Monday, February 13, 2012

Possibilities in the present

"Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities.  Truth isn't." - Mark Twain

Reading is a lot of fun; I've always enjoyed doing it solely for the sake of the story.  But since I've begun writing, reading has taken on a whole new level of meaning.  Not only do I get to enjoy either a well-told story or a ballistics experiment, but now I also learn something about the craft.  Even the books that end up denting my wall typically have something to teach me, albeit on the "don't do this" side of the edumacational process.  Sometimes it's something small, while sometimes it's an eye-opening revelation instead.

Somewhere in the middle of that is my current experience.  JJ McMoon ( has been a friend of mine on Facebook for a while; we share several similarities.  One of those is that we're both members of the James River Writers group, which is where we recently ran into each other.  I was sitting at the bar talking to a couple of folks at the last Writers Wednesday event (held at the Capital Ale House because the beer is simply incredible there).  Up walked somebody who looked familiar, except that he was tall.  No, I mean really tall.  Maybe it was the shortness of the stool that created my perspective, but--well, trust me, JJ is a tall, tall man.

He handed me a book.  As, like, a gift, which doesn't happen all the time.  I thanked him, he left, and I took my new copy of Lives home. 

I have to say, here and now, that I very much like the book.  I don't write reviews as a rule, but I'll be writing a review on this one once I get done reading it, just because I'm loving it so much.  There's so much to like about it--it's engaging, with great character development.  And--it's in first person and flips between present and past tense.

Now, I didn't think you could do that.  At least, I didn't think it could be done well.  First person is all well and good--it's a powerful mode of storytelling, in fact, and it's the POV I've chosen for my next set of stories.  But present tense?  Nah, I was pretty certain before this read, it's too easy to get bogged down in minutia, to lose focus on the story, when you tell it in present tense.  As in, "I return from my haircut just in time to post my blog.  I sit at my desk and hit the space bar to wake my computer up--there, there's the desktop.  I start typing.  Next I blah blah blah blah with blah blah for a blah blah...."

Sorry, that crap bores me too much to continue even pretending to write it.  And I thought all first person present was like that.

I was wrong.  At least, I was wrong that it couldn't be done.  JJ does it quite effectively. 

Back to reading, then.  And learning.  And, um, dissertationing, too.  But only after I finish blogging.



  1. Nice observations on a very unique writing style Stephen....I would be pulling my hair out! :)

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Stephen! For whatever reason, I just saw this now, but I suppose it's better late than never :-)

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Stephen! For whatever reason, I just saw this now, but I suppose it's better late than never :-)