1. Dr. Li

    Dr. Li New Member

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    There or Here, in describing a past event

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dr. Li, May 22, 2019.

    Hi there,

    Brand new here, and ESL so I need help :) And apologize up front if this has been talked about, I did a quick search and didn't find any.

    Wrote my first memoir and getting ready to publish it, but still struggling with a couple of things -

    In the past events that I was describing, I wanted to say "... now that I was here, I no longer wanted to go back to ...." But should I change "here" to "there", "now" to "then"?

    Please help!
    Thanks!
     
  2. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    Either will work. It's a narrative strategy. Whichever you choose needs to be consistent through the work.
    1. Is your narrator speaking as a voice-over? Is he recounting the past from the present and the reader is listening to his tale? If so, then you would use "there" and "then."
    2. Or is your narrator in the past, speaking in present tense, as if the events are happening in the moment? The reader is invisibly with them. If that's the case then use "here" and "now."
    So the main thing is to establish in your mind where the narrator is speaking from, past or present.
     
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  3. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    @Seven Crowns

    I thought of you the moment I read this OP. I almost answered but preferred to wait for someone who knows what they're talking about.
    I always think of this "here" and "now" as "narrative present". Do you have this concept in English as well? If so, what is it called?
     
  4. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    Narrative present is mostly just tense. That is part of it. Probably the most important part.

    I think this all falls under narrative modes and point of view. You have spatial and temporal POV. Here/there being spatial, and now/then being temporal. It would seem that "here/now" is present tense, and "there/then" is past tense, and that's always their set separation, but you can mix them up. The effect fiddles with narration. The trick is that the baseline has to be 100% consistent. You can move from it, but you must always return to it.

    I may have made my original answer too simple. Consider something like this:
    1. A man now strides across the stage. He punches Othello. (I said above that this was okay.)
    2. A man now strode across the stage. He punched Othello.
    3. A man then strides across the stage. He punches Othello.
    4. A man then strode across the stage. He punched Othello. (I said above that this was okay.)
    All of these work. 1 and 4 are simple past and present. Everything's aligned.
    2 and 3 also work, but the narrator is speaking from a different place and time.
    2 sounds like a narrator being immediate in action but still recounting events. He's reliving the past.
    3 sounds like stage directions, or maybe a snitch blabbing to the cops.

    I could see someone using 2 successfully, especially in a memoir. To me, 3 would be extremely irritating. I guess it could work if the story's voice was really over the top.

    So the key is consistency in the narrative mode. Who is the narrator? Where are they speaking from? You have a reason for choosing a whatever combination--aka, your narrative strategy. Maybe you want sensation or maybe you want reflection. It's a trade-off.

    POV, tense, and 1st/3rd person all determine the narrative mode. They have to be set in stone. From page one, the narrator needs to be defined. I find it helps to make them into an actual character, even if they're unseen to the story or if they're godlike and seeing events from afar. They can be doing this as events unfold or simply recounting. Define the narrator as living in a certain time/place relative to the story so that your narrative mode never wavers.
     
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  5. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Another factor to consider: If the writer/narrator is still in the place described as "here," using that adverb is wholly appropriate. (Assuming that this wasn't just an example pulled out of the air.)
     
  6. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    @Seven Crowns

    Thank you. Excellent answer. :)
     
  7. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    It is an issue of narrative distance. If you say there, you are distancing yourself from the scene. If you say here, it suggest arrival at the scene.
    Now, it can be argued that you are writing in past simple, and thus you should write:

    As soon as I arrived, I no longer wanted to go back.

    But that has the feeling of distance. As you narrow distance, you present more thoughts in present tense, and thus you might well write it as you did.

    As well, you certainly may write a memoir in present tense, so that would be a no brainer. As written.
     

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