Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Many writers (and publishers) frown on the present tense.

Princeton Professor emeritus Robert Fagles's new translation is in the present tense: "I think it's a poem about heroism and empire, about the glory of imperial hopes and the pain of having imperial hopes dashed.... I wanted to convey something about the modern understanding of war, and then about a man, an exile, a common soldier left terribly alone in the field of battle," Fagles says. "Aeneas is like Clint Eastwood, like Gary Cooper, a warrior and a worrier. He changes into the heroic tragic man, duty and endure, endure and duty."

3 comments:

Bren MacDibble said...

Synopses are usually present tense so perhaps it felt more natural to use this tense while summarising.

If you use past tense for your viewpoint protagonist it tells the reader that he actually lives long enough to recount his tale... unless he's sitting on a cloud somewhere flapping his wings or has a very busy ouji board and then that is subject to credibility.

Kids love present tense. I just read 20 pages written by an 11 year old in present tense and he only slipped a few times. They have the ear for it. It's as natural to them as past tense.

delwyne said...

My novel WHEELS is present tense and it is selling very well to schools around Australia - it is for early secondary readers, primarily boys, and the present tense was never an issue. I like to write in present tense, with flashbacks, which keeps the pace going but still allows breathing space. I do however find writing in present tense tricky - it is easy to slip. Reading the text outloud helps over come this problem.

Bren MacDibble said...

Oh yes, the Mexican hat dance:

Aiie! Aiie! I, Aiie, I, IIIIII!