White Wine in the SunToday's Tune:
This topic really has more to do with how I write short works vs. longer works, but it's still relevant to tense.
So, obviously, past tense is written as though recalling an incident from the past. "Jamie Jones stumbled through the door, hair askew. She collapsed into a chair and began to laugh."
Present tense is written as though events are unfolding in real time. "Jamie Jones stumbles through the door, hair askew. She collapses into a chair and begins to laugh."
There are many reasons for deciding to use one tense over the other. Past tense feels a little more "story-like," as though one is recounting a tale around a campfire. Present tense is more immediate and, when used well, can be great for creating tension.
Personally, I often use first-person present in my short works and either first or third-person past in my longer works. When I write flash fiction or short stories, I want my reader to feel connected to a specific scene -- a small window into the lives of my characters. I want the scene to feel like it's unfolding before them and they're experiencing it at the same time as my characters.
I find that sort of voice incredibly difficult to maintain well in my longer works. Novel manuscripts give me the freedom to extrapolate and take more time to set things up. I find past tense works better for me here. When I write in present, I feel like everything has to be concise and to the point. Boomboomboom. I feel it loses its immediacy if I spend too much time dawdling on character development.
This is how I choose the tenses I do. What tense do you write in, and why?