1. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    When past tense saturates language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mercury12000, Jan 7, 2012.

    The vast majority of fiction is written in past tense, that's normal. Sometimes, though, I get too conscious of that fact as I'm writing. I feel like my suffix's are are big ugly warts all over the page. Too many words ending in -ed and it bothers me. He opened the door, paused, then he stepped inside.

    This is probably just me making mountains out of mole hills, but I do want to rein it in a bit.
     
  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    You don't really have a choice. Otherwise you start mixing different tenses.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    why not writing in present then, and see if it works better?
     
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although it might bother you I think that something like this is more or less invisible to the reader. Had you not highlighted the "-ed" on each word I doubt I would have noticed.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As has been noted above, if writing in past tense bugs you, write in present tense. There has been a little bit of a trend in that direction recently.
     
  6. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    lol... easy answer.
     
  7. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    What other answer is there? If you don't like past tense, don't write past tense.
     
  8. ClusterChuck
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    ClusterChuck Senior Member

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    I've tried second person future tense. Let's just say it got a bit jangly...

    Try writing a piece from past tense first person. If the character says "I saw, or I ran, or I cajogaled, back in my Irish Welcher days"... Well you might find a more natural fit for you than the omnipresent; "Then he ran and doomed and regaled...."

    What i'm saying is, it might be the prespective. Try passing it to your characters see how it fits.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write in present tense. Past tense annoys me, but after I write the first paragraph or so, I fall comfortably into any tense. I do prefer the feel of writing present tense, though.

    Writing past tense makes me feel too distant. I like the idea that the action is actually happening while I'm reading/writing it. I enjoy creating stories, so why would I waste time recounting them as though they've already happened?
     
  10. hoggyboy
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    hoggyboy Senior Member

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    you couldve said instead using same past tense: he opened the door, pausing before he stepped inside....

    less of the ed thing your worried about, but really its not a problem :)
     
  11. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a good point, but sentences of this type get repetitive quickly.
    "Opening the door, he paused before stepping inside. He looked around, walking toward the kitchen." See? But even that's better than, "He opened the door, paused, and then stepped inside. He looked around, and then walked toward the kitchen."
    One is repetitive and annoying. The other is emotionally lacking and annoying.
     
  12. hoggyboy
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    hoggyboy Senior Member

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    or if you dont wanna make it repetitive you could have instead of: "Opening the door, he paused before stepping inside. He looked around, walking toward the kitchen"
    opening the door, he paused before stepping inside. He turned on the switch to discover three men waiting for him, each armed with a pistol, and each with a deadly look in their cold eyes.

    ...same thing i know, just wanted to make it more exciting :p
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    A string of present tenses is even worse, IMO: He opens the door. Pauses. He steps inside.
    The problem is not with the past tense, it's that you are micro-writing his movements with very bland verbs. Don't give a string of actions like that.
    Just something like:
    He jolted to a standstill on the threshold (what does he see? why does he pause? e.g. 'Lady Agatha's portrait hung in tatters. A scrap of canvas stirred in the draft from the open door. It came to rest by his boot, and her painted eye glared up at him.')
    Your next sentences will follow on from the questions above (how does he feel? what does he do? etc)
     
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  14. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Very excellent advice in this thread. Thanks guys.
     
  15. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I cannot stand present-tense most of the time. It feels so awkward. I can't read it or write it much. I agree with the poster who said that it's not the tense, it's the word choice.
     
  16. cmbrnt
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    cmbrnt New Member

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    The writing style that irks me the most is first person, present tense. I read an entire book consisting of sentences such as "I walk into the room and I instantly notice my father staring at me. The fear strikes me and I drop the glass of milk onto our rug, where the drips splash in every direction."

    It took me two weeks reading that book, and I gave up several times before deciding on finishing it anyway.
     
  17. Show
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    ^^^^I agree, it's brutal. lol Third-person present is better, but still, present-tense at all just constantly reminds me that I am reading a book. Makes it impossible for me to get lost in it. Maybe I'm alone, maybe not. But IMO, one should not feel compelled to write in any particular tense that feels awkward. Use the tense that feels the most natural to you, the writer. If you feel uncomfortable with your work, chances are that the reader will too.
     

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