1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    Using the word 'Now' and tense.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by essential life, Jan 19, 2010.

    I'm no good with tense. So, just to keep it simple and avoid mistakes, I wrote my entire story in past tense. Everything my character thinks and does (except dialogue) is in that tense. And I'm fine with that. However, there is one little weird thing.

    The character is thinking the following statement. Which is correct:

    1. I had to get my homework done, but I didn't feel like doing it now.
    2. I had to get my homework done, but I didn't feel like doing it then.

    I think 2 is technically correct. But sometimes 1 just sounds better.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The second is correct, the first is not.

    If the first sounds better, you apparently have been exposed to incorrect usage so much you've become accustomed to it.
     
  3. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    Thanks for clearing that up!
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to add: if your character 'is thinking the following statement' it should be like dialogue, e.g:
    I couldn't be bothered to even open the books in front of me. I have to get my homework done, but I don't feel like doing it now, I thought.
     
  5. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    A couple of days ago, I posted this message under is/was. It was over looked, so I am shifting it to here.
    _________________

    I have also seen 'now' written in the past tense, which I find odd.

    She was okay now.
    Now was the time for her to ...

    Another one is 'here' written in the third person, past tense.

    I haven't got an exact example but something like this ...
    There will be a descriptive passage and then the line, 'She liked it here'.
    I would be tempted to write. She liked it 'there'.
     
  6. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I would just end the sentence with it.

    I had to get my homework done, but I didn't feel like doing it.

    What I was taught, is that the reader, in the absence of other clues, assumes you are writing in chronological order. Unless you are writing out of order, tags like now, then, later, first are often unnecessary.
     
  7. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    'Here' and 'there' are deictic adverbs, Zaff. They act like situational references to tell 'where' and 'when' of a speaking act. 'Here' is a lot closer than 'there' and, for the fictional author wanting to draw the reader into a novel, 'here' places the reader really close to the main character and IN the scene. 'There' in the narrative places the narrator out of the scene, along with the reader. Both have their place in fiction, it's just judging where best to use them...
     
  8. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    The one that sounds better probably sounds better because we're so used to talking differently than how we're actually supposed to write.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    And deixis is the key to the original queston about "now". There are loads of words that depend on knowing the speaker and the speaker's situation for their interpretation (the classic example is finding a message in a bottle saying "Meet me here tomorrow with one about this big". Who? Where? When? What? How big?). The "I didn't" at the start positions the speaker looking back at something in the past, so "then" refers to the already referenced time in the past, "now" refers to the time at which the speaker is speaking.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    "Now" is used all the time in novels to show that we are no longer in the perfect past telling of a story, and are back to the telling of the past story.

    So the author will use a phrase to show that they are going back in time to an older scene than the scene we were reading. To bring us back out of that more distant past scene, the author will use the word "now."

    Now, Johnny flexed his fists.


    Although it might be technically wrong, it is a well established technique.
     
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I agree with dropping either "then" or "now." I don't think "chronological order" is precisely what this example illustrates or requires. But it's perfectly clear that the narrator "didn't feel like doing it" at the same time he had to get it done (maybe this falls into the category of having other cues). So, to use either "then" or "now" is both unhelpful (to the meaning of this sentence) and excessive.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    still mixing tenses... 'couldn't' has to be 'can't' to match present tense of the rest...

    misuse of 'now' and 'here' and 'this' in past tense is one of the most common goofs i have to correct in mentees' work... it's hard for me to understand why i must so often go to such great lengths to explain why they're wrong, when it seems abc simple and clear to me!
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, sort of. Madhoca actually wrote "Just to add: if your character 'is thinking the following statement' it should be like dialogue". Had she actually written it as "dialogue" (technically, "direct reporting of thought processes") then we would have had:
    I don't see any problems with tense there.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as posted, it reads as if both sentences are what she thought... and that's what i was correcting... if only the second is the thought and the first is narrative, then the whole thing is confusing and should be rearranged to make that clear...

    without seeing the two in context, it's hard to be sure what was meant...
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is why I agreed with you -- at least to the extent of "Well, sort of" ;)
     

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