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There are tons of places I don't know how to make it sound like the present. Here's a sample.

My nerves continued to grow at full throttle. Every step me and my team would make from here on out would affect the future of everyone. Along the hallway there was a door left ajar, with a light seeping through. I went first, peeking through the door. A gun shoot barely missed my head as I ducked back. I turned my own gun off safety and fired back. Suddenly, bright flash erupts from the room beyond. “NO!”, I yelled, “GET DOWN!” My team went diving to the floor just in time, but I was too late. I was blown back, and as I faded away my last thought was, "I failed."

See how some this seems like some happens in the past and some in the present! What do I do?

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    Hi Nel, best to research the concept of 'tense' in writing and that should give you food for thought. – user24213 Jan 18 '20 at 14:54
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    I looked into that and it helped so much thank you – Nel Jan 18 '20 at 17:38
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    That's an intense scene – Tasch Jan 18 '20 at 20:40
  • The answers here make some good points about tense, but I don't think switching the story into present tense automatically solves the problem, and I also don't think it's necessary (but of course you can do it if you want to). Rather, the things which make this sound like the past to me are the bits where you 'zoom out' and tell us what's happening, because this gives the impression that the narrator has a better idea of the big picture than they would have done at the time... – DM_with_secrets May 3 '20 at 10:13
  • ...For example, "Every step me and my team would make from here on out would affect the future of everyone", "diving to the floor just in time", and "as I faded away my last thought was..." all make me feel as though the main character is telling us about something that happened in the past. If you remove those phrases and stick to fast action and nerves and guns and lights, I think it will sound a lot more like something happening in the present, even if you choose to leave it in past tense. – DM_with_secrets May 3 '20 at 10:16
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Think of how it sounds when your friend recounts a dramatic story from their past. Some might say, "I stood there, and I thought: blah blah blah," but others might say, "So I'm standing there, thinking: blah blah blah." Example 1 is past tense, example 2 is present tense.

So you want this to be in present tense and not past tense. You can totally look up present tense online to learn, and some great books to read that are in present tense are: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, etc. You just have to watch your verbs. Here's an attempt at switching what you've written:

My nerves continue to grow at full throttle. Every step my team and I take from here on out will affect the future of everyone. Along the hallway there is a door left ajar, with a light seeping through. I go first, peeking through the door. A gunshot barely misses my head as I duck back. I turn my own gun off safety and fire back. Suddenly, a bright flash erupts from the room beyond. “NO!”, I yell, “GET DOWN!” My team dives to the floor just in time, but I am too late. I am blown back, and as I fade away, my last thought is, "I failed."

(The line "bright flash erupts from the room beyond" is already in present-tense by the way, so you've got it)

Hope this is somewhat helpful, and good luck to you!

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  • Oh my friggin god thank you!!! That helps so much! I can't thank you enough! – Nel Jan 18 '20 at 22:59
  • You helped me out. Glad to return the favor. (Seriously though if you haven't read the Divergent series or Speak yet you should) – Tasch Jan 18 '20 at 23:17
  • :) I will. Thank you! – Nel Jan 18 '20 at 23:54
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Virtually all first person accounts (in fact virtually all professionally published stories) are written entirely in past tense. They are not happening to you in the present, after all. You are writing a story in the present. This is true even if "you" die in the story.

Incidentally, nothing grows "at full throttle". You're mixing metaphors there. Your nerves might grow raw or your pulse might race at full throttle.

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  • Heyo Tysto you're making great points. However, personally at least, I've seen many 1st-person accounts written in present-tense. It can create a sense of urgency where the reader and character alike have no knowledge of what happens next. Then again if you think about the fact that the protagonist is writing down what's happeninig to them, past-tense makes more sense because they are looking back on what happened to them and recording it. If they die though, that can't be true. But readers don't always analyze the idea of the protagonist actually writing the story themselves, right? – Tasch Jan 20 '20 at 1:40
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    Professional published works in the present tense are extremely rare before the 1980s (Updike being a notable exception) and remain very rare. It is good advice to master the traditional form before trying to upend it. – Tysto Jan 20 '20 at 3:41
  • Alright, well Nel seems to have the traditional form figured out. Also, I'm pretty sure that 1st-person present tense is a trend nowadays, at least with YA novels, even if it's rare compared to past tense. But I agree that your advice is good. Nel isn't writing something before the 1980s, also, so trying something new might be a smart move. – Tasch Jan 20 '20 at 4:09

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