1. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    Regular switching of tenses when writing an inner monologue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cs2212, Mar 25, 2012.

    At the moment I am writing a story following the inner monologue of a single character throughout a day (explained in another thread so I won't spam about the plot too much here.)

    The 'voice' in the story is regularly jumping from past to present tense throughout the story, I was wondering if anybody knows of any other books written with first person flashbacks that might be good for me to read to get a feel of how that is presented to the reader?

    I think its an important device as it reflects the way she thinks by having a more obejective and reflective but also biased 'present' set of thoughts about an event laid out in past tense and then flashing back to describe the event and her thoughts in present tense.

    But I want to make sure the distinction and separation between the two is really clear. At the moment I am currently either splitting the story with line breaks between paragraphs or starting a new chapter. But this seems like quite a blunt instrument to use given that the point is meant to be that the memories are pervading her present thoughts.

    Im just not sure if I like the clear separation in presentation, but I think the message could be completely Lost and just look like confusing writing if the thoughts were more closely merged. I could state that she is now 'having a flashback' instead, but I am trying to avoid using anything particularly expositional other than in situations where she has a particular reason to be contemplative and replay information. (Ie you wouldn't say in your own head 'my thoughts flashed back to x' they would just do it.)
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I'd break up the different scenes with an empty space with the # symbol in the middle of the line.

    And I totally agree with you - it's best to not actually state that it's a flashback.
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Switching tenses isn't a problem in itself, as long as the tenses are consistent with a fixed narrative point in time (or, rather, one moving forwards at the normal rate of sixty seconds per minute). If the character says "I enjoyed the meal I had at the new restaurant yesterday, so although I can't get there today I think I'll go back there tomorrow" then you have past, present and future all in one sentence. There are problems with the sentence (like, I think it should be at least two sentences), but the mixing of tense isn't one of them.
     
  4. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    That is reassuring because it pretty much hits on exactly the concern I had that from a technical perspective the 'voice' could be seen as bad writing and mixed tense.

    I've had a little bit of a change of heart since the original post though. I've decided I want to focus on all the flashbacks as past tense and give the character more opportunity to think critically both about what they felt at the time and then contrast to their feelings now where appropriate.

    I think that mechanism will maybe work better as otherwise I need to put in a full flashback expressing 'present' feelings and then do a dump somewhere later on when they reflect on the flashback before, where in reality they would feel the present feelings at the same time as analysing the past ones...if that makes sense.

    I know what I mean, sorry if this post has become 'thinking aloud/a-forumy'.
     

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