T is for Tense: Past and Present Verbs in Fiction

I’ve been noticing more and more books being written in present tense lately. This post is really just my thoughts and questions on the subject. I’d love it to spur dialogue among my readers because I want to know what you think.

I first read a book written in present tense about two years ago. It was historical fiction and jumped back and forth between the past and the present. If that wasn’t confusing enough, the sections in present time were written in past tense and the historical parts were written in present tense. (Because that’s logical, right?) While that was very confusing, I have enjoyed several books written in present tense, such as the Hunger Games series, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Alyson Noel’s Immortals series.

But I try as I may, I can’t get myself to like present tense writing. I’ve read that it’s supposed to convey a greater sense of immediacy and put you more fully in the center of the action. For me, it’s distracting. I find it stilted and unnatural. I actually have to make myself ignore it, as opposed to being able to read books written in past tense without thinking. Maybe it’s just my traditional schooling (I can see the nuns passing out at the very idea).

I can’t get myself to write in present tense either.  I’ve tried and it’s just not an organic thing for me. (If you don’t believe me, read my post on Samhain.) Granted, I write historical fiction, so writing in the past tense only makes sense, but you get my point.

Does anyone know where this trend came from or why it seems to be growing? I’ve read theories that blame reality TV and social media, but there’s got to be more to it than that. When did traditional past tense writing become not good enough? Do you think it’s just a fad or is this evidence of the evolution of writing? Do you have an opinion on the past vs. present verb debate? What do like better when you read? How do you write? I’d love to hear from you!