1. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    TimeTravel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SayWhatNow?, Nov 1, 2009.

    I'll cut the crap.

    Is it acceptable to write in a first-person, present-tense, and then shift into a first-person, past-tense in the next-and all other-chapters?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, it's acceptable. Things like these almost always boil down to how well someone can write.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Present tense is nearly always a poor choice for fiction.
     
  4. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Time Traveler's Wife is written in present tense and it worked quite well, but then again the writing was very good overall and she had a unique way of separating the time travel within each chapter. She also switched back and forth between the two main character's points of view within each chapter by labeling the sections with who was telling the story, the date, and the character's ages (because sometimes there would be two Henry's in one section at the same time at different ages.)

    Another story I just read recently has some present tense mixed with past tense as the story teller is in the present telling of his past adventure to a reporter, so the past adventure part is in past tense, but scenes where he is with the reporter in the present are present tense. Granted it's not time travel, but it was an example of blending the two tenses within a story.

    I think it depends on two things to make it work, of course the writing quality is the first thing, but also the situation that the characters are in in the story as it connects to the story being told in present tense in the beginning and past tense in the rest of the story... so for example your narrator is in the present at the beginning of the story and the reader is living the current situation with them, then from there on, the rest of the story is being recalled to the reader as if it already happened.

    I find the only reason first person present tense doesn't work is when the writing is poor quality. Present tense gives a sense of urgency and puts the reader right there with the character experiencing the story with the narrator.

    I like both, present and past tense when I read depending on the story.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Present tense puts the reader in lockstep with the character, making it difficult to modulate pace. Yes, there are pieces out there which have used it successfully, but most fall face first into the dust.

    It's a rigid and crippling narrative voice. No one who has to ask should ever choose it.

    First person is tough enough to do well.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it is written as a frame story, then present tense first person, and then switching to past tense first person might be appropriate. It all depends on the story (and the context in which it is told) and how well you write.

    Terry
     
  8. n.alum
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    n.alum New Member

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    If there is one thing I have learned about Art is that their shouldn't be rules. The only rule that should exist is being able to convey a message. If you can't make people understand what you are trying to tell anyone than your work is useless. Obviously there are tools out there that help people understand how to do things. But everything in art should in my view be considered limitless!
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't mistake advice for rules. If a particular way of writing something is extremely difficult to do well, it's poor advice to recommend it when there is another, more straightforward approach that is much more likely to turn out well.

    Any advice can be rejected. But if someone asks, you really should assume they are seeking advice, even if it turns they are really only looking for someone to agree with their idea.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where'd that term come from, terry, and what does it mean to you?
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    An example of a frame story might be Hadji Murat by Tolstoy, or perhaps Interview with a Vampire. The frame story is a narrative that contains the narrative of the secondary story. For instance, with Hadji Murat, the story begins in the present with a character reminded of a story from his past, which he then recounts as the (third person) narrator. So the frame story is the man in the field telling a story, and the contained/secondary narrative is the story he tells. Th situation is similar in Interview; the frame story is the interview itself, which takes place in the present, and the contained/secondary narrative is the past which is being narrated.
     
  12. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    It could easily complicate things and throw off the reader. I think it's better to pick one or the other, although present tense can really limit you as a writer.
     

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