A TeePee and a Wigwam

You’ve probably heard the old joke:

A guy goes to a doctor and says, “I keep having the same dreams. First I’m a teepee, then I’m a wigwam. What does it mean, doc?”

The doctor says, “You’re two tents.”

Yeah, I know. Groans everywhere. Especially since I’m writing about a whole different tense today.

Present tense. In fiction. It drives me nuts.

(It especially drives me nuts in a first-person narrative, but that’s a whole other blog. Last week’s, in fact.)

You’ve seen it:

He gets out of the car and looks around. No one’s out on the street–no cars, no pedestrians hurrying down the sidewalk. Except for the dog who’s trailing a scent into the alley, he’s alone. He walks into the store and the bell rings. It takes a while for the clerk to appear. “What can I help you with?” she asks.

I’ll tell stories in person in present tense, but it just strikes me as so, so wrong for books. I might just be old-fashioned or old-school or old-something, but to me, a story at its very base is a telling of something that happened. Happened, not happening as it’s told. And I want it told in past-tense. I’ve never read a present-tense book that I didn’t sincerely think suffered for the method of its telling.

Though, truth be told, I never finished a present-tense book.

Do you like it, hate it, don’t care as long as the story interests you?




7 thoughts on “A TeePee and a Wigwam

    • I think you’re a more open reader than I am, Rhenna. Even if I like the story and/or characters, I keep getting so distracted by the style that I can’t stay with it.

      However, and this occurred to me just this very moment, I think it might not bother me in an audio book because it would be like someone telling me the story and I’m okay with it there. Huh.

  1. I always feel off-balanced. As if there is stuff happening behind me that I can’t see. And the feeling lasts through the entire book.

  2. I also hate present tense. Literary writers seem to be especially fond of this, so when looking at any book that might possibly be considered to be literary, I read the first page to make sure it’s in past tense.

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