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  1. Catjohnny
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    Catjohnny New Member

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    Using 'now' in past tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Catjohnny, Feb 8, 2014.

    I'm using past tense in my fiction writing. Is it right to use past tense in a tense with 'now'? Or does it have to change to present tense.
     
  2. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    You should try avoiding the use of past tense as much as possible. It is a 'weak' tense.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, it's right. "Now" can be used to denote a specific point in time in a series of events.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    What?
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    I'm not sure what you're describing.
    My first person POV is narrating a past tense story but also repeats present tense dialogue.

    Are you talking about just the word, now? Or mixing tenses? I'm confused.
     
  6. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Writing in past tense does not show actions in the same way that writing in present tense does. Writing in past tense is considered 'easier' and thus a weaker form of writing.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    To each her own. That's a generalization I don't believe holds up.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most novels are written in the past tense. Most classic novels are written in the past tense. Eh?
     
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  9. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    The answer depends on the length of the piece. When writing shorter forms of fiction you want to use present tense as much as possible because it gives the piece more 'bang for the buck.' In longer pieces it is fine to use past tense because there is a lot more time to get a point across.

    This link describes it perfectly: http://voices.yahoo.com/tips-knowing-which-tense-choose-writing-519470.html
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But that link doesn't seem to agree with your original assertion that the past tense should be avoided. It just discusses when, in the opinion of that writer, present or past tense is more effective.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    When I originally read the OP's post I thought it said fiction stories...so like I said it depends on the length. So the right answer would depend on the length of the pieces the OP is writing.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    That's no more than one person's opinion, @Lewdog. I don't believe the body of literary works supports the opinion at all, not even close.
     
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  13. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Oh come on...so I show you a link to support what I have been told by many many writers including college professors, and you simply refute it by saying "I don't believe." Oh you are going to have to do a lot better than that.
     
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  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    That's quite the claim. Care to give any examples of this?
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    That's not how it works.

    If you make an evidence based claim and cite the evidence, that's one thing. Thousands of excellent books have been written in past tense narrative. That's evidence.

    If you claim an opinion is a fact as you did, and cite a single person who holds the opinion, that's just one person's opinion.
     
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  16. Lewdog
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    ...and I clarified that, present tense is meant for shorter pieces of fiction, not novels. Novels can be written in present tense, but it takes a very polished author to pull that off.

    I'm not going to go in this round and round dance with you...I've got enough headaches in my life. :)
     
  17. AlannaHart
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    The past tense is not a weaker form of writing, even in shorter works. Neither tense is stronger or weaker, they are simply modes through which to tell a story, the story being what matters. Sentences like, "She wore a prettier dress now, having discarded the one with all the bloodstains." is perfectly fine :)
     
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  18. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Many stories are looking back in time:

    "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Auriliano Buendia was to remember the distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. " - One Hundred Years of Solitude

    The whole book is a retelling of past events and often they (other novels in past tense) lead to what the protagonist or narrator learned from it. So past tense works perfectly.

    Some writing must be in present tense, such a screenplays. There is no other way to write them and attempting to use past or future tense would likely get it thrown out at page 1.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014
  19. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I just went through my manuscript and found these:

    When the house came in view, I stopped to think. Shelburne had been a hunter all his life. He knew how to stalk game, and now I was the game. He would probably sneak back here and wait for a chance to take another shot—and one more would do it.

    And ...

    The moon rose higher and shed more light into the shadows. Now I could make out the faint outline of Shelburne’s form. He was sitting on the ground with his back against a tree.

    And ...

    She sat down. Now it was Fore’s turn, and the contrast was striking.

    And ...

    Bolt looked at the jury with a sense of foreboding. Henry Fore had done it again. He’d brought in this Krebbs idiot who was no more an expert than Bolt was. Knight had just demolished Krebbs’s theory and now sounded like he could go even further and prove that the image was authentic.

    And ...

    Fore had cautioned him not to show emotion during the trial. He tried now to curb his anguish and his hatred of the prosecutor by recalling lines from a favorite poem:

    And ...

    For reasons of security, neither man had been told when the transfer would take place. Not even their attorneys knew. Today was the day. Right now was the time.
    A guard and two marshals entered Bolt’s cell.

    And ...

    A burgundy Chevy Blazer pulled onto the highway and caught up with the gray Toyota. Blazer tapped his horn. Toyota moved ahead, passed the convoy, and Blazer now kept the convoy in view from behind.

    Many more examples, but these will give you the general idea. It works fine.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i think you may be using it too often, as a habit... none of those examples other than the first really need 'now' at all, to make good sense...

    lewdog...
    claiming unnamed professors and writers support something that none of us here have ever come across, or can agree with, does nothing to bolster your personal opinion... and what you claim to be a well-established truth is amply belied by the success of past tense novels [which vastly out number present tense ones] throughout the history of the art form and the respect paid them by critics and readers alike...
     
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  21. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    A few more examples. (Trivia question: Can you identify the author and title? All of these, and many more, are from the same novel.)

    He did not trouble himself to ask where the constellations and the planets were gone, or to regret the "black-blue" serenity of the air-ocean which those white islets stud, and which another ocean, of heavier and denser element, now rolled below and concealed.
    ---
    The highroad was now to be quitted, as the remaining distance to Hollow's Mill might be considerably reduced by a short cut across fields.
    ---
    As to the mill, which was an old structure, and fitted up with old machinery, now become inefficient and out of date, he had from the first evinced the strongest contempt for all its arrangements and appointments.
    ---
    The wagons stood still; they were now deserted.
    ---
    Mr. Moore, meantime, after stabling his dray-horses, had saddled his hackney, and with the aid of Sarah, the servant, lit up his mill, whose wide and long front now glared one great illumination, throwing a sufficient light on the yard to obviate all fear of confusion arising from obscurity.
    ---
    He stood with his hat on the back of his head, and his shillelah grasped in his dexter fist, answering much at random the questions of the newly-arrived party from the Redhouse. Mr. Moore now appeared, and was immediately confronted by the shovel hat and the shaggy pony.
    ---
    It will have been remarked that Mr. Yorke varied a little in his phraseology. Now he spoke broad Yorkshire, and anon he expressed himself in very pure English.
    ---
    As to the other guest now present in Mr. Yorke's parlour, Mr. Helstone, between him and his host there existed a double antipathy--the antipathy of nature and that of circumstances.
    ---
    He said public patience was a camel, on whose back the last atom that could be borne had already been laid, and that resistance was now a duty
    ---
    It was now the middle of the month of February; by six o'clock therefore dawn was just beginning to steal on night, to penetrate with a pale ray its brown obscurity, and give a demi-translucence to its opaque shadows.
    ---
    The mill-windows were alight, the bell still rung loud, and now the little children came running in, in too great a hurry, let us hope, to feel very much nipped by the inclement air;
    ---
    And now at last Mr. Moore quitted the mill-yard, and bent his steps to his dwelling-house.
    ---
    He had been usher in a school, and was said now to be tutor in a private family.
    ---
    This question was addressed to an individual who now entered the room, a young girl, wrapped in a winter mantle, the folds of which were gathered with some grace round an apparently slender figure.
    ---
    The morning passed as usual. Mademoiselle, ever breathlessly busy, spent it in bustling from kitchen to parlour, now scolding Sarah, now looking over Caroline's exercise or hearing her repetition-lesson.
    ---
    The former occupants of the kitchen now withdrew into the parlour.
    ---
    Cradled at last in blissful self-complacency, she took her knitting, and sat down tranquil. Drawn curtains, a clear fire, a softly-shining lamp, gave now to the little parlour its best, its evening charm.
    ---
    Mr. Moore now sat silent for several minutes. It struck nine o'clock. Sarah entered, and said that Mr. Helstone's servant was come for Miss Caroline.
    ---
    Impossible for her now to suspect that she was the sport of delusion; her expectations seemed warranted, the foundation on which they rested appeared solid.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i know you just wanted to make this a 'trivia question' but it's really not proper to post another author's work without citing the source... and doing so is also against site rules...
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Most of the body of short stories out there is in past tense. Most of the stories that are considered 'great' in the world of short stories are in past tense. Joyce's Dubliners, William Trevor, and so on. The prevalence of present tense seems to me to be a relatively recent development. I'm fine with present tense, but the idea that past tense is weaker, whether in short form or novel, is bollocks.
     
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  24. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    The novel is in the public domain, so there's nothing improper about posing this as a trivia question.
     
  25. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    What is so hard to understand? I didn't say to avoid using past tense in novels?
     

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