week is “desire”.


Those who have answered this challenge:

Three very different stories of desire. First we have a vision of earth from afar. Next, a fantasy from a villain’s point of view. Lastly, a bit of magic realism, or not – you decide.

The End of an Endless Ladder by J. P. Cabit
Defender of the Realm by Stephen Watkins
Empty Pockets by T.S. Bazelli

11 Comments

  1. Strangely, I’ve come to really enjoy the present tense. So far both of the vignettes I debuted on my blog — http://kristanhoffman.com/tag/vignettes/ — have been in present tense, and I wrote all of the 20SW episodes in third present. I am considering doing the 20SW novel in first… but we’ll see. I don’t see too many successful examples of that being done yet. Although HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins is SUPERB.

    1. I’m reading a book written in the present tense right now which is why I was intrigued by the possibilities. I think it’s the first one I’ve ever read in the first tense. At first it seemed rather strange, but now I’ve gotten used to it. I’ll have a look at your vignettes!

  2. Present tense used to annoy me. Although I read part of a book in said tense, and it was kind of bearable. I dunno. I still prefer past tense, since that’s probably how humans naturally relate stories. Perhaps that’s why it feels more natural?

    -j.p.

    1. It certainly does feel more natural to use the past tense. This natural preference is why I think most books are written in the past tense. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to try the present, just to get the mind in a different sort of thinking space. 🙂

      1. Thanks for joining in! I’m looking forward to more from you (more comments on your blog). I’ll add a link up in the post to your blog. A great piece. I really enjoyed the read.

  3. Ditto J.P.’s comment. Past tense just feels more natural, so I’m not even sure if I can do this week’s challenge or not… We shall have to see. Plust it’s a short week (thanks to Memorial Day, here).

    Also, my wife read (and enjoyed) Hunger Games. I had no idea it was in present tense… I haven’t had time to read it, myself. (I have a pre-existing list a mile long, and not enough time to read that much, as it is, let alone adding new titles to it.)

    1. Yeah, reading the present tense jarred me a bit at first, but after a while I stopped noticing it. I suppose that’s what happens when it’s well done. The only reason I noticed it at all, was because one chapter switched to the past tense.

      The past tense is more natural, even in oral storytelling: “Once upon a time, there was a girl…”

      But, this is just an exercise. Who knows! Maybe it will highlight a different relationship to the text than what you’re used to if you try it. 🙂 No worries though if you can’t participate this week.

Comments are closed.