Panning for Gold: Story Past, Present, and Future by Nevada McPherson

Panning for Gold: Story Past, Present, and Future by Nevada McPhersonLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “Panning for Gold: Story Past, Present, and Future.” Enjoy!


All the talk about “the New Normal” and how things will never be the same again post-pandemic got me thinking about my novel-in-progress and how certain things in it would be different in today’s world. 

Story World

It got me to thinking about whether or not I should adjust the world of the story to this new reality and how it might look going forward. It also made me wonder how other writers are dealing with these aspects of life in the post-pandemic world. 

I was confused for a while about the best way forward. Then I came to the conclusion that since things are changing so quickly there’s no way to know what the future holds. 

There was a time when I considered setting the story in the late ‘90s or early 2000s, and finally decided to set the story in 2020, pre-pandemic and that’s where it’s going to stay. 

There’s a strong possibility that a sequel or even a series will come afterwards centered on two of the characters with occasional appearances by others, and depending on how the world is going forward, those will be set in the new reality, whatever that may hold. 

Story Tense

Another question that I’m now dealing with concerns whether the story will be told in the past or present tense. 

Since I’ve studied screenwriting for so long, and since screenplays are always written in the present tense, active voice, most of my story is told in the present tense, which seems to come most naturally to me. 

Honestly, since I’m still in rough draft mode, trying to just get words on paper or screen as quickly as possible, I sometimes slip into past tense, only to slip right back into the present within the same scene. I know that’s inconsistent (and considered sloppy unless one has a good reason, of course.) Something I know I’ll go back and work on extensively after I’ve translated into language the pictures, thoughts, and feelings one must capture to tell a story in prose.

I’m wondering now if this story should be told in the past tense since for all intents and purposes it’s all of a sudden happening in a slightly earlier era, before any thoughts of coronavirus, face masks, and social distancing. Quite frankly, I’m still not sure about that. 

Story Wild Crafting 

For now, I expect I’ll keep marching forward to the end while jumping around in the plot. I’ll be shoring up storylines that need to be woven more fully into the tapestry of my multi-point-of-view opus that started with a single image I came across while on a walk out in California one summer twenty years ago. 

Like a grizzled prospector who townsfolk may think mad for believing “there’s gold in them thar hills” or silver somewhere deep in that old mine, I’ve never given up on the core of that story. Then last summer I was gifted with the inspiration to expand this rather thin screenplay into the story it always wanted and needed to be and with characters that had to come to life to give it greater scope and depth. 

Story Prospecting

To continue the prospector metaphor, I haven’t collected enough precious minerals to go into town and celebrate, buying drinks for everybody in the saloon, but I’m encouraged enough to keep going, to keep coming into town for supplies and to keep putting in the long, hard hours. There are enough nuggets here to give me hope and encouragement. 

Now that summer’s arrived I hope that your prospecting efforts are richly rewarded as you roll up your sleeves and keep at it. 

You’re not alone; I’m just over the next hill, a holler away. 

Maybe we’ll get together sometime and tell our stories over the campfire, drinking strong coffee under the stars. 

In the meantime, keep digging, chipping away—rock by rock, word by word. 

Happy writing!



Nevada McPhersonOriginally from Georgia, Nevada McPherson lived in uptown New Orleans for many years and now lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, GA where she is a professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/ Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She’s written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, one short screenplay, a short play, short stories and two graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons. Queensgate, the sequel to Uptowners, is her third graphic novel. For more information, visit

You may also like...