Day 10- Stick With Me by Julie Duffy

Writing in the present tense provides immediacy, as this writing prompts, and its tips, demonstrate

The Prompt

Tell a story in the present tense that starts when your character enters a new environment and ends when they exit.

This story could be a single episode from a larger quest, that illuminates something about your character (useful for those of you who have a longer work-in-progress on the go), or it could be a standalone story.

I’m encouraging you to tell the story in the present tense because it makes the story so much more immediate AND leaves the possibility open for absolutely anything to happen at the end of the story.

Want your character to drift off into space uncertain of their fate? Want them to die at the end? Want to keep the reader on the edge of their seat? These things are all easier to pull off when your story is in the present tense.

If you start your story “I’m walking down the middle of the road, traffic roaring past in both directions on either side of me, pulling the folds of my long gown this way and that, like hands grabbing at my dress…” the reader has no idea if this character is going to survive or not.

If the same story was told in the past tense, (“I was walking down the middle of the road…”) there is an implied ‘later’, an older version of the character who survives to tell us the story.

You don’t have to be out to murder your character, to use this perspective, but it can be very useful in stories where you want to ratchet up the suspense and the sense that anything could happen.

It’s also good practice to mix up our natural inclinations from time to time.

If you’re feeling resistance to any of these ideas, remember: I’ve lost count of the number of writers who told me they hated (HATED) a particular prompt, and write to it anyway, only to have it turn out to be the most interesting (and often published) story they wrote that year.

StoryADay Bingo Day 10
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Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is typing this prompt on an ergonomic keyboard. The large maple tree outside her window is being buffeted by spring storms, reaching its branches towards her windows as if it wants to come inside. Wait, what was that noise?

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

May 20 – Limits: Present Tense

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Present Tense

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Present Tense


  • The present tense grants an immediacy not there in the past tense.
  • This is great for thrillers, because we can’t be sure that the authorial voice (or first person narrator) will survive until the end.
  • You can jump around in time, but each segment must be in the present tense. You can indicate a shift in time by having your characters talk ‘to camera’ or by noting that the sun is now setting or that the morning dew has burned off the grass at last…


Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

[Write On Wednesday] Inner Thoughts

Prompt: Write a story in the present tense from a limited third person perspective

The Write On Wednesday story prompts are designed to prompt quickly-written stories that you can share in the comments. It’s a warm-up exercise, to loosen up your creativity muscles. Come back every Wednesday to see a new prompt or subscribe.

Wolf Hall: A Novel, by Hilary Mantel, is a strange, disorienting read. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but finally I realised what was keeping me off balance: the book is written in the present tense and from a limited perspective: that of Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII. Everything we learn comes either from Thomas’s direct experience or from things he has heard from other people. Sometime he is reminiscing, sometimes observing in the moment, but the present tense keeps the whole experience very immediate.

The Prompt

Write a story in the present tense, from a limited third person perspective


In Wolf Hall it is sometimes hard to follow what is going on, because of course, the main character’s thoughts don’t pause to explain. He thinks of one person, who reminds him of another, and the reader has to trust that — at some point — it will be explained who these people are. or what that place was, and it will all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Don’t be afraid to confuse the reader, especially on your first draft. Leave out more than you put in.

Here is an excerpt from the novel to help you see how the author tells the story from Thomas Cromwell’s perspective:


Monday morning the dukes are back. Their instructions are to turn out the occupants this very day, because the king wants to send in his own  builders and furnishers and get the palace ready to hand over to the Lady Anne, who needs a London house of her own.

He’s [Cromwell] prepared to stand and ague the point: have I missed something? This palace belongs to the archdiocese of York. When was Lady Ann made an archbishop?

But the tide of men flooding in by the water stairs is sweeping them away. The two dukes have made themselves scarce, and there’s nobody to argue with. What a terrible sight, someone says: Master Cromwell balked of a fight. And now the cardinal’s ready to go, but where? Over his customary scarlet, he is wearing a traveling cloak that belongs to someone else; they are confiscating his wardrobe piece by piece, so he has to grab what he can. It is autumn, and though he is a big man he feels the cold.


See? It’s a bit confusing, not always knowing who ‘he’ is, but once the reader settles into the style, it becomes enjoyable, puzzling out what Thomas Cromwell is thinking, what he is observing and what he is admitting (to himself and others). Don’t be afraid give your readers this pleasure.


The Rules:

  • You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  • You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  • Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  • Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Inner Thoughts #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is Inner Thoughts! #storyaday

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today: Inner Thoughts at #WriteOnWed #storyaday

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.