The Literary Present - Mrs. Lee`s Classroom

The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University
Writing Studio, Vanderbilt University
Writing Center, University of Richmond
Writing Lab, Indian River State College
Use the present tense when writing about literature
 Characters
 Plot events
 This also includes the Bible, artwork, and movies
We write about literature
as if the events in the book
are happening now, even
though the authors may
be long dead.
At the end of Of Mice and Men, Lennie sees an
enormous rabbit that scolds him, making him think
of George.
In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard whispers
“free, free, free!” after learning of her husband's
supposed death.
Literature is assumed to exist in an eternal present.
Every time you open a book it seems as though the
events are currently happening.
Every time you read an essay it is as though you are
currently speaking to the writer.
“How (and Why) Do I Write in Literary Present Tense?”
▪ Source: Vanderbilt’s Writing Studio
Paragraphs are blocks of text that organize information
Typically, a paragraph should contain one idea
 Topic sentence
 Evidence/Support
Effective paragraphs contain unity and coherence
A unified paragraph will have a clear focus
 No tangential or off-topic material
Coherence: Every sentence should somehow be
connected to what has come before, yet also move
the reader forward with new information.
 Repetition of the same word shows lack of imagination
 Use “elegant variation”: the same idea that is reworded
▪ Civil War: war between States, prolonged conflict, hard-fought war
Transitional words and phrases (See handout)
Consistent point of view and tense
 Maintain a single perspective (i.e. third person)
 Keep verbs in the same tense
There’s no hard and fast rule about when to start a new
paragraph: it’s up to the writer.
Basic guidelines:
To introduce a new idea
To emphasize a point
To break complicated info into smaller segments
To create a transition between key ideas
Paragraph length varies greatly
In general, paragraphs these days tend to be shorter
than they once were
Ultimately, the deciding question isn’t how long the
paragraph is, but how compelling it is.
 If it feels skimpy and not persuasive, it needs more info.