1. punchthedamnkeys
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    punchthedamnkeys Member

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    how do you write what a character is thinking about in the past tense?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by punchthedamnkeys, Mar 11, 2013.

    i'm writing from first person point of view through the main chacter's perspective using past tense form... when i'm talking about what the character is thinking during a PAST action event, do I have to keep pointing it out that he's thinking this?

    for example, my character is walking in the streets, and thinking to himself. can i just narrate his thoughts without pointing it out? or will that confused the reader?

    how can i clearly differentiate the narrating from what the character is thinking? i find that it doesn't look write if i keep writing "i thought about", "i started thinking about", "i remembered something", etc...
     
  2. punchthedamnkeys
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    punchthedamnkeys Member

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    is it possible to narrate what the character is thinking? i hope that makes sense..
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    You could use: 'I remember' or past perfect continuous, which is using 'had'. That's how I would do it. Also there's not need for 'I thought' in first person imo.
     
  4. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    It's first person, there's no need to worry about this issue. Even though first person sometimes sound like he's telling a story of the past to someone in the present, it doesn't mean it's true. Sometimes first person is the story of a self inside itself. For example:

    'I left the building feeling frustration build up inside me, there were many things I didn't understand. Why would my father leave me out of his will, when I was his right hand for five solid years? I couldn't comprehend the reasons or even place an excuse for such action and that made me more angry. I crossed the street without really paying attention. How much more am I supposed to offer before I am appreciated.'

    In the example above, it's first person and they are thinking in the past but never the word 'I thought, 'I recalled' or 'I remembered'. They thought about it, it's their feeling, they need not narrate it but merely state it out to us and we will understand that they had these thoughts in the past.

    Hope this helps.

    PS: Sorry if the example above has any grammar mistakes, I had to come up with it on the spot. xD
     
  5. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    Read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Apart from a couple of scene setter 3rd Person sections its entirely in the first person and recounting past events.
    It's also a damn good book. :)
     
  6. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    Yes it is. Rothfuss is brilliant.

    But I don't think that story deals with the same issue punch is trying to solve, since the narration deals primarily with action rather than thought. And it is being narrated to another person, so it is all being said aloud. Not all first person stories involve telling another person directly. Jacqueline Carey, for example, makes the first Kushiel trilogy first person past tense and implies that Phedre is writing the story down.

    Punch - In first person, if the character describes thoughts/feelings, they are always going to below to the narrator, so there is no explicit need to state that they do, in fact, belong to the narrator. There are many ways you can handle thought in first person POVs.

    Phoenix Hari suggested a good one.

    Another way would be to set up that the character is thinking. "My thoughts were muddled and confused as I walked down the street. Was I good enough at my job to last through the down-sizing? Would I be able to find work anywhere else? Did my sister actually expect me to wear that dress tonight?" That which follows the set up can be pure thought, action mingled with thought, or narration, action and thought intermingled.

    There are other ways, of course. A good way to study first person writing, and how some successful authors handled thought or narration is to read some. Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss is good. Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey is also good. Or The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. All are very well written. The Thief is much shorter than the other two, however.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it's literal thought (direct dialogue) you would use the tense he or she would have used at the time. It it's indirect dialogue, you use the tense appropriate to the content relative to the narrator's point in time.

    I know that sounds vague, but there are too many cases for a simple answer.

    Sam thought, I know I will be dead before twenty fifty.
    Sam was sure that he would be dead before twenty-fifty. (Not future tense, subjunctive voice needed a future-relative-to-then event).

    Parker thought, Jessica is a total bitch.
    Parker thought that Jessica was a total bitch.
     
  9. ChristianGrey
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    ChristianGrey New Member

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    Just an extract from a page I found via google search. Don't know if it is helpful for you or not.


     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Thanks, Cog for beating me to it. :)

    Just like he says, it's a simple matter of weaving it into the paragraph. First person or third person, it can be woven fairly easily into a narration without much fanfare.
     

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