What tense do you live in?

Have you ever read a book written in the future tense? Probably not. How can I be so sure? Because very few authors have been brave enough to write in the future tense — even fewer books have been published in the future tense.

If you were to read something written in the future tense, you might feel that it isn’t a real story. There would always be an element of skepticism creeping into your analysis. Would the main character really do that? What are the odds of that actually happening? Why that option when he could choose a different option?

You would constantly question the story… you couldn’t enjoy it. Future tense doesn’t have that tone of finality the past tense presents.

So…

Why is it so many of us live like this? Why do we constantly write our personal story in the future tense when we know that doesn’t work?

Maybe it’s because… we’re plotters!

I’m a plotter. When I write a story, I start off with the bare bones and establish the basic framework of the plot. I have to imagine the story and test the different directions that it could go. Strangely, I do this kind of thinking in the future tense. The story is still being created… my characters are still making their decisions and still have more decisions coming.

It isn’t until I’m writing the story that I make the transition from the future to the past tense.

Is it possible, in real life, that this step gets forgotten? Maybe most of us are “plotters” and are so busy planning and laying out the framework of our lives, that we forget we still need to write the story down… we still need to translate the future to the past — and that only happens through the present moment.

There are other writers, sometimes called “pants-ers.” That’s because they fly by the seat of their pants. There’s no plotting for them when creating a story. They just sit down and start writing. They don’t need to translate the future into the past or plans into action.

They have an innate ability to constantly live the action, to constantly balance on the cusp between future and past. This begs the question: are these writers happy and more successful than us “plotters”?

I just want to suggest that maybe all us plotters can benefit by taking a page out of the pants-ers book. I’m not saying planning isn’t good… just don’t forget to be in that moment where you change the future into the past.

So do you live your life as a pants-er or as a plotter?

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About Nathan Doneen

I'm currently a mid-20s post college grad trying to find my own niche in the world. I studied biology and environmental science when in school and have since started studying philosophy and theory of mind while trying to write in the midst of it all.

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