1. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Tense and 'Doubt.'

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OJB, Nov 26, 2016.

    Hello,

    So I am not here to start a debate, but I have a question. I am writing a Fantastical Horror (This is where both the reader and the MC does not know if the events in the story are uncanny or supernatural.) so I am trying to create 'doubt' in the narrative, and I have a question about tense.

    Should I write in present tense or past tense to better the elements of 'doubt' or 'uncertainty' I want to create?

    I can write in either tense with relative ease. Really there is no POV or Tense that bothers me in terms of reading or writing.

    Right now I am writing in present tense. I did not pick present tense cause I wanted to be part of some millennial movement in writing or any nonsense like that. I just picked a tense and ran with it with no thought towards it what so ever. After I had a few reviewers read my stuff, some of them were surprised that I wrote in first-person present-tense. (My theme is the reason I write First-person.) Later, I was told that past tense gives 'more options' in terms of writing, but these options have not been explained to me. I know time-traveling in your story is one of them, but I have no interest in showing events out of order, nor do I want to foreshadow events though my MC's internal dialogue/narration. (I have other characters that do plenty of foreshadowing.)

    Let me know your thoughts.
    Thank you.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I honestly don't think there's a difference in terms of what you can do with different tenses. But some readers seem to passionately dislike present tense, so I don't generally use it.
     
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  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Oh yeah, I found that out the hard way. (Present tense scum I believe I was called. Couldn't believe it.)
     
  4. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hunger Games was written in the present tense. I think you'll be fine lol. I wrote my self-pubbed book in the present tense. For me, I honestly don't even notice what tense I'm reading anyway, and as for writing, both the present and the past tense come naturally to me. I don't care for the tense debate myself, nor do I understand why or how someone could hate something so trivial. Choose whichever one you want. If written well, I'm not sure the tense would have much of an impact really.

    Mind you, Nabokov wrote his in the present tense - that scumbag! A short piece with an unreliable narrator :)
    http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~mazalek/projects/aleppo/nabokov.html
     
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  5. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    Past tense is used when the author is in what we call in video games "god mode". The author is looking over an expanse of reality. The final event in a story might have happened a second ago. Present tense conveys more of an on-the-scene mortal point of view. I don't think it's defined or planned this way. I think in the one sense, new writers see the previous writers have used a particular approach more than another, so come to sense that as a standard of sorts - and the other a specialty.

    I think it just feels safer to function in "god mode" 'cause you can know or understand some things as the story teller that in present tense may require some accounting for, thus possibly adding layers of complication. Both types of work have an over all air about them, and the conventional one would probably be the most preferred.

    If you're looking for any good reason why one should be used over the other, I don't think there really is one. "Publishers would rather see the one and not the other" could be a good reason. Then again, it could be arbitrary interference with the creative process for the sake of sales based on perceived popularity.
     
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  6. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Thank you for the example! I'm am always looking examples and literature that is in the same vein as what I am going for.

    I'm not 'worried' mostly curious. Most likely I'll keep present, but before I make my final decision I wanted to inform myself as much as I can on the subject.

    I'll glad you said this. While not the main theme of my story, the MC often believes that if God exists he must enjoy the suffering of mankind. Doubt is a real mortal trait.
     
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  7. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think if you searched the forum, there's a whole thread debating the issue :) I'm not too sure there's really much to be informed about really - as with any writing tool, there're pros and cons. I think whether the present tense would be perfect for your work will depend on the work itself. An unreliable narrator might benefit from the past tense because he could be recalling events in an inaccurate or misleading manner, whereas a character trying to work out some dilemma in the present situation might benefit from the immediacy of the present tense. What you're asking for, if the advice is to be of any real value, is really highly specific to your work - and only you know your work right now, so... :coffee: Anything less specific than that would likely mean the tense doesn't matter, so long as it's written well.
     
  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I can't see what difference the tense will make to the effect you're trying to create. I'm one of those who passionately hates present tense, so I would say do it in past, but I don't think it offers any more or any fewer 'options'.
     
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  9. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Thank you for your reply. I am curious on the why. Is it like how people don't like to read Erotica, causes it offends them? (not saying present-tense offends you, just suggesting it is not your cup of tea.)
     
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    It sounds unnatural to me, and it sucks all of the tension out of the story (which I know is counterintuitive).
     
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  11. Peper Shaker

    Peper Shaker Member

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    I think present tense that works, has to work for a reason. I dislike reading present tense myself because usually it's a choice and does not have a reason behind it.

    Things that happen, when they happen they stay in the past. So, life is basically written in past tense :D

    I'm not a hater though, I'm just a disliker.
     
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Either tense will work here. You should go with your preference. I don't think either will be better or worse at creating doubt.
     
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  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You're confusing tense and POV. Either present or past tense can be used with an omniscient POV. Neither is limited to omniscient POV. Choices of POV, tense, and the like, are often down to preference of the author, as there is rarely something you can do with one that you can't do with another.
     
  14. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Honestly, both feel pretty natural to me. The one real reason I am leaning more toward present has to do with the idea of the MC of not surviving the story (she often fears that her quest will result in her death.) Logic tells me if MC dies, she would not be able to retell her story (I write in first-person, and not in third.) Not saying she does die, just saying for me real-life Horror is about being unsure of an outcome.

    These just ideas I am exploring lol. My third draft is where I go for broke, so I have some time before I finalize anything, just getting opinions and info.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Just because a story is written in past tense does not mean the character is retelling it. In fact, that's an unwarranted assumption to make unless the author indicates it as such. There are plenty of stories in past tense that the character couldn't have retold. There are also first person stories that continue right up to the character's death and can't possibly be the character narrator. That's just never a good assumption to make based on tense or POV alone.
     
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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You're assuming that with past tense, the story is being told from a time beyond the end of the story. But that's only one of the many options for past tense.

    In present tense, each event is assumed to be told in the instant that it happens. In past tense, it's told after it happens. But "after" can be a millisecond after, or a century after. So past tense and present tense can be functionally the same, in terms of doubt and suspense.

    Imagine that you tell your friends, as you walk back from the Starbuck's counter, "I got iced tea instead." The fact that you used past tense doesn't mean that you know what's going to happen next. And if a moment later you say, "Oh, my God! A car in the parking lot just blew up!" you, again, don't know what's going to happen next, even though you used past tense--and you didn't know, when you used past tense to refer to the iced tea, that the car was going to blow up. You are using the past tense to refer to events that are just barely, barely past.
     
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  17. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Thank you for the information you two. I've not had a lot of luck finding any solid information on Narrative Modes and how they function. Just very bias blog post, that have obviously lead me to make bad assumptions. Even the books I have don't go into it.
     
  18. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    I'm not confusing the two, I'm adding the one to this. First person, present tense. Or, are you chicken?
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It's useful to make it clear who you're responding to.
     
  20. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    @Denegroth I am going to have to agree with @Steerpike .
    Tense is not the same a POV. Past or Present, in first
    is far more controlled, than in third.

    First POV is limited to the MC, as where in Third POV
    one can know every thing all at once. Even in limited
    third, gives more free rein than you could ever get
    in first.

    So past is a re-account/retelling of the events in the story,
    and present is happening right now in the moment.

    I hope this clears up this whole mix up.
     
  21. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    No. Tense is not the same as point of view. You can't agree or disagree with it. It's fact, not opinion. You may think you can agree that water is wet, however...since water is wet it's not open to debate.

    Still, the point I'm making about the who and when creating an aura about the speaker, or teller, is true, and is in your bag of tools as an author. You do have to use the right tool for the job, and you also have to know how to use the tool.
     
  22. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Let us all take a deep breath, you all just said the same thing lol.

    I've pretty much come to the conclusion that for what I am aiming for, tense won't matter for what I am wanting to accomplish. I thank you all for your time, and I've pretty much come to my conclusion to what I am going to do. I just wanted a little bit of info before I made my final decision. Thank you.
     
  23. S~A~W

    S~A~W Banned

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    “...foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...." Ralph, The Waldo Of Emerson
     
  24. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    123K Novel done and available. 3 differnet first POVs, present tense.
    Pain in the ass, and a pain to edit. Past tense would have been easier. :D
     
  25. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    How do you think limited third gives more freedom than first? Can you give an example?
     

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