Keith Snyder
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Stuck in the present

All this screenwriting has taken its toll. I can no longer write in the past tense.

This wasn't a problem when a story and a terse, present-tense style suited each other; but what I'm writing now needs a past-tense voice—and I can't get there. It feels bloated, and there are some subjectless sentence effects I've gotten good at that don't transfer well to a novelistic, past-tense style. (I also realized that despite some readers' objections to the present tense as "awkward" or "forced," it's actually how people tell stories. Listen to office lunchroom chatter: It's all "So I go to the bank, and they tell me the check hasn't cleared." Only rarely will anyone ever drop into "So I went to the bank, and they told me the check hadn't cleared." And if they do, it's usually temporary—the present soon reasserts itself.)

Which is what keeps happening in the office lunchroom of my head. I change it to past. It changes itself back to present.

Practice, I suppose. For the last few days, I've been able to find half an hour at a stretch, when the babies conk out between feedings and diapers and spitup, oh my. (And giggles and singing and kisses, oh my.) The past-tense muscle has atrophied; the present-tense muscle is overdeveloped.

Back to a daily regimen. I hope.

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