1. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    Introverted thinking protagonist and present tense fiction.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Fluffywolf, Jul 29, 2012.

    Hi all. I'm writing a fictional story at the moment in which the lead protagonist and perspective from which the book is written is an introverted thinker.

    Although I started to write the story at first in the standard past tense which most believe is the only way you should write fiction. I couldn't help but keep shifting to present tense in order to allow my character to be dynamic in the story. So I changed to present tense, and found it is much easier to write the story. Still, because you can't completely avoid past tense alltogether, unless you write a screenplay or something, I've been using literal thoughts as a way to describe past events that are important to the protagonist.

    Anyhow, I have two questions.

    1. What is the general consensus on present/past tense for fiction from the more experienced writer's on this forum? Should I keep writing present tense, or really consider finding a way of making it work in past tense?

    2. Can you recommend any stories/books that have a dominantly introverted and thinking protagonist which I could read for some reference? Most books I have read tend to have the most extraverted and colorful protagonists you can think of, but that's an entirely different dynamic style of writing.
     
  2. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    It would definitely be easier for me if you could post a few sentences of your past-tense-transition-to-present tense, otherwise, you are leaving me to my own mind to wander through a myriad of possibilities and that would take a great deal of time, all that supposing ...
     
  3. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    This is when the protagonist wakes up after sleeping on a wooden floor.

    In my older past tense story it went like this:


    ---
    Kaynin felt uncomfortably warm. Finding himself unable to move as he tried to turn. His body felt heavy. Although gradually waking up, his eyes were not willing to open just yet. He pondered wether or not the floor had been a good choice after all.
    ---



    The thing is, there was not much character dynamic, and I felt like adding in his thoughts in italic to create more depth and allow the reader to be closer to the protagonist, but in past tense it first ended up like this:


    ----
    Kaynin felt uncomfortably warm. Finding himself unable to move as he tried to turn. His body felt heavy. Although gradually waking up, his eyes were not willing to open just yet. Perhaps the floor wasn’t such a good idea after all.
    ----


    I didn't feel like I could fit the thoughts from a first person perspective into the story, when I write the story in the past tense. It just felt wrong to add the thoughts in an immidiate present tense form. (I know the thought speaks in past tense, but it gives a sense that the thought is happening now.)

    So I ended up writing the story like this:


    ----
    It’s warm - so warm. Trying to turn, he realizes that he is not able to move much. His body feels heavy. Although he is starting to wake up, his eyes are still unwilling to open. Perhaps the floor wasn’t such a good idea after all.

    (Only Kaynin's thoughts are written in italic form, so that removes a lot of need for mentioning his name as well.)
     
  4. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Be sure to read the other recent thread on italicized thought. There is not consensus, but the "no italics" camp is ahead in the debate.

    I don't see the need for present tense outside the thoughts. It is uncommon for a story to be in present tense, and a rare one that I like. I think you can combine first person present thoughts with 3rd past tense.

    It’s warm - so warm, Kaynin thought. He tried to turn, but realized that he couldn't move much. Why does my body feel so heavy? Although gradually waking up, his eyes were still unwilling to open. Perhaps the floor wasn’t such a good idea after all.
     
  5. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    On italics:

    He thinks a lot in the story, and saying Kaynin thought, pondered, wondered and whatnot a thousand times is a bit repetitive.
    If it wasn't for the amount of thinking, I would agree that no italics is better. But I resorted to using italics mainly because of the amount of thoughts I put in the story. As a means to make the character more alive. Since writing every thought out into 3rd perspective created too much of a distance between the reader and the protagonist.



    So, I suppose my main issue is combining present thoughts with 3rd past tense, without the use of "he thought" etc. But you kind of need that to explain the transition of present thought and 3rd past tense, no?

    Anyhow, that's why I had decided to go present tense with the story, that way you can make those transitions without using "he thinks, he wonders, etc.".
    But hmm, there's a lot of bias against using present tense in fiction and now I'm not so sure anymore. :D
     
  6. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Just blend it into the prose. There's no need to italics here imo. I read that excerpt without getting mixed up. Why not just make the thoughts past tense as well? I find it kinda of odd that the thoughts are present tense yet the prose is past tense...just make it all the same.

    Present tense or past tense, you don't need to add a 'he thought', 'she thought'. It blends well with third person limited already.

    If you want to use present tense, use it. I actually read a book in present tense and I really liked it (thus why I'm trying it on my story, it's fun so far) Although, it can be hard to pull off right. But for me, the tense of the story seems to fade over time unless I hit an awkward sentence or something.

    Hope that helped.
     
  7. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    Yeah, I'm just eager to post my story in the workshop, but I'll have to wait two weeks for that. I think I'll be able to get some good reviews then as people will have a the bigger picture to read from. :D

    Present tense isn't too hard to pull of for me. Occasionally I trap myself into past tense, but a quick re structuring of the sentences usually does the trick. There are plenty of ways of incorporating past events into the present tense when your protagonist lives mostly inside of his head. :)

    I'm glad to hear more people are trying present tense though. All books I've read are in past tense, knowing there are also good books in present tense is nice to know. :D
     
  8. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I'm not one for rules and really don't understand all the variables grammar has to offer. My stance is simple: write a good story. Don't get sidetracked by the rules. Make it believable, make it emotional, and make it your own. Most of all, be loyal to your characters. Let them be who they are and that includes how they speak. If they all sound the same they're going to be boring.

    edit: look at how we interpreted this differently, how we responded to your position of words. This is why it is so important to write your own story your own way. It has to make sense to you and you have to love it, otherwise, why would we?
     
  9. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    First one is miles better than the others. The only major difference between 1 and 2 is that in 2 the narrator is quoting the protag's thoughts verbatim, and in 1 the narrator is paraphrasing, or keeping it 'within the narrative'. They are both close to the character.

    Also note that 2 can be written like 1, sans the italics: Kaynin felt uncomfortably warm. Finding himself unable to move as he tried to turn. His body felt heavy. Although gradually waking up, his eyes were not willing to open just yet. His back ached. Maybe the floor hadn't been such a good idea after all.

    Present tense is common in literary fiction. You may find it easy to write, but you've got a ways to go before writing it well. In the same way that good First Person storytelling isn't Third Person with the pronouns switched around, good present tense is so much more than all of your 'was's and 'weres' changed to 'is' and 'are'. Requires completely rethinking how the story is told.
     
  10. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    Much appreciated. I already spitted out 60 pages in no time at all, but I'm considering making two versions at this point. I simply don't know which style I want to use right now, so any opinion is appreciated. I also might have to rethink my approach to the protagonists dominant thinking tendencies. I mean I won't change the character, but the way I approach the character in the story.
     
  11. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Here's a thought. Consider your voice. You can write in whichever tense you choose so long as you do it well. The Hunger Games is written in present tense and it doesn't disrupt the flow. The thing of it is, The Hunger Games is written in First person. If you really want to be successful at present tense fiction try first person. if it doesn't work, write your best with whatever tense you think is best and don't let any WRITER tell you its hard to read without them having read your work. No two authors write the same. Let them become READERS so they can tell you if 1st person made it uncomfortable for them. and if they are considerate critics at all, they'll look for ways to improve the tense you've chosen instead of jumping down your throat and saying " change it to past tense."

    As I said any tense can be used, its all a matter of your skill ;D I believe you can write a great novel in present tense. The present tense section here just seemed just so much more natural. I would tweek some things to improve your voice, but there is nothing wrong with your choice of tense.

    This piece flows better and reads easier, not because of the choice in tense, but because of the skill level of the writer who posted. It has a solid voice and a nice flow, but could easily be matched in present tense by someone with the same level of skill.

    So there. ;)
     
  12. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    This is also very true. This is what I am getting at. You have to rethink the voice you take when you choose your tense. Choose the tense you work best in and love the story you tell. its urs afterall ;D
     
  13. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    Coincidentally it is close to my voice too though, which might make that a good focus point for me at this time. :D

    I'll sit on it some more, play around with some of my passages and see what fits me best. Since it is the first big story I'm working on, it's also a learning experience for me after all. :)
     
  14. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    THIS^^^. I would rep you if I could. (Need to spread some around first lol) Don't let anyone tell you to 'change it because you're bad at it' or something. That's where improvement comes in! Challenge yourself :D

    Good luck with the story~ :D
     
  15. Fluffywolf
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    Fluffywolf Member

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    Thanks, I think I am finding my voice a bit better considering peoples advice here. Now I'm a bit stuck up on future tense though, so I have one more question!

    Should I avoid sentences like "With any luck he will be unloading the new wares tomorrow afternoon." or is it fine to use future tense like this?

    Also stating matter of facts, is it fine to use present tense for those? Sentences like "It is widely believed that blah blah...", or should I ignore those statements and let the readers figure it out for themselves?
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hunger Games - present tense and not an awful lot of dialogue to my memory
    Confessions of Edward Day - it's in 1st person so quite a bit of thinking in it

    Write in present tense if you want - just be careful not to switch tenses half way through that's all.
     
  17. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Do you mean he would be? Correct me if I'm wrong, but will sounds awkward. Yes, that's fine. You can switch tenses when talking about something that is going to happen in the future. :D

    I think so. I mean, changing it to 'was' would imply it's not longer believed to be that. While 'is' implies that it's still believed to be that lol
    (confusing right?)

    Hope this helped :D

    As for the book suggestions for Present, first person, try:
    Where She Went - Gayle Forman (This book inspired me to chose first person, present tense!)
     

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