1. Jen Littlest-hobo

    Jen Littlest-hobo New Member

    Dec 31, 2011
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    Harrogate, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

    Another writer with past and present tense issues.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jen Littlest-hobo, Dec 31, 2011.

    Hey guys,
    i've been writing a short story which i am going to turn into an animation at uni and here in-lies my problem. because in the back of my head i've always known it's final manifestation would be on screen, i have really struggled between seeing a scene animated in my head and a conventional style of story writing. someone pointed out that i drastically flop between past and present tense and although i now see it, i'm still not sure i understand how i'm going wrong or more to the point, how to correct it. i've read it through so many times that it just sounds right the way i've written it. i've tried rewriting in past and then in present, but if i could just post my original first few paragraphs, would anyone be willing to highlight where i have gone astray? because now i just feel i'm polluting it with a lot of "had" and "did".
    The rain undulated toward the city street as if gravity had become intermittent or the clouds were undecided about whether to relinquish their load. On a bench, a young girl is perched; her feet hovering inches above the concrete. Tendrils of black sodden hair creep across her face, her hood having served little purpose for some time now. She lingers there, as the swells of people surge around her.
    A delicate scent dispersed by the rain and barely able to contend with the acrid smog was a sufficient morsel to entice the closest figures to scramble for the source. The embers of her diminishing soul had a delicious, feint aroma which was detectable by the large, crooked noses that were leading a contortion of the surrounding faces. Her soul flickers meagrely as though the rain could be enough to extinguish it completely; but the dim glow goes unnoticed. As their faces draw closer they reveal barren eye sockets and cracked, weeping lips which part only to let tongues, like black sludge, pour out of their faces to lap up the flecks of her dissipating soul. The baited crowd clambers through the shadows, hands groping frantically for the evasive delicacy.
    As the girl slides off the bench, her feet find a puddle. The water spills over the ankles of her shoes forming new puddles around her toes. She weaves through the bodies as she traverses the city in the seamless action of an apparition. The girl, barely tall enough to cast a shadow is engulfed by the blockade of encircling skyscrapers, which obligingly emphasise her insignificance.
    Small, purposeful steps carry her through the city; she is also chasing something. Something she has forgotten or something she misplaced. Her thoughts are disengaged from what it is or how she will find it as she concentrates on navigating the ground which has begun to rise and fall beneath her feet. Smog, like gnarled, white fingers has begun to coil around her ankles and as she scans the terrain, she strains to find her next steps, the quivering flames of the streetlamps providing scarce enough light.

    any help would be much appreciated, thank you very much
  2. Kallithrix

    Kallithrix Banned

    Feb 25, 2011
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    There are only two sentences in past tense (underlined). Put these in present tense and you solve your problem.

    It's not particularly a style of writing I like, but it's perfectly ok to write in present tense.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    only the bold verbs are in past tense, all the rest [underlined] are present...

    if you're writing prose, what you have there is almost okay tense-wise, but scripts [whether for live action or animation] are always written in only present tense... simple declarative present, to be exact [with no 'ing' verb endings]... the reason being that they lay out what is SEEN and HEARD by the audience and what the actors must do/say in 'real time'...

    so, when you adapt this story to film, you'll have to learn to use only present tense and write in a much leaner/cleaner style...
  4. digitig

    digitig Contributor Contributor

    Jan 21, 2010
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    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Don't think of it in terms of tense and having to stick to one tense consistently. Think of it in terms of when the narrator is doing the narration. There's nothing wrong with mixing tenses as long as it makes sense from that point of view. The narrator might narrate things that happened in the past, might narrate things as they are going on or might mix the two. As long as you use past tense for things that have already happened from the narrator's point of view and you use present for things as they happen from the narrator's point of view (and future for things that will happen in the future from the narrator's point of view, although that can be clumsy for other reasons) then your tenses should be ok.

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