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Present tense/past tense question : Tips and Advice • Page 2 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Present tense/past tense question

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RobTheThird
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Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:08 am

Re: Present tense/past tense question

Postby RobTheThird » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:54 pm

wdarcy wrote:
> I understand, Rob. But you know, if I were telling someone about a dream I
> had, I believe I would do it in past tense. "Let me tell you about
> this dream I had last night. I was walking through a wood...." etc.
>
> The situation in which I would use present tense is if I were telling
> someone about a recurrent dream, one I keep having, night after night.
> "Let me tell you about this dream I keep having. It's always the same,
> every night. I'm walking through a wood..."
>
> --Warren
Good.

That's why I didn't say it had to be done that way. That's why I said *I* do it that way, and that my characters would mimic me.

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updog
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Posts: 6008
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Location: La La Land

Re: Present tense/past tense question

Postby updog » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:53 pm

Zenwalrus wrote:
> Hello everyone,
> I'm working on a novel and I have a question about tense. The main plot of
> the novel takes place in a single day, but there are also numerous
> flashbacks - probably 40-50% of the text. So far I'm writing in PRESENT
> tense during the main part of the book and in PAST tense during the
> flashbacks.
> I'm wondering if this is a terrible idea. On one hand I feel like the past
> tense sections will help the reader subconsciously remember that they're
> reading a flashback, and a switch to present tense will bring them back to
> the main action. But on the other hand, I'm worried mixing tenses like this
> could take readers out of the book completely. I also have concerns with
> present tense novels in general.
> Should I just scrap the present tense altogether, write the whole thing in
> past tense, and hope the context of the book will show the reader whether
> or not it's a flashback?
> Thanks in advance!

Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" is written this way. Present tense for the chapters where the main character is old, and past tense for chapters when he's young. It was written well enough I didn't notice some of the chapters were in present tense until I was nearly to the end, and that was back when I was still resisting present tense in my reading material. The book was a bestseller, so I guess the fact that some of us don't care for present tense didn't hurt Gruen much. Neither did the prologue, for that matter. :|

There really are no rules for how you should do this, so I guess my advice is to write the book you want to write. Just follow your gut. :)
"Is it weird in here, or is it just me?" ~ Steven Wright



Zenwalrus
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Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:14 pm

Re: Present tense/past tense question

Postby Zenwalrus » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:59 pm

updog wrote:

> Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" is written this way. Present tense for
> the chapters where the main character is old, and past tense for chapters when he's
> young. It was written well enough I didn't notice some of the chapters were in
> present tense until I was nearly to the end, and that was back when I was still
> resisting present tense in my reading material. The book was a bestseller, so I guess
> the fact that some of us don't care for present tense didn't hurt Gruen much. Neither
> did the prologue, for that matter. :|
>
> There really are no rules for how you should do this, so I guess my advice is to
> write the book you want to write. Just follow your gut. :)

Thanks updog! I haven't read "Water for Elephants," so I'll add it to my reading list. I think you're right... I just need to write the book that's busting out of me. Take care!

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ostarella
Lieutenant
 
Posts: 793
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:51 am

Re: Present tense/past tense question

Postby ostarella » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:28 am

updog wrote:

> There really are no rules for how you should do this, so I guess my advice is to
> write the book you want to write. Just follow your gut. :)

I should probably clarify here that I only mentioned my non-preference for present tense so Zen would be aware of any prejudice in my response. I have never believed that one shouldn't write something (whether it be the tense, a prologue, a genre, or whatever) because of a fear that some readers/agents/publishers may not like it. No one can write a book that everyone will like, so there's no point in trying. You have to write YOUR book.
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

aka shadowwalker
http://www.writersdigest.com/forum/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=26159

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wdarcy
Major
 
Posts: 1736
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2008 4:13 pm

Re: Present tense/past tense question

Postby wdarcy » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:49 pm

ostarella wrote:
>
>
> I should probably clarify here that I only mentioned my non-preference for present
> tense so Zen would be aware of any prejudice in my response. I have never believed
> that one shouldn't write something (whether it be the tense, a prologue, a genre, or
> whatever) because of a fear that some readers/agents/publishers may not like it. No
> one can write a book that everyone will like, so there's no point in trying. You have
> to write YOUR book.

Thanks Shadowwalker. I agree 1000%. Your response really nailed it.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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