Friday, May 1, 2015

Library Visits and Present Tense Writing - Meenanful Life

So guess what I did recently?

I visited a LIBRARY.

Specifically the Pasadena City Library. Four floors of books, books, books. This particular picture is from the YA section, which of course I beelined for.

It didn't take long for me to feel at home.

I love libraries. They're quiet, comfortable, and a great place to read and write. Everyone should go out and visit their local libraries. Check out a book! It's free! I mean come on. FREE BOOKS? What could be better?

Although I admit, it can get pretty distracting at times too. I spent most of my morning here on Twitter. >> Oops.

One thing I loved though was this library has MANGA. Whole WALLS of it.

I even found Manga of one of my favorite young adult dystopian stories. I couldn't believe it. Remind me to go out and buy this, because it looks awesome. 

I was definitely not going to be bored today, even if my computer died. Which it did.

Though when the computer died, I decided not to go for something comfortable and familiar. I walked up to the massive shelves and plucked a random book off it.

Here it is.

Three things attracted me to this book. One, the word "cat." Two, a MALE main character. Three, MAGIC. And not the normal kind of boring magic. This is a book about a magic underworld MOB that uses their magic to manipulate people.

And the main character, according to the summary, lacks the magic that the rest of his family has. He's a Squib, apparently.

(Harry Potter Reference FTW)

I will say though, I started off reading this somewhat disappointed.

The book... is in present tense.

I am so sick of present tense books. I know that's the latest "trend" but that doesn't make it good. It's jarring to me. I instantly recognize it as a writer's trope and a "trendy technique" being used because "everyone's using it" and it doesn't give me the greatest opinion of the author.

We tell stories in past tense. We always have. You don't tell a story of your latest bike crash by saying "I am riding a bike and I see a bump in front of me and WHAM, I crash into it, fall head first, and I crack my skull open." Because if you said something like that, your friends would immediately ask you why you aren't in the hospital, since it MUST have happened recently if you're using present tense.

They'll probably also think you're nuts since you're talking to them in present tense. Better get that head checked.

We don't narrate events as they happen. We relate them later after they're already done.

I know the technique is trying to keep a level of "mystery" about it (OH NO does the main character actually LIVE? How can we know if they're telling us events as they happen? </false suspense>).

But you know what? People die in past tense books. Heck, they've been dying in past tense books for CENTURIES. You know what else? PEOPLE DIE IN FIRST PERSON BOOKS TOO. Even narrators! Gosh!

I end up reading books in past tense anyway, even if they're written in present tense. It's just how my brain works. And then when I come across something that's very difficult to auto-past-tense it, it pulls me right out of the book and reminds me I'm reading something that's using a "technique."

But still. I'll give this book a chance. Let's see how it goes.

---------------SIX HOURS LATER----------------

Okay I take back what I say about first person present tense. o_o The book was awesome. And yes, I finished the whole thing in six hours.

Give me a little time and I'll write a nice book review. XD

What do you guys like about libraries? 


  1. But people DO tell stories in present tense a lot! "So, I'm walking into the grocery store today, and this guy comes up to me..." Maybe it's just my generation, but I hear a lot of people tell stories in present tense, or at least mix past and present in a weird blend of both. :D

    1. Eh... Honestly I mainly hear teenagers saying things in present tense when telling a story to friends. Though I suppose it could be a generational thing too.

      I really just don't see the point though, lol.

  2. If it's done well, after a while the tense becomes invisible. All except Raptor Red, which reads like it was written by a schizophrenic crack-head. :-p

    1. See, the problem is, it DOES become invisible... so why do it at all? We expect stories to be past tense, so why draw us out of the story and remind us that it's a story by using present tense?

      And then, as I mentioned, you get those moments where it DOES remind you that it's in present tense, you're taken out of the story.

      I guess I just don't see the point. It's just "artsy" for "artsy" sake. It doesn't add to the story.


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