OMG! Present tense is ridiculously hard to pull off, I must have written over 5,000 words in the last 5 hours trying to make it sound right. And that’s for like only 1500 words in a second rewrite! I’ve actually edited much more beyond this point, but I am not satisfied with the results in the next section – present tense in a dialogue setting – which is actually Part 2 of the story, For now, please let me know how does a present tense version of the story sounds. To give you a comparison, here is the old one in past tense. Please be brutally honest, I don’t want to waste too much time on present tense if it doesn’t work. Thanks.
EDIT: Reuploaded, rewritten. Mostly to remove long-winded bits and extraneous dialogue.
Alone In The Crowd: Part 1 (Present Tense Rewrite)
I’m alone in here, surrounded by people who use to know me, listening to the idle chatter buzzing all around. The clink of wineglasses punctuates the constant drone, and I can hear gratuitous cheering ever so often, signaling the arrival of another fresh face to the party. People who never keep in touch for fifteen years suddenly behave like old friends, hugging and doling out the high fives, filling the air with the sickening cloy of their pretentious bull.
Sitting in my corner, I roll my eyes at the elaborate facade on display, wondering just how many superlatives they can add to a compliment before it becomes drivel. High school reunion, nostalgia, whatever. The spirit of good cheer takes one look at the toxic dump that is my memory of Glendale High, and dies without even trying. Just as well, since nobody here seems to notice me.
I entertain myself with a beer, watching and waiting for that something bad that inevitably happens at parties like this. Drunks and tight spaces were never a good combination for anything. I’m betting either loudmouth there by the window gets pushed off by a raging drunk, or blondie here in the short skirt ends up with that dickhead leering at her from across the room. Whatever it is, I feel it already. Somewhere in this this room, my latest muse awaits.
“Get lost skank!”
“Shut up whore!”
The music stops. I look up. Two women on the dance floor are in a cat fight. They scream and they scratch, ripping into one another with their manicured nails, apparently over the bemused man in the middle trying to break them up.
The drunken sadists in the room howl for blood. “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
I watch the fight from my little corner, enjoying the spectacle as I feel my arousal building. I always had a thing for bloodsport. Here’s hoping that one of them snatches an eye out. That’ll be a fine way to start the night.
It doesn’t happen. Their friends come and pull them apart kicking and swearing. The music starts up again and small talk continues. It’s as if the fight never happened.
An hour later, I’m still sitting in my corner adding scratches to the table with my keys. The bartender who hands me my fourth beer tells me to stop. This party sucks, and so is this story. I need to find something better. Maybe if I didn’t start the night as a depraved writer in a party full of people ignoring me.
Wait, what’s this?
I see her squeezing her way through the heaving bodies on the dance floor. Perhaps it’s the dim lighting, or perhaps it’s the booze. Whatever it is, it has to be something that makes people do stupid things, since she’s waving to me right now.
“Peter, hey!” she shouts above the music
I shuffle deeper into my little corner, trying hard to ignore the female protagonist making her entrance into my story. I’m not very good at romantic fiction.
“Hey!” she says, walking up and taking the seat beside me.
“Hey,” I reply, what else am I suppose to say?
“Remember me?” she asks in a jingly voice that reminds me of one of those secretaries in Mad Men.
I look her over once and rack my brains. Long brown hair, porcelain skin, white fleshy thigh… If I’ve seen her before, it’s probably part of my private movie collection.
‘Sasha Grey?” I say, trying my luck.
She gives me a bewildered look before breaking into girlish laughter. “Nice try Peter, I’ll take that as a compliment. It’s me Lyla.”
I roll her name on my tongue, finding it unfamiliar.
“You are Peter right?” She says hesitating.
I nod once. It’s been a while since someone has called me Peter. I go by my pen name now, Borris Black. Peter Pendleton just doesn’t inspire the same vibe when you’re trying to sell horror for a living.
“Wow, it is you, how have you been!” she says, flashing a megawatt smile and tucking her luxurious mane behind her ear. “Words out that you’re some fancy writer now eh, must be exciting to see your work in public.”
“A little,” I say, scrunching my eyes as I try to place her name and face again. For the life of me, I cannot recall ever meeting a Lyla.
“You don’t remember me do you?” She says, giggling at my effort. “Braces, black glasses, dorky hair, ninth grade?”
Social protocol dictates that I should have an idea now, or at least pretend to remember while I smile and play along. But since I honestly can’t remember and don’t give a damn about what others think, I shook my head politely. It’s been a while since I’ve thought about my life back when I was a Peter.
“It’s okay,” she says, making a good sport out of being forgotten. “Let’s just start over. Hi, my name is Lyla Fisher, I’m a fashion designer and I’ve just moved back to Glendale. I’ve been living in New York for a while, but I miss my family, so now I’m back. Please to meet you Peter!”
“Borris. Borris Black.” I reply, correcting her. As far as I’m concerned, Peter Pendleton was dead and buried. “I go by my pen name now, please to meet you Lyla.”
We shake hands, which probably makes Lyla my friend now, though I still have no idea what this woman wants from me.
“So Peter… I mean Borris, how’s life,” she asks, getting my name right as she leans in towards me.
“Busy, you know, writing stuff. ”
That was a lie. I actually haven’t written anything of worth in the last eight months, which makes my claims of being a writer pretty dubious. But then again, I am trying.
“What are you writing now?” Lyla asks, twirling her hair with a finger as she takes a half step forward.
“Just started on my second novel, thought it’ll be fun to come over and say hi to the folks, maybe get a few ideas.” I lie again.