1. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    "Now" with past tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Quanta, Jul 2, 2017.

    Is there a rule of thumb of when you can or cannot use it?
    Sometimes it seems obvious, sometimes not.

    The storm had past and now the sky was clear.
    She realized just now she'd been taken for a fool. (?)
    She was going to leave right now.
    I'm leaving right now, she thought.
    She thought she should leave right now. (?)
     
  2. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    I've always been uneasy about using things like "now" and "today" in past tense narrative, but realistically I think it's pretty universally accepted. I think all the examples you listed are fine.
     
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  3. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

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    I'm uneasy too. It makes me surface as a reader, so I work around it as a writer.
    Personally I'd reword lines 1 thru 3. The storm past and gave way to a clear sky etc..

    4 and 5 I don't seem to have issue with.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Try replacing now with immediately. :)
    Or some form of haste that fits your
    story. :)
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My gut reaction is:

    Fine, though if the "now" worries you it's not needed; it could just as easily be

    The storm had passed and the sky was clear.

    This one doesn't work for me. I would rewrite it as

    She realized that she had just been taken for a fool.

    I don't like it. I would change it to something like

    She was going to leave immediately.

    However, I would be fine with:

    She was done, and now she was going to leave.

    I don't know what the difference is for me.

    This is a direct literal thought, so there's no reason why it shouldn't be in present tense.

    Also doesn't work for me. But the following would. (I wrapped some context around it.)

    She paced up and down, arms folded, her unease growing. What did James mean? This was a bad idea. She should leave right now.

    Returning to add: I think that the closer the "now" is to the character's thoughts/feelings, the more I find it acceptable. But that's not a grammar rule.
     
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  6. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    I made up these sentences for the purpose of the thread, but working on my manuscript, I just rephrase when I'm unsure.
    Now that you mention it, I realize that I've had the same uneasiness about "today" in past tense. I'll take a closer at my use of it too.
    I think I tend to use "now" more often to highlight the now vs then kind of thing than for immediacy. I'll have to double check and while I'm at it, I'll get rid of as many nows as can. If I'm using the word often enough to worry about it, I'm probably using it too often.
    Makes sense. Let's see if I can apply this not-a-grammar-rule to my writing. Thanks for your detailed analysis:)
     
  7. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    It sure makes me surface as a writer. I'll try to notice how it is used in what I read, and I'm not a big fan of present tense, so...
     
  8. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I don't mind now or today in a past tense work. Now to me doesn't mean 7/3/2017 (when I posted this,) it means now in the context of whatever I'm doing. To me, it also actually helps draw me into their world because it's from the point of view of the character. To me, being immersed in the world isn't just taking me to the place, but also the time. It's no different to me than using "here" in physical space. Example.

    A quarter of a million miles away from a tiny capsule, The United States stirred as the dark side of the planet receded and daylight washed over it. Public excitement had been growing: a decade's worth of fortune, intellect, and politics had been building up to a day that would change history. That day was today.

    The last sentence to me helps draw me into the world that the story is taking place is. I don't think I could have quite the same effect if I just told you that the story is taking place on 7/20/1969.
     
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  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    And "that day was today" in that paragraph makes me cringe. "That day had come" I'm fine with.

    I think this is one of those things that isn't right or wrong, but that some people really don't like.

    I keep trying to come up with a Unifying Theory of Time in Fiction that somehow addresses all the layers of time in a story - the time characters in the story may refer to, the time of the story itself, the time of the narration, the time of the reading... and the problem with "now" or related words is that it's not necessarily clear which of those "now"s we're dealing with.
     
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  10. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I'm pretty much in accord with Chicken Freak on this. "Now" is commonly substituted for the clumsier "at this point" (which is two syllables shorter than "immediately), but "presently" is also a good choice. As for #2, I'd go with "She realized just then that she'd been taken for a fool."
     
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