I was taught you had to write either past tense or present tense and you couldn’t mix them. Once you picked your tense, you have to stick with it until the end. Recently, I’ve read some work by unpublished writers that switched between past tense and present tense. I found it disturbing and it took my focus off the story. The writer used present tense to increase tension during action scenes making it sound like the action was happening now. The same writer read some of my work and suggested I do the same thing. My question is this, isn’t that breaking grammar rules or am I behind the times? I know Charles Dickens wrote some books that have both past tense and present tense but did he mix them together in the same chapter? I’ve never read any of the books he used this technique in so I don’t know how it was used. All books I’ve read are either all past tense or all present tense and the few I have read in present tense bothered me. I didn’t like that they were written in present tense and I stopped reading.
I researched this issue online and I agree with the crowd that says you should write fiction in the past tense. Writing your story in present tense isn’t fooling anyone. It’s not happening now. It doesn’t heighten the tension or suspense. I think it’s a cheap trick to be different and used by writers who haven’t yet learned how to write suspense well yet. I know from personal experience it’s also distracting. I’m not living in your fictional world, I’m concentrating on how annoyed I am at the present tense.
Maybe I’m old fashion but I find past tense to be invisible in fiction. Even though I’m on the past tense band wagon, I wanted to make sure my suggestions to other writers are grammatically correct, that you can’t mix them. If there is an English teacher or an English major out there please let me know what the correct answer is so I am not giving bad advise to new writers.