“As Johnson swims gaily on the surface of life, so I wanted the reader to swim, as all of us swim, with more or less courage and skill, for our lives,” Cary said.
…” And then the narrative, appropriately, shifts to present tense: “I follow them up the stairs. Using fewer tenses reduces our ability to convey the full complexity of time relationships, of course, but there’s something to be said for this kind of simplicity.I watch them go into the kitchen and observe them making a dinner of hamburgers and potato chips. For example, when we’re writing in present tense, we can simply shift into the simple past when a flashback starts and then return to the present when it’s finished. Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time.They recover their senses by talking and listening to the radio. Altering chronological order and varying duration both work against the primary purpose of present tense, which is to create the feeling that something’s happening now.…” Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine, laments that we have to sacrifice this particular kind of suspense when we use present tense.What we gain in immediacy, she says, we lose in tension.