I’ve done a little first person present, but almost never past tense, third or first.
Sixteen years ago I got stuck in the intense immediate. I graduated college, and that summer to fill the mental void, I wrote Accursed Haven with a manic fervor I’ve never matched since.
My first novel ride.
It was wild. It was poetic. Here’s how it started:
A morbid man walks alone, looking for refuge in a city he has disowned. He sits down on a bench with a bottle in a brown bag.
Time passes in a series of moments. The city lights draw lines in the sky as the man jumps up and spins round and round.
The early morning dawn encroaches on his conscience. Thoughts drift in of family and home, of everything else he has disowned.
I wrote in present tense spontaneously.
It was not suggested to me. I didn’t experiment so much as started and never stopped.
Almost like self hypnosis and speaking, or typing during a lucid dream. It’s stream of consciousness with characters. Voices in my head with faces. Therapy in real time.
Maybe I can retire to the past now that I’m graying. It was so natural in my early twenties to revel in the intense immediate. It was the only place to write.
I typed Accursed Haven while occupying the second floor of a business building, downtown Salem. My bedroom was a great empty space, a carpeted thousand square feet with a ceiling I couldn’t reach on the shoulders of my roommate.
We had an outdated industrial kitchen with two of everything, swinging doors, and a long serving bar with a connecting window nearly its whole length.
There were two bathrooms, originally men’s and women’s, but became smokers and non-smokers. Butts filled buckets in the former women’s room, while the smell of the men’s made eyes water.
There was roof access, though half the metal ladder was missing. It didn’t matter. People always drifted up there. Police would come, but never caught on, to the secret living below.
The parties were epic and all night. The walls got spray painted, but artistically. My stuff got looked through, but little was taken. These were ravers, and PLUR still meant something.
The drugs though, they became a problem.
It was all immediate and intense and present tense.
In the midst of this chaos after bursting from the Willamette University bubble I wrote a perpetual movie from my head, a parallel life.
Accursed Haven was a grim relentless dance leaving a trail of blood and gore, and parents worried about me post review. I had to assure my mom that just because the main character killed his parents, didn’t mean I wanted to.
Jason looks at the goddess, his mother. At god, his father. His heart, beating so fast, is at peace. Such a bloody story. So full of gore. Mourning, howling. The moon is dark, so he howls to the empty night. Not even the stars say hello, covered by an autumn blanket of black wool.
Parallel to this every night party was a suited life across the street.
I worked for a start up company called Infinity Towers that was trying to connect doctors and pharmacies through the Internet to provide electronic prescription transfer. Back in 1998 this was rather novel and ambitious for a bunch of current and just graduated college students.
My job, after initialing failing in sales, was titled “Research Analyst”. A major part of my duties was figuring out potential competitors, something I fondly considered corporate espionage.
The party didn’t last long.
I was evicted by an absent landlord returning, then homeless until the start up started paying us. The creativity I had applied to pay rent in the party loft didn’t work so well for apartments.
Infinity Towers did get me to Portland in ’99, before deflating. My check and severance emptied their coffers. The corporate death severed childhood friendships with stocks suddenly not worth the paper they were printed on. Luckily, I had been too poor to invest anything more than time.
They lost their savings. I played StarCraft, wrote, and raved.
The beat went on. New Year’s Eve “Blast Off” kept me in the moment. I loved it and scoffed at thoughts of friends hiding out for fear of Y2K. A little ironic because the climax of Accursed Haven is an epic demonic bloodbath that was to happen on New Year’s, 2000.
The violence was therapeutic fiction.
Present tense let me keep the beat going as my savings ran out, and temp agencies became less appealing.
I just need that therapeutic beat streaming from my head, presently. The past is still in the future.