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  1. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    Scenes out of order, but with same tense?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Blips, Aug 15, 2010.

    Probably a common question, but I couldn't find any related threads.

    I'm curious if I'm handling my situation correctly. I've been writing entirely in present-tense / 3rd person so far. I have 3 scenes, all written in present-tense but all 3 occur in a less than straight time line.

    I've got Scene A narrating about a specific character in an semi-isolated place. Scene A ends about 25% through scene B. The character in Scene A sees the character from Scene B just as Scene A is about to end.

    Scene B starts and follows the actions of an entirely different character. She does some stuff and about 25% of the way through the scene is when she gets spotted by the character of scene A. She remains unaware that she is seen. The woman runs off. Scene B ends.

    Scene C starts approximately 75% of the way through Scene B, continuing the narration of events of the character found in Scene A. Scene C ends sometime after the woman from Scene B running off.

    So my problem is about half of the events from Scene C have already happened. Now the reader is just seeing it from another angle. Do I continue writing this in present-tense? Should I adopt past-tense temporarily? I'm planning on staying present-tense but I'm not sure if this is the best course of action.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The whole idea of writing in the present tense is to give the reader the sense of reading about it as it is happening. In your case, that doesn't seem to be the case, so I imagine that it would be disorienting to the reader. You need to keep the time real, and linear. When it's not, I think you have to use past tense.

    Bill Bradley's book, "Life On The Run", is written in the present tense, but there are segments that are written in the past tense. Where he is describing something that is happening contemporaneously to his writing (1974), he writes in the present tense. But when he is reflecting on something that happened before that time, like during his college career, he shifts to past tense.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I am no fan of present tense narration in any case, but using it for a nonlinear chronology seems a particularly bad idea.

    The only purpose for choosing present tense is to instill a sense of immediacy, that the reader is right there in the moment. You can do the same thing with a tightly focused past tense narration, but to do it for a time-hopping narration makes no sense at all.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I pay little attention to tense when I am writing the first draft of anything. I just write the story. The go back and decide which tense it is best told in.

    My favourite to write in is first person present tense, and its seems to be working well so far, I struggle with the odd thing. I am enjoying being the in the head of my character flexibility its giving me. However for short stories I have used different styles, but after writing so much in present tense anything else feels a little flat lol.

    Why not try it both ways? Tweaking the tense of a paragraph doesn't take too much work, see what you like. With past events I just make it clear I am talking about the past. This is where present tense is easier in first person at least for me because it can set up a conversation with the reader.
     
  5. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    Is there any particular reason you dislike present tense narration? Just a personal taste?

    Reading the paragraphs now (with all three being in present tense) it doesn't feel odd and I think it's pretty clear as to what is happening... But I can't tell if that's due to my bias or not.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think what you describe is a big deal. It may strike some readers as odd at first, but I think it if it well-written most people will go with it.

    I like present tense well enough. I feel that present/past tense and POV are largely a matter of preference, though it may be harder to write in some than in others. If you've written it the way you've described and you feel it works, then go with it.
     
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  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is, and I have mentioned it many (many, many) times.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    me, too!
     

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