Past tense or present tense?

maramecI wanted a short story–something I could whip out before I start working on the third draft of the WIP. I’ve got a novella. Dang it. Why? It’s going to require a good bit more work, and not only is it 14,000 words, more or less, this unwieldy ghost story is now telling me I need to put the current first-person narration in present tense instead of past.

Aaaagghh.

Maybe it doesn’t need to go into present tense?

I know I should stick with one tense or the other, but here’s the thing. I’ve got a narrator who is dealing with otherworldly events in the present that can only be understood properly by said narrator explaining to the reader what happened in the past. This should not be so difficult to figure out, but it is.

Advice?

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Crowdsourcing the beginning of a ghost story

Note: Below is a draft page from a ghost story I’m working on. I have resisted posting stories until I felt they were in final form, but I’m tired of second guessing myself on how to start this one, so I thought we’d try a little crowdsourcing. Help me out, Dear Readers. Let me know what you think. I don’t care if you take a macro or micro view of this. Let it rip. Would you read a story that started this way?

1930sgroup2Everything was off that morning, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. It was late summer—one of those evangelical days that starts as hard and hot as it ends, and every living creature just tries to stay out of its way. The cats acted skittish and hissed as I poured them some thin milk over the last of the cornbread. When I opened the coop to gather the eggs the hens were in such a frantic, squawking hurry to get out, I suspected a black snake but didn’t find anything.

On my way back to the house for my own breakfast, I saw the mares pressed up against the fence across the road. Better to feed them early, I thought, while the morning was still bearable. I took the gator to the barn across the road and put a half bale in the back.

While loading the hay and a scoop of corn for each worthless horse, I remember shaking my head at the effort such small chores required of me. There had been a day when I could have carried a full bale bucked up on my thigh from the house to the horse pasture and thought nothing of it. Not any more. Sweat was running down my legs into my rubber boots and hauling their half bale from the gator to the feed box seemed to ask more from my muscles than they were willing to give. Continue reading

World Fantasy Award nominee “I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link is a clever presentation of a standard ghost story set up / El nominado al Premio Mundial de Fantasía “I Can See Right Through You” de Kelly Link es una presentación ingeniosa del planteamiento típico de un cuento de fantasmas

The short story “I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link has not only been nominated for the 2015 World Fantasy Award, it is also one of the stories in her collection Get in Trouble, which was published by Random House early this year. The collection was much heralded in the press, so I bought it and read four of the stories, including the nominee.

Will is an aging actor known for his leading role as a sexy vampire in a film made years earlier. When the story opens he is seeking out Meggie, a former lover and former co-star in their famous hit movie. Meggie is now the host of a ghost-hunting reality show. Will arrives at a supposedly haunted lake side where Meggie’s crew is shooting an episode and trying to find signs of a colony of nudists who disappeared in the 70s. Everyone is carrying on in the nude, believing that they haven’t been able to get any readings on the nudist ghosts because they are scared of showing themselves. Yeah, it’s a wonderfully absurd story set up.

Will knows he’s going to seed and even if he’s not really comfortable with the notion, he is full of self-depreciating humor. Meggie, who he can’t quite admit is the one and only love of his life, seems to have expected him to show up and treats him with the warm dismissal of an ex-lover, further adding to Will’s pathos. Meggie’s current boyfriend Ray (who looks like a younger Will), another medium who doesn’t like Will and a producer who has a crush on him all vie for the reader’s attention. This helps delay the ghostly surprise at the end, but it also dilutes the story’s tension. Continue reading