Creating a sense of immediacy and intimacy in a story is no easy task. When the characters ask us to be in the moment with them, sometimes the conventions of the King’s English won’t do.
Fortunately, when it comes to nowness in writing, we have a number of tools to help us.
Rhythm. We don’t necessarily think in complete, fully-shaped, grammatical entities. Sentences with a formal construct can be perfectly fine—exquisite, even—but sometimes fragments and phrases that approximate living thought can bring us into the character’s reality, into his head.
Here, rather than there. I realized this one a few mornings ago. Describing the immediacy of a place can mean nowness in the place. “The hilltop wanted them here” vs. “there” is being there rather than observing it.
Present tense. A tough one to use inventively and still keep the flow. As an experiment (not a finished product), try juxtaposing two paragraphs, either sequential paras or the same one written in a different tense. One will jump toward you. That’s the one to use.
And then there is the nowness of creating itself—the struggle to find the time or mental energy to immerse ourselves in the work. Sometimes, this is time spent at preparation, surrounding myself into the character’s life—becoming the character for a time. Other times, it’s finding an image, an emotion or a sequence that I love and wrapping my head in that; a passing glance, an angle of light, a smell in the air. Still other times, immersion requires transcribing the notes from the tape recorder…sheer copyist work.
Nowness. Being there. It’s necessary and invaluable. Because when we write—even if we’re writing about the past—we are always writing in the now.