The choice to use present or past tense in a novel is unique to each story. Each convention has its pros and cons. There’s an immediacy to present tense, a feeling as though your characters might live forever.
|The bride and her powder blue wedding party|
In one of my first memories, I am a little girl in a long, powder blue dress, with a ribboned band in my wavy hair and a bright grin on my face. My three-year-old sister is too young for the grown-up celebration and stays home with a babysitter.
No, it’s just me there with all the cousins and aunts, the ones who smile at me and pinch my cheeks and say, “Isn’t she cute?”
The cousin who wants me there especially is the twenty-year-old bride and I am her five-year-old flower girl.
At this grown-up party, my paternal grandfather grins for a picture, unaware he will die the next year, miss the birth of his great-granddaughter who is born to the bride on the anniversary of his death and then named for him.
|The bride and our grandfather and step-grandmother|
|The bride and her mother|
The bride is my first cousin, the flower girl at my parents’ wedding, the daughter of my favorite aunt, who will make a ghostly appearance in one of my novels. Like her mother, the bride is vibrant and jovial and as warm as a snuggie, has a laugh, a smile and true affection for everyone she meets. Has inherited her mother’s love of life, her belief that no one is a stranger, that hearts do not have limited capacity, but have room enough to safeguard even strangers’ joys and pains.
At this wedding I will dance with a little boy named Jerome who I will crush on for a few years and then forget about until I hear the name spoken again at the bride’s funeral, her death on what would have been my father’s ninety-second birthday.
My cousin is vibrant and alive, she is joy and comfort and love to her husband and brother, daughters and grandchildren, cousins and friends. She will never be a ‘was.’