As many writers know, readers are often drawn to narratives that include representations of events that happen in the present tense. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that the present tense often suggests a livelihood that excites people because the event described is happening at that very moment. (Or, as the time period is commonly referred to, “right now.”) When events that happen in the present tense are conveyed in creative ways, writers increase the likelihood that they will catch and keep the audience’s attention.
Although there are numerous examples of writers who have creatively narrated an act that happened in the present tense, Stephen King’s important short story “Harvey’s Dream” is an excellent example of this very thing. Here is an excerpt:
“Janet turns from the sink and, boom, all at once her husband of nearly thirty years is sitting at the kitchen table in a white T-shirt and a pair of Big Dog boxers, watching her.”
As many readers may have guessed, it is King’s use of the word boom that is particularly effective here. Clearly, using this word to express an event that just happened has become very primary in pop culture. Yet seeing it written within the world of an unfolding story is quite unique. Moreover, King’s word choice here suggests the sort of immediate action that tends to intrigue readers. Finally, the word boom implies the sort of instantaneous event that makes it seem like Janet’s husband spontaneously appeared at the kitchen table rather than walking into the room and sitting down. This adds an almost surreal or fantastical dimension to a work that is already interesting on account of the fact that events are happening quickly.
When one considers the opening paragraph of King’s short story, his efficacy in conveying an event that happens in the present tense becomes plain. In using the word boom to describe an unfolding event, King creates a sense of the supernatural while also indicating that something happened very quickly. It is this sort of ingenuity and narration of the present tense that makes his work stand out. And it may be this ingenuity that earned him a spot on Richard Thomas’s list of top ten short stories ever.
Personally, I was draw into King’s story because of the organicity conjured through his use of the word boom. In essence, the term connotes that something significant and substantive is happening right now. My intrigue with the story on account of the immediacy that the word boom engendered is not surprising because-as mentioned earlier-audiences are often intrigued with textual representations of events that transpire in the present tense. When writers narrate these events in creative ways, readers will often stay involved with the story. This is why I encourage writers to construct narratives in the present tense with the aforementioned sort of ingenuity. Good luck!
Jocelyn Crawley holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty, and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction and Calliope.
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Writing Tips: Using Speed to Enhance Your Narrative
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