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Old 12-07-2013, 01:58 PM   #1
dickens_cider
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written entirely in present tense

I just abandoned a story with what appeared to be a decent plot because it was written entirely in the present tense.

I have a problem wrapping my mind around a tale that is supposedly describing an experience when it is also supposedly happening as I read it.

I fail to understand why an author would use this format.

Does anyone here see a useful purpose for such a style?
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Old 12-07-2013, 02:07 PM   #2
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At least it's better than being written entirely in future tense.

I personally find present tense useful in certain contained narrative passages, but not for an entire tale. As you noted, present tense just doesn't work well in Anglish storytelling, doesn't seem to flow naturally. Yes, certain very well-written stories work in present tense, but not many.

I find present tense suitable for establishing a scene, if the piece is written as something like a film treatment. I tell the reader that their eye is like a camera lens. The text tells us what the reader sees. Then I shift back to past-tense to follow the narrative.
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Old 12-07-2013, 02:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickens_cider View Post
I just abandoned a story with what appeared to be a decent plot because it was written entirely in the present tense.

I have a problem wrapping my mind around a tale that is supposedly describing an experience when it is also supposedly happening as I read it.

I fail to understand why an author would use this format.

Does anyone here see a useful purpose for such a style?
An author would use it if they felt it worked for their story -- check The Hunger Games. THG is not only present tense, but first person as well. Neither of which I care for in general, but the books were good.

I write in past tense. It's natural and it's how most of what I've read my whole life has been written.

Present tense may give a sense of urgency, of carrying the reader along with it, of the reader finding out about things at the same time the characters do or narrator does.

Have you considered going back to your story and making the verbs past tense to see if it works better for you?
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Old 12-07-2013, 02:34 PM   #4
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An author would use it if they felt it worked for their story -- check The Hunger Games. THG is not only present tense, but first person as well. Neither of which I care for in general, but the books were good.

I write in past tense. It's natural and it's how most of what I've read my whole life has been written.

Present tense may give a sense of urgency, of carrying the reader along with it, of the reader finding out about things at the same time the characters do or narrator does.

Have you considered going back to your story and making the verbs past tense to see if it works better for you?
oops - sorry to have misled you. I am not the author. I abandoned reading a story written by someone else.
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Old 12-07-2013, 02:55 PM   #5
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oops - sorry to have misled you. I am not the author. I abandoned reading a story written by someone else.
Ah, my mistake. Sorry.

At any rate, the answers still stand. And like I said, it's not something I care for in general but I wouldn't necessarily dismiss a story just for that. There would probably have to be something else I don't like for me to stop reading.
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Old 12-07-2013, 03:08 PM   #6
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I have a story written entirely in third person present tense. Pussy Rules. I did not intend to write the entire story in that format, but the first page and a half is almost entirely dialogue. When I started writing the subsequent section, the switch to past tense was rather jarring. As an experiment I reverted to past tense for the remainder of the story and left it that way. So far, no one has complained. I can't say that I would do it again, but if the situation called for it, I would give it a shot.
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Old 12-07-2013, 04:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickens_cider View Post
I just abandoned a story with what appeared to be a decent plot because it was written entirely in the present tense.

I have a problem wrapping my mind around a tale that is supposedly describing an experience when it is also supposedly happening as I read it.

I fail to understand why an author would use this format.

Does anyone here see a useful purpose for such a style?
Yep. I usually write in past tense, but present has some advantages.

For example, it's useful for establishing a "driving with no headlights" feel to a story. Past tense tends to give away more information about how things are going to turn out: "my uncle Ken was a short fellow with a wooden leg" implies that by the time we get to the narrator's present Ken will be dead.

Especially useful if you want to write a story where the narrator dies at the end. An "and then he killed me" ending is likely to break suspension of disbelief - how are you telling me this? - but present tense gets around that.
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Old 12-07-2013, 06:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dickens_cider View Post
oops - sorry to have misled you. I am not the author. I abandoned reading a story written by someone else.
I hope it wasn't mine.
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Old 12-07-2013, 07:50 PM   #9
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I hope it wasn't mine.
How many stories have you written that use present tense only?

FWIW, I scan the New Stories list virtually daily for stories in my categories of interest seeking stories that might be of interest to me, based on titles and the 'blurbs'. On any given day I abandon 30% - 50% without finishing them. So 'early bailout' coming from me doesn't mean much.
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Old 12-08-2013, 12:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickens_cider View Post
I just abandoned a story with what appeared to be a decent plot because it was written entirely in the present tense.

I have a problem wrapping my mind around a tale that is supposedly describing an experience when it is also supposedly happening as I read it.

I fail to understand why an author would use this format.

Does anyone here see a useful purpose for such a style?
Yes.
It makes as much sense to read a character's mind in the present as in the past or future.
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Old 12-10-2013, 07:34 AM   #11
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This style also works well if written in a first person style. Then it becomes more like a movie and you can follow it easier. However saying that i would not make it a long story but keep it short and sharp.
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Old 12-10-2013, 07:41 AM   #12
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Catcher in the Rye is written in first person present tense. I'm not sure the story would work as well written in past tense.
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:15 PM   #13
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I've read a few good books (and stories) in the present tense because the narrator is gone (sometimes because they die) in the end. I thought they were good, though, because I didn't really notice they were present tense until I was well into the read.

Any writing technique can cleverly be done. I don't throw any of them totally out as something I wouldn't/couldn't enjoy. Making the most of your life involves getting out of your comfort zone and experimenting--both in reading and writing in the context of this thread.

I think of it as getting your butt out of Rhode Island occasionally.
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Old 12-10-2013, 08:06 PM   #14
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I'm currently writing a series in first-person present tense. (Perhaps mine was the story dickens_cider bailed on?) One reader felt that the present tense "adds to the intensity of the story and demonstrates the uncertainty of the situation faced by the narrator"--which is what I'd been going for.

There have been some snags, though. The series began with a prologue which established the narrator as someone remembering a completed experience. I then shifted into a present-tense narration of the remembered experience for the sake of immediacy and suspense. Occasionally, though, I want the narrator to let readers "peek forward" in the story--which he can do, since the experience is in his past; but peeking forward while speaking in present tense requires the narrator to use future tense. So I end up writing sentences like, "Only later will I realize..." Such sentences serve as a periodic reminder to readers that the narrator isn't actually living the story in the moment, ergo that the present-tense narration is an artifice. I don't know if readers find it distracting to be reminded of the artifice.

Another issue: Writing in first-person present tense, I find myself naturally drawn to vocalizing the narrator's in-the-moment thoughts. I trust that makes the writing more vivid. But it also tends to make the telling longer. If I wanted to tell this story in less space, I would not use present tense. I would have the narrator always speak as someone remembering a completed experience in the past tense. I think that voice would help me produce a more condensed narration.

Last edited by talestitcher : 12-10-2013 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:34 AM   #15
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I' m fifty years old and have been a voracious reader since before I can even remember. Until a few years ago I found first - person in any tense extremely annoying and difficult to enjoy, even when written by well loved authors.

I enjoy reading in that tense now, though. Just a tad more difficulty in losing myself in a good story.

As for writing, first - person is all I'm capable of at the moment, when it comes to erotica. I can write narratively in other genres but no go with the sensual, at least not yet.

I think perhaps fear plays a great part in that. Now, to figure out what I fear and why.

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Old 12-12-2013, 11:39 AM   #16
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I think perhaps fear plays a great part in that. Now, to figure out what I fear and why.

I don't get why it would be fear. First person is the most persona of the voices. It seems a natural for erotica in which the author is interested in showing the emotion of the experience.
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Old 12-12-2013, 12:43 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Catharyn View Post
I' m fifty years old and have been a voracious reader since before I can even remember. Until a few years ago I found first - person in any tense extremely annoying and difficult to enjoy, even when written by well loved authors.

I enjoy reading in that tense now, though. Just a tad more difficulty in losing myself in a good story.

As for writing, first - person is all I'm capable of at the moment, when it comes to erotica. I can write narratively in other genres but no go with the sensual, at least not yet.

I think perhaps fear plays a great part in that. Now, to figure out what I fear and why.

That's interesting . . . both the feelings about first person, versus narrative, and your self awareness. Though you have unanswered questions, you do appear significantly self-aware, I'd say.

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Old 12-13-2013, 07:27 AM   #18
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I don't get why it would be fear. First person is the most persona of the voices. It seems a natural for erotica in which the author is interested in showing the emotion of the experience.
Hi sr71plt...

I agree. It is a natural. My problem lies in attempting to write in narrative form. Am a prolific self-editing monster on my best days, and when I attempt narrative, well, that's like adding fuel to the fire of frustration.

Think the fear is of failing to compose what I need and want to say. A writer's cross to bear though, isn't it.
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Old 12-13-2013, 07:39 AM   #19
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That's interesting . . . both the feelings about first person, versus narrative, and your self awareness. Though you have unanswered questions, you do appear significantly self-aware, I'd say.

Hi Jack...

Lol. Yes, very self-aware. Too much so. I think perhaps a lot of writers are.

Began a trial of stream of consciousness last night. Going better than I had imagined. Maybe therein lies my help with the dreaded narrative in this genre.

One can hope.
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Old 12-13-2013, 09:24 AM   #20
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Hi Jack...

Lol. Yes, very self-aware. Too much so. I think perhaps a lot of writers are.

Began a trial of stream of consciousness last night. Going better than I had imagined. Maybe therein lies my help with the dreaded narrative in this genre.

One can hope.
Indeed, one can hope. And, indeed, without it one is lost.

I guess the thing about self-awareness and the risk, if that be so, of being too self-aware can best be made useful by harnessing it; so you ride it, rather than letting it rule you . . . Perhaps your trial stream of consciousness the other night helped?

J.
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:46 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by dickens_cider View Post
I just abandoned a story with what appeared to be a decent plot because it was written entirely in the present tense.

I have a problem wrapping my mind around a tale that is supposedly describing an experience when it is also supposedly happening as I read it.

I fail to understand why an author would use this format.

Does anyone here see a useful purpose for such a style?
I did it once as a personal challenge. Although it turned out to be one of my favorite stories, there are things I'd do differently today.
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:02 PM   #22
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Indeed, one can hope. And, indeed, without it one is lost.

I guess the thing about self-awareness and the risk, if that be so, of being too self-aware can best be made useful by harnessing it; so you ride it, rather than letting it rule you . . . Perhaps your trial stream of consciousness the other night helped?

J.

It has helped a bit, I think. For some reason I feel more in the driver's seat than in the passenger's, writing this way. Pressure ' s off. Bet Freud would have a field day with that.
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:12 PM   #23
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It has helped a bit, I think. For some reason I feel more in the driver's seat than in the passenger's, writing this way. Pressure ' s off. Bet Freud would have a field day with that.
Stuff Freud! The more I hear of him the more I include he was the writing version of a windbag!

The main thing is I'm glad it's helped . . . Sounds like you're feeling free to let go and be yourself, which has to be good, doesn't it?

PS: Did you notice that I, rather cheekily, sent you a message via your Literotica page? J.
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:50 PM   #24
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Stuff Freud! The more I hear of him the more I include he was the writing version of a windbag!

The main thing is I'm glad it's helped . . . Sounds like you're feeling free to let go and be yourself, which has to be good, doesn't it?

PS: Did you notice that I, rather cheekily, sent you a message via your Literotica page? J.
It's damn good! What a change-up!

Ohhh... so THIS Jack is THAT Jack? Glad ya found me!
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:57 PM   #25
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It's damn good! What a change-up!

Ohhh... so THIS Jack is THAT Jack? Glad ya found me!
Yes. Well, I found you here first, actually . . . and, rather wanting to be in touch, caught up with you that other way; necessity being the mother of invention, and all that!

Still, I'm glad to've found you too . . .
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