Old 04-27-2016, 11:28 PM   #1
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Tense?

as in past/present, not stress-related.

today, i picked up the following comment. just wondered what the general writery consensus is.

by ************
04/27/16
Write in past tense

A good tale, but...
If you truly wish to improve your stories, write in past tense. Nothing sounds more amateurish and awkward than present tense.
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Old 04-27-2016, 11:33 PM   #2
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For reading and writing I prefer past tense. What ever you're telling about has already happened. Just my opinion.
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Old 04-27-2016, 11:57 PM   #3
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I have to agree that present tense usually comes off as amateurish. Not nearly as bad as changing tense back and forth, but I feel like past tense usually works better.

That's not to say that a skilled writer couldn't pull off present tense, but it is rare and I think much more difficult to do.
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Old 04-28-2016, 03:36 AM   #4
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I prefer to read past tense, if only because it reads well, regardless.
To my mind, present tense requires an understanding of the dialect spoken, and that's not easy with a wide-word readership.
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:17 AM   #5
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:24 AM   #6
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>> This message is hidden because NOIRTRASH is on your ignore list.
Whatever.

Anyway, past tense assumes the survival of the narrator. First-person present tense offers no such assurance. "I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle; I feel the bullet go deep in my chest." Competent use of that tense and POV predisposes death. Bye now.
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:56 AM   #7
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Old 04-28-2016, 05:25 AM   #8
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I think past tense is more usual, but switching to present tense for an action scene can work.

But grammar pedants can leave rude comments when I switch tenses.

But they do that anyway, however I write.
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Old 04-28-2016, 05:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
I think past tense is more usual, but switching to present tense for an action scene can work.

But grammar pedants can leave rude comments when I switch tenses.

But they do that anyway, however I write.
i snerked.
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Old 04-28-2016, 07:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo_appleby View Post
i snerked.
One Snerker and one Snarker. Is either one past tense or present?

Personally, I'd like to try future tense.
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Old 04-28-2016, 08:50 AM   #11
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Agree.

I've got a story where the bulk of the tale is told in past tense, which shifted into present tense for the intimate sex scenes - I didn't really register I'd written it that way until later, when someone asked "why d'ya do that?". My only answer was it seemed far more intimate and immediate to write it that way. One or two grammar Nazis pinged me for it (or were curious why I did it), but overall it's one of my highest ranked stories, so I guess it worked for the other 99%.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
I think past tense is more usual, but switching to present tense for an action scene can work.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TxRad View Post
One Snerker and one Snarker. Is either one past tense or present?
The past tense of snark is snork. The past of snerk is snark. But snerk (snark) is generally paster than snark (snork), in that you usually snerk before you snark. However, when two persons are involved it can go the other way, snerk being presenter than snark, as in this immortal passage from Pride and Prejudice:

Quote:
"That Darcy looks like a dickhead to me," snork Elizabeth.

Charlotte snark and said, "pimply, too."
The passage also illustrates the superiority of past-tense narration.

A sex scene in the present tense indicates that at least one partner will pull a Rockefeller before it's over. This is an immutable rule.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo_appleby View Post
If you truly wish to improve your stories, write in past tense. Nothing sounds more amateurish and awkward than present tense.
I wrote Rent Comes Due in present tense, first person, with the secondary character referred to as "you." It's currently rated at 4.74.

Like any style, how it sounds depends on how it's handled. I made present tense work in that story, but I don't use it elsewhere.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:39 AM   #14
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I write all my stories in the present, until I'm finished with them, then they are in the past.
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo_appleby View Post
A good tale, but...
If you truly wish to improve your stories, write in past tense. Nothing sounds more amateurish and awkward than present tense.
Somebody is exaggerating there. There are plenty of things that sound more amateurish.

Dickens wrote Bleak House in present tense, and while I'm not a big fan of his work, it'd be ludicrous to call him "amateurish". Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front is also quite well regarded, and the Hunger Games series has sold a few copies, to name but a few.

Quote:
Originally Posted by electricblue66 View Post
I've got a story where the bulk of the tale is told in past tense, which shifted into present tense for the intimate sex scenes - I didn't really register I'd written it that way until later, when someone asked "why d'ya do that?". My only answer was it seemed far more intimate and immediate to write it that way. One or two grammar Nazis pinged me for it (or were curious why I did it), but overall it's one of my highest ranked stories, so I guess it worked for the other 99%.
Yep, it can be very useful for that "caught up in the moment" feel, and in other situations where it's useful to convey a change of mind-set: e.g. describing a character's dreams or visions.
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Old 04-28-2016, 12:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serafina1210 View Post
The past tense of snark is snork. The past of snerk is snark. But snerk (snark) is generally paster than snark (snork), in that you usually snerk before you snark.
I disagree. In That's My Girl I wrote, "If Randy is trouble, that trouble will be redoubled, count on it," she snarked. One must pay attention to proper formation of tenses. Fark, farked. Snark, snarked. Work, worked. Snork, snorked. Jerk, jerked. Snerk, snerked. Et fucking cetera. I hope you've manned up to it.
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Old 04-28-2016, 01:27 PM   #17
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I disagree with writing anything in a single tense. I like to read, and write, in past tense to draw the reader into the action or moment, then transition to present tense to add to the intensity of the scene. The trick seems to be to stay in the same voice and be somewhat passive when in present tense.

Here is an example that I think works. The first paragraph is past and the second is present. To me, one easily follows the other.

Jane had always wanted to see what went on in that place, so she worked up the nerve and drove out to the old lodge late one night when she was sure no one would be there. She steeled her nerves and left her car with the keys halfway into the ignition in case she needed to make a quick getaway. Then she set out along the pathway to an unlit side door.

Walking along that walkway made her hair stand on end and every little sound made her flight response twitch with anticipation. If it wasn't for her curiosity, she wouldn't be within a mile of this place, but curious she was and pushing that door aside opened up a whole new world for her.


If you use dialog in a story, you probably already change tense in your story as dialog in past tense looks ridiculous.

BTW, I picked up a few best selling novels and saw that this very writing style is fairly common.
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Old 04-28-2016, 01:44 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FantasyXY View Post
I disagree with writing anything in a single tense. I like to read, and write, in past tense to draw the reader into the action or moment, then transition to present tense to add to the intensity of the scene. The trick seems to be to stay in the same voice and be somewhat passive when in present tense.

Here is an example that I think works. The first paragraph is past and the second is present. To me, one easily follows the other.

Jane had always wanted to see what went on in that place, so she worked up the nerve and drove out to the old lodge late one night when she was sure no one would be there. She steeled her nerves and left her car with the keys halfway into the ignition in case she needed to make a quick getaway. Then she set out along the pathway to an unlit side door.

Walking along that walkway made her hair stand on end and every little sound made her flight response twitch with anticipation. If it wasn't for her curiosity, she wouldn't be within a mile of this place, but curious she was and pushing that door aside opened up a whole new world for her.


If you use dialog in a story, you probably already change tense in your story as dialog in past tense looks ridiculous.

BTW, I picked up a few best selling novels and saw that this very writing style is fairly common.
That looks like two paragraphs of past tense to me. The present would be:
Walking along that walkway makes her hair stand on end and every little sound makes her flight response twitch with anticipation. If it wasn't for her curiosity, she wouldn't be within a mile of this place, but curious she is and pushing that door aside opened up a whole new world for her.
Right?
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Old 04-28-2016, 01:45 PM   #19
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Tense?

Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo_appleby View Post
as in past/present, not stress-related.
Apparently choosing time references is stressful, too. Note all the angst in this thread.

IMHO the issue isn't only 'tense' but "POV+tense". We get different effects with tenses told from various viewpoints. As I said, 1st-person present is ominous. 2nd-person future is downright creepy except in songs. Any tense in 3rd-person is a bit removed. Those guidelines apply to narratives; in conversation, tenses can go almost anywhere.

As always, we can self-check. Write a passage, then read it aloud and see if it swings or sucks. Your call.
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Old 04-28-2016, 02:45 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomlitilia View Post
That looks like two paragraphs of past tense to me. The present would be:
Walking along that walkway makes her hair stand on end and every little sound makes her flight response twitch with anticipation. If it wasn't for her curiosity, she wouldn't be within a mile of this place, but curious she is and pushing that door aside opened up a whole new world for her.
Right?
Correct. The paragraph of her "walking along the walkway" is technically in present tense. The words walking, makes, twitch, be, and pushing are all present tense words. The fact that her actions "opened up" a new world drew it back into the past tense of the first paragraph, giving it some parallel structure.

But like you said, they read like they were both past tense. I feel like getting wrapped around the axle over tense is a waste of effort as long as the reading flows. Like I said, a good story draws them in, then makes them part of the action. There's nothing like well written present tense to make someone feel the action.
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Old 04-28-2016, 03:40 PM   #21
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I disagree. In That's My Girl I wrote, "If Randy is trouble, that trouble will be redoubled, count on it," she snarked. One must pay attention to proper formation of tenses. Fark, farked. Snark, snarked. Work, worked. Snork, snorked. Jerk, jerked. Snerk, snerked. Et fucking cetera. I hope you've manned up to it.
No, no, no! Work/wrought, snork/snark, jerk/jork, snerk/snark, fuck/fought. I can't have manned up because the past participle of man is moan, and I moan down.

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Old 04-28-2016, 06:12 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FantasyXY View Post
Here is an example that I think works. The first paragraph is past and the second is present. To me, one easily follows the other.

[i]Jane had always wanted to see what went on in that place, so she worked up the nerve and drove out to the old lodge late one night when she was sure no one would be there. She steeled her nerves and left her car with the keys halfway into the ignition in case she needed to make a quick getaway. Then she set out along the pathway to an unlit side door.

Walking along that walkway made her hair stand on end and every little sound made her flight response twitch with anticipation. If it wasn't for her curiosity, she wouldn't be within a mile of this place, but curious she was and pushing that door aside opened up a whole new world for her.
That example isn't present tense. Handy ref here...

Words like "walking" and "pushing" can be used as present-progressive-tense verbs: "I am walking, you are pushing", or present perfect progressive ("I have been walking").

But they can also be past progressive[/url] ("I was walking"), past perfect progressive ("I had been walking"), future I progressive ("I will be walking"), future II progressive ("by 10 am I will have been walking for three hours"), or conditional ("I would have been walking").

In this case, however, they're none of the above. In fact, they're not verbs in that context. They're gerunds: nouns made out of verbs by suffixing an "ing".

Compare to a simpler example like "Yesterday I went to a poetry reading" - here "reading" is a gerund formed from the verb "to read", but it isn't functioning as a verb. The verb in that sentence is "went", which makes it past tense.
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Old 04-28-2016, 06:38 PM   #23
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Now that I'm a bit more sober . . .

Most people don't have a very firm grasp of the different verb categories--finite, infinitive, participle, gerund, past, present, indicative, subjunctive, imperative--and yet they do things right. It's a fascinating fact about language.

FantasyXY can't tell us whether his own sentence is in the past or present tense, but I've read his "Have Faith," and it's a fine filthy romp, very nicely written. Look at this graph:

"I'm not here to judge what is or isn't a sin[,] Christian, but you have to remember what we discussed. You know Faith has never tried that before, and demanding oral sex isn't helping your marriage."

You've got your simple present ("is or isn't," "have"), simple past ("discussed"), perfect ("has never tried"), and present progressive ("isn't helping"), all correctly and appropriately used in the space of two sentences.

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Old 04-28-2016, 07:37 PM   #24
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so, while there may be opinions and taste, it doesn't really matter as long as it's done well?

also, if there's a slide from past to present, would it necessarily mean a scene break of some kind? ya-know, as is suggested for a change from first- to third-person.

oh, btw, a snerk is nothing to do with snork, snark, or ... or ... anything else.
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Old 04-28-2016, 07:52 PM   #25
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Past tense is much easier than present. Sometimes I use both, with descriptions in the present tense and actions described in the past. "Susan is a beautiful blonde with big tits. Last night we fucked."

Except that if a character is not ongoing or the story is set long ago, everything is past tense.
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