The present tense is, as any graduate of middle school grammar knows, used to describe events as they occur. As such, it's ubiquitous in the news, magazines, websites, advertisements, nonfiction of all sorts. But as for fiction...

Traditionally, storytelling is done in the past tense. This makes sense, since it generally describes events taking place in the past.

However, there are many tenses available in any really developed language, and though it may be awkward to write mainly in the future or imperfect or pluperfect tenses, there's no technical reason not to do so. Far more common, however, is to write in the present tense. This seems to be a growing trend in modern literature, and is most popular in short stories.

The present tense tends to give a work a sense of urgency and immediacy, and as such is often used to increase tension in the story. The narration may switch from past to present -- with or without explanation -- to fulfil this end.

Stories which use the present tense sometimes take the form of a journal or ApocalypticLog, but when not, and written entirely in FirstPersonNarrative, a Present Tense story can feel whiplash fast, with the sometimes jarring feeling of the reader being right there, seeing through the main character's eyes and knowing their thoughts and opinions. It also leaves the reader with the question of whether the narrating character will even survive, whereas if the story was implied to be the recollections of the character [[IShouldWriteABookAboutThis written after the fact]], we could reasonably assume [[DidYouDie they did]].

When used with SecondPersonNarration, the reader has more distance from the narrator, but now the story can legitimately [[BreakingTheFourthWall trample all over the Fourth Wall,]] and the story still maintains a distinct sense of urgency and the question of actual survival.

However, Third Person Narrative can also be written in the Present Tense; the story is still fast but the reader gets the sensation of being right there, ''following'' the characters in their adventure. Done badly it evokes frustration and a sense of helplessness, done well the reader cares deeply and fears for the character's lives.

See also UsefulNotes/HowDoIUsedTense, for when this is done by accident.

!!Genre Examples:
* ChooseYourOwnAdventure books are often written in present tense.
* Most InteractiveFiction is written in second person present tense, to simulate the idea that [[{{AFGNCAAP}} the player is you]].
** So are most {{Western RPG}}s, to reinforce the connection between the player and their character or party.
* {{Interactive Comic}}s, being a hybrid between InteractiveFiction and a webcomic, also frequently follow this formula.

!!Work Examples:
* ''Literature/AnOfficerAndASpy'', a HistoricalFiction novel about the Dreyfus Affair, is told this way. This proves effective as Col. Picquart, the narrator, investigates the Affair and discovers to his horror that Dreyfus is innocent and the real spy is still free.
* Creator/TerryPratchett does this a lot, particularly to create a cinematic vibe when describing a scene. He also occasionally uses the future tense during such descriptions.
* The second half of "Literature/TheOnesWhoWalkAwayFromOmelas" by Creator/UrsulaKLeGuin.
* Parts of ''Literature/TheTomorrowSeries'' are written in the present tense; the whole thing is Ellie's diary of what's happened, which she's writing in big chunks at a time, so most of the action is past tense but a lot of the reflective passages describe what's going on amongst the group in the present tense.
* In the ''Labyrinth of Reflections'' novels by Creator/SergeyLukyanenko, all scenes taking place in RealLife are narrated in the past tense, while all scenes inside the local {{Cyberspace}} are in the present tense. [[spoiler:This is also the first clue that the ending of the first novel never happened in reality.]]
* ''Literature/HaltingState'' by Charles Stross is written in present tense and ''second person''. As in "You turn on your computer and check your email". With multiple viewpoint characters all referred to as 'you'. Since it's all about video games, the effect is to create the feel of a text adventure or RPG.
* ''Literature/IfOnAWintersNightATraveler'' by Italo Calvino is written in present tense, and second person in the chapters where the reader is the main character.
* ''Literature/TheYiddishPolicemensUnion'' by Creator/MichaelChabon is written in present tense.
* ''Literature/HardBoiledWonderlandAndTheEndOfTheWorld'' by Haruki Murakami, the [[EpiphanicPrison "End of the World"]] parts are written in present tense in the English translation.
* Creator/NealStephenson mainly writes using this.
* Katherine Kerr's novel ''Polar City Blues'' was written in present tense.
* [[PlayingWithATrope Played with]] in the ''Literature/WarchildSeries''. Parts of the narrative are written in second person and past tense, parts in first person and past tense, and parts in first person with the present tense. The shifts come as a result of the narrator's psyche. The parts in second person recount traumatic abuse that he's trying to disassociate from himself. Those in first person/past tense are events he's lived through and largely coped with. When the narrative switches to present tense, it's to emphasize the immediacy of the situation and the uncertainty of the future.
* Creator/DamonRunyon notoriously wrote most of his stories in present tense.
* Creator/CharlesDickens' ''Bleak House'' switches back between a first-person, past tense narrator and a third-person omniscient narrator in present tense.
* John Updike's novel ''Rabbit, Run'' is one of the first major novels written entirely in present-tense.
* A trope often found in Creator/ChuckPalahniuk's work, such as ''Literature/{{Haunted 2005}}'', ''Literature/{{Rant}}'', or ''Literature/FightClub''.
* The novel ''Literature/{{Elsewhere}}'' by Gabrielle Zevin is entirely written in the present tense. YMMV as to whether or not it works well, or makes the book sound stilted and awkward.
* ComicBooks using {{Thought Caption}}s naturally have PresentTenseNarrative, since the "narration" is the character's thoughts. ''ComicBook/SpiderGirl'' combines it with SecondPersonNarration: "You are Spider-Girl!"
* ''Literature/TheHungerGames'' is written in present tense.
* L.E. Modesitt is fond of this narrative style, and uses it throughout ''Literature/TheSagaOfRecluce''.
* [[PlayingWithTropes Played with]] in the {{novelization}} of ''[[VideoGame/{{Crysis}} Crysis 2]]'' (called ''Crysis: Legion''). The novel is told in the first person by the [[HeroicMime normally silent]] protagonist, Alcatraz; it's presented as if Alcatraz is being debriefed, and he's recounting the events of the game, but oddly, he describes them in the ''present'' tense. This is [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] in the when [[TheGhost the unheard interviewer]] doing the debriefing asks Alcatraz why he's talking like that ([[RealisticDictionIsUnrealistic and so eloquently]]), and Alactraz just shrugs and says that he sometimes gets caught up in the story himself, and feels as if he's reliving it.
* The ''Franchise/DoctorWhoExpandedUniverse'' novel ''Tomb of Valdemar'' is framed as a tavern story, told by someone who met the Fourth Doctor.
* The German novel ''Film/DasBoot'' is written in the present tense.
* ''Literature/{{Curveball}}'' is written in third person present tense to more closely simulate the feel of comic book narration.
* Creator/GeneWolfe frequently uses this technique, often requiring the reader to piece together the real story from fragments of a journal. In the ''Literature/BookOfTheShortSun'', the narrator switches between present and past tense depending on whether he is describing his past adventures, or the ones occurring as he is writing. Even the ''Literature/BookOfTheNewSun'', which is almost entirely written in the past tense, pauses occasionally to describe what is occurring as the narrator is writing.
* Literature/HyperionCantos, in particular The Fall of Hyperion, uses this during John's dreams of the pilgrims.
* Matthew Stover sometimes uses the present tense in his {{Novelization}} of ''Literature/RevengeOfTheSith'', often accompanied by SecondPersonNarration.
* ''Literature/AllQuietOnTheWesternFront'' is written entirely in present tense first person, with the exception of the very last lines.
* Some of the work by [[Website/ThingsOfInterest Sam Hughes]], including ''Literature/FineStructure'' and ''Literature/{{Ra}}''.
* ''Literature/AllTheLightWeCannotSee'', a novel that follows a French and a German teenager through UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, is told in present tense, even when the story skips backwards ten years after the first chapter.
* ''Literature/SecondApocalypse'': Some chapters are written in present tense, but others are written in past tense.
* ''Literature/ThreeDarkCrowns'' is written wholly in third person (from the [=PoV=] of three [[TheProtagonist young queens]]) in present tense.
* Some chapters of Creator/IainBanks's ''Complicity'' are written in SecondPersonNarration in present tense. These describe the actions of a murderer. It really helps to hide the identity of the killer (even their gender) but is also very creepy.
* This is often used in documentary films and television programs, to make the narrative feel more immediate. ''Film/FourDaysInNovember'', a documentary about the Kennedy assassination, uses present tense narration from beginning to end while describing the events of Nov. 21-24, 1963.