It reads, “Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Arimathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of aaaaaagggh.”
…The Castle of aaaaaagggh.
What is that?
He must have died while carving it.
Oh, come on!
Well, that’s what it says.
Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t bother to carve “aaaaaggh.” He’d just say it!
Well, that’s what’s carved in the rock!
Perhaps he was dictating.
—Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Any reading of literature or watching of films involves a little suspension of disbelief. Even though you see who the author is (and the author is rarely the narrator) and that the book is fiction, you imagine or pretend, as you’re reading, that the book is “true” and that the narrator is, in fact, recounting events that happened. This literary contract I can live with… as long as the narrative recounts events as having happened in the past tense.
I have a hard time suspending disbelief when I try to imagine someone jumping off a building, being raped, or giving a speech while writing it down at the same time (“I leap off the roof. My heart is pounding as I reach for the ledge on the other side. My feet are tingling”). I can, however, easily imagine someone saying that it happened in the past (“I leapt off the roof. My heart was pounding as I reached for the ledge on the other side. My feet were tingling”). Aliens invading the earth? I can do that. A narrator knowing the innermost thoughts of all the characters involved in the plot? Sure, that I can buy. A villain giving a long speech while the hero finds a way to escape? No problem. Imagine that someone is carving the word aaaaaggh while saying it? Sorry.