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Tenses and time

Sometimes when I begin a new piece of fiction I find myself automatically writing in present tense. I invariably correct myself and revert back to the more conventional past. But yesterday it had me wondering: what is affected by tense in a story? Why might we choose one or the other, and can you see any distcint benefits or drawbacks of either?

I do think the ability to shift freely through time is one element that gets affected; past tense seems to lend itself better to more freely hopping between different pasts and even into the future, whereas the present seems a bit confining. But perhaps this is not the case.

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I think present tense informs the reader that the narrator is not sure what will happen where as past tense should let the reader know that this story has played out already. Both have different implications regarding an unreliable narrator.

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