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Present Tense: A Literary Technique that Captivates Readers

As writers, we are constantly looking for ways to engage and captivate our readers. One often overlooked technique is the use of present tense. The present tense gives stories a sense of immediacy, making them feel more immersive and engaging. In this article, we will explore the importance of present tense and how it can enhance the storytelling experience.

Attracting Readers with Present Tense

Readers are often drawn to stories that are written in present tense. This is because it creates a sense of urgency and excitement, as if the events in the story are unfolding right before their eyes. Present tense can also help to create a more emotional connection with the reader, as they are more likely to feel as if they are experiencing the story alongside the protagonist.

Adding Burstiness with Present Tense

Present tense can also add burstiness to a story. Burstiness is a literary technique that uses unexpected, powerful, and exciting moments to keep the reader engaged. When used in conjunction with present tense, it can create a powerful combination that keeps the reader hooked until the very end.

For instance, consider the following sentences:

“He pulls out his gun and fires a single shot.”

“He pulls out his gun and he is firing a single shot.”

Which of these is more powerful? The first sentence creates an image in the reader’s mind of the action taking place right now, in the present moment. The second sentence distances the reader from the action, creating a sense of detachment.

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Creating Perplexity with Present Tense

Perplexity is another aspect of storytelling that can be enhanced with present tense. Perplexity is the state of being confused and uncertain, and it can add great depth and complexity to a story. By using present tense, writers can create a sense of confusion and uncertainty that keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

For example, consider the following passage:

“He walks into the room and sees the painting on the wall. It looks familiar, but he can’t quite place it. Suddenly, he realizes where he has seen it before.”

This passage creates a sense of mystery and intrigue, as the reader is left wondering what exactly is going on. By using present tense, the writer has created a sense of immediacy and urgency that keeps the reader engaged.

Key Takeaways

  • Present tense is a powerful literary technique that can enhance the storytelling experience.
  • Present tense creates a sense of immediacy, making the story feel more immersive and engaging.
  • Present tense can be used to create burstiness and perplexity, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.


Q: Is present tense appropriate for all types of writing?A: No, present tense may not be appropriate for all types of writing. It is often used in fiction and creative writing, but not as much in technical or academic writing.

Q: Can present tense be used in combination with other tenses?A: Yes, present tense can be used in combination with other tenses to create various effects. It can be used in flashback scenes or mixed with past tense to create a sense of timelessness.

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Q: How can I practice using present tense in my writing?A: Start by writing short stories or scenes in present tense. As you become more comfortable with the technique, try incorporating it into longer works. You can also read books or stories that use present tense to get a better sense of how it works.

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