Somehow I got to writing the current draft in present tense -- I don't know why or how, but it's kind of working in some ways. However, I'm worried. Do any of you guys (besides Jack G.) write in present tense? What's your experience with it? I've also posted in more detail on the blaugh, if you've a mind to comment there...

Thanks -- MK

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My police-procedural novels are in present tense. The characters and readers discover every clue, every nuance at the same time. Makes for more realism--and a more sense of discovery in the process.
My experience shows most readers don't even know what tense they're reading, but a few (or some) have a pet peeve about present tense. Agatho over at Mysterious Matters -- he's an anonymous editor for a small mystery publisher -- lists present tense as his biggest turn off. On several mystery litservs, I've seen people say they will not read present tense. They think it requires a deeper suspension of belief than past tense.

Me, I think they're being old-fashioned. I want my books as much like TV and the movies as I can get it -- one of those crime shows where the narrator talks to you while he goes about solving crimes or whatever. And I believe the present tense -- where the action happens as you read it -- is closer to that viewing experience.
No Jack, say it isn't so! Not more like TV and the movies, nooooooo!

(okay, I'm bitter because the show I worked on last year was a disaster - but it does debut next Friday and you might even be able to see it on the Canadian network's website, ctv.ca - hey, I'm never too proud to plug)

But seriously, there are enough TV shows and movies. I love books that are books, that couldn't be TV shows or movies, or at least wouldn't be good ones.

It is funny, though, usually when reviewers say a book would make a great movie they're wrong. Often they say that about books like Elmore Leonard which are almost entirely internal monologues with little action and just aren't that visual. And there have been more failed adaptations than successes.

Books can do so much more than TV shows or movies - limited by that visual storytelling as they are.

(that's not commie, is it ;)
I disagree about Elmore, whose work I think is all action and dialogue, but with that narrator I was talking about (internal monologues?). Maybe Elmore's funniest, best lines are internalized by the narrator, though. I don't know.

I'm not trying to write movies, I'm trying to capture the reader in a similar way. As a very successful adman once explained, "You have to read a book. TV does you."
This could be a whole discssion on its own. But i think that does sum it up pretty well, "You have to read a book, TV does you."

I keep coming back to what Scott Frank said about adapting Out of Sight - "It's Jack's book, but it's Karen's movie." At first I wonderd why, why change that? Then I realized because all though the book Jack mostly stands around and watches all the other characters and makes wry observations to himself. It's interesting through his eyes, wth his attitude, but it doesn't work as the main character in a movie. Karen is the most interesting character to watch so it's her movie.

I guess if you know all that upfront, it should be fine. I think that very different things draw people into a movie and a book. Of course, I'm wrong because the biggest selling books are usually just movies-in-waiting ;)
I like Out of Sight is Jack's book but Karen's movie. Your explanation makes so much sense. The screenplay would HAVE to be written as her story.
People in the movie biz always say how it's a "visual medium," which is true, of course, and that means there are some limitations which don't apply to books. I say when writing a book we should try and take advantage of as many of those opportunities as we can. And one of the big ones for me is shifting POV because I think it can really add another layer to a scene in a way a movie can't.
Hombre was a nice adaptation of Leonard, though one has to go back to 1967.
Hombre may be the best, but I also loved Mr. Majestyk, Out of Sight, the original 3:10 to Yuma, and Stick with Burt Reynolds. I love that lighter fluid scene.
Been meaning to watch the original 3:10 (it's available for free on Crackle now). Just remembered another Leonard adaptation that's pretty darn good: 52 Pick-up with Roy Scheider and Ann Margaret (and whoever played the top bad guy and kept calling Scheider "sport" was exceptionally creepy).
I think present tense is ultimately a lot harder to pull off in long-form fiction, but that's not to say it can't be done. I'd be more comfortable with it in a short story, both as reader and writer, but I'm one of those old fashioned guys Jack's making fun of. The big problem with present tense, for me, is that it makes retrospect a lot more confusing for the reader and tricky for the writer, although multiple past tense also takes some practice; also, you get stuck with a lot of gerunds--all those "ing" words just don't sound as good to my ear as past-tense verbs. That said, I usually write poetry in present tense, so there you go.
I have tried present tense and been told by my agent to rewrite the novel in past tense because she couldn't sell it. That's not to say this is actually the case, just that I didn't get away with it.

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