1. chandler245
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    chandler245 Banned

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    Is it bad to go from present to past tense

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by chandler245, Apr 30, 2009.

    With writing my book I have both past and present tense. Going back to make a memory within the book. How do you make it so that it can flow well? Any ideas or anyone out there who is doing something like that? Also can someone explain what past tense and present tense means? Maybe I don't understand it all the way.
     
  2. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I'm thinking you misunderstand. Past tense is not going back in time to show something that happened in the past; it is literally writing as if what you're showing has already happened, whereas the present tense is writing as if it is happening right now. For example...

    Past tense: "He grabbed his wallet and headed out to the car."
    Present tense: "He grabs his wallet and heads out to the car."

    Showing a brief scene that happened before the rest of your story is called a flashback. As for making it flow, it really depends on the story. I don't know how to provide any general tips for this.

    If I'm the one who misunderstands... sorry. :rolleyes:
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    very well explained by fmk!
     
  4. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I assume by the question, that you're writing the book itself in present tense and you're trying to figure out how to show past events in a way that you avoid tense switching. I would say your best bet is to use flashback segments if you're having problems with this.

    ~Lynn
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, I'm with L&L:D, I'd rpobably just write flashbacks in present tense. Or you can be even more avant garde and not seperate the two...
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me it was relatively easy because I was talking in first person. For the majority of the story, I use present tense, anything that happened before that moment in time I am describing e.g. before nine in the morning in her grade nine classroom, I switch to past tense. At that time, my character is remembering something that is relevant to the story that happened in grade three. I used * * * to create a break in the scene and tell the story about what happened in grade three in past tense because here's a fourteen year old talking about what happened when she was eight, so of course it's going to be past tense. When the story ends, I start a new chapter.

    I doubt this will make any sense at all, but the way I think of writing in present tense would be if your thoughts consciously describing what you are doing/seeing/thinking as you do/see/think them. When your character remembers something that happened before the exact moment being narrated, it's past tense.
     
  7. chandler245
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    chandler245 Banned

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    Thank you everyone. That helped a lot. It was that I was not understanding it all the way. I had someone review my first chapter of my book and they said that I was using past and present tense. I am going to go back through and see where I can improve it. I thought I was using flashback.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If you are writing the story in present tense, then using the simple past is perfect for talking about events that take place prior to the story being told.

    I walk into the store. The bright lights remind me of the hospital.

    I was lying on the hospital bed half zonked from the drugs. blah blah all in simple past.

    I'm back in the store. The store clerk stares at me funny blah blah present tense.

    This doesn't work so well if you are writing the story in the simple past because then you have to use the past perfect for prior events. In that case it is best to only use the past perfect to establish you are in a prior event then continue with simple past and be sure to ease out of the flashback so the readers are with ya. Usually, writing "now" is a good way.

    I walked into the store. The bright lights reminded me of the hospital.

    I had been lying on the hospital bed half zonked from the drugs. Then continue in simple past. Perhaps have the last line of the flash back in past perfect.

    Now, back in the store, the store clerk stared at me funny blah blah simple past.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    very good examples, arch...
     

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