Living in the Present Tense

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Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Living in the Present Tense

This episode we’re riffing on living in the present tense and also a bit about using it in your writing.

As Peter Selgin says

“Apart from its ubiquity, there are good reasons to be wary of the present tense. Unlike the past tense, which allows narrators unrestricted movement between the past and the present, the present tense locks us into each moment, allowing for little if any reflection. And while the past tense lets us expand, compress, or bypass events according to their dramatic import, since in the present tense everything is happening here and now, it tends to treat all moments equally, however important or not, so a headache gets as much attention as an earthquake.”

So, it’s harder to write in the present tense because we are confined a bit more. And hoity-toity writers tend to think of it as a fad though Dickens did it (and others going back to the Ancient Greeks, but whatever . . .

So here are some advantages of the present tense:

  1. It’s way more immediate because it is indeed in the moment. We are there as things happen.
  2. The immediacy raises the stakes.
  3. It can reflect the type of protagonist you have. Is your main character someone who lives in the moment and doesn’t spend a lot of time with their brain in the past or the future? Are they a bit rush-in as a human? This can reflect that character trait.
  4. It can also show the theme of the work. So, if you are writing a ground-hog-day style story, using the present tense can reflect that there is only this one present at the moment while all the other ones were experienced before and can be changed.
  5. It makes life easier when it comes to grammar. There are 12 tenses in our language. Present tense stories only have four usually.
  6. It’s easier to make unreliable narrators.
  7. It feels more cinematic.

Things that suck about present tense:

  1. That restriction, compression of time and our ability as authors to use more than four tenses and hop around.
  2. Sometimes it’s hard to show the complexity of the main character because they are indeed in the moment most of the times. The characters often feel more simple.
  3. It’s harder to foreshadow the things that are going to happen because the character doesn’t know that they are going to happen yet.
  4. It sometimes makes us writers meander into tangent and too much internal thought.
  5. Sometimes adult readers get snobby about it.


According to,

“It’s vital to live in the present moment.

In our current twenty-first century lives, it’s not easy. There’s always something coming up that we need to prepare for or anticipate, and our lives are so well-documented that it’s never been easier to get lost in the past.

Given the fast pace and hectic schedules most of us keep, a base level of anxiety, stress, and unhappiness is the new norm. You may not even realize it, but this tendency to get sucked into the past and the future can leave you perpetually worn out and feeling out of touch with yourself.

The cure for this condition is what so many people have been saying all along: conscious awareness and a commitment to staying in the “now.” Living in the present moment is the solution to a problem you may not have known you had.”


Sparty says to live for today. Scratch on the door when you want to get out. Poop when you need to. Don’t think about the pounds of your doggy past. Enjoy your now.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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