Recall Writing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Gypzee, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    My character in the present day is recalling her past. I have a question how to write those scenes.

    Laughing he said, "Ye think too hard about things." He kissed her forehead and then her lips.
    -OR-
    Laughing he says, "Ye think too hard about things." He kisses her forehead and then her lips.

    Not a lot of difference, but yet is :)

    Thanks for your input.
     
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Either works. Is the rest of the story in past tense, or present tense?
     
  3. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    It starts in the present & a wedding invitation starts recalling memories. As she travels & what not in the present, she's remembering different times of her life & experiences.
     
  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I think I need more context to be helpful. Could you post more of the passage? A bit of what comes before and after?
     
  5. TheCrystallineEntity

    TheCrystallineEntity Dark Lord

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    In the entirety of Part 3 of my fourth book, it alternates between things that are going on presently, and a flashback of sorts to things that happened when the planet was newly made; the former in the present tense as always, and the latter in the past tense.
     
  6. Mytherea

    Mytherea Journeyman

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    Just on tenses, if the story is in past tense, I'd say use past perfect (Laughing, he had said/he had kissed her) to establish that, until otherwise stated, the following takes place before the present. I'd say you shouldn't have to keep using the past perfect once that's established, though you might want to close the flashback with it if it's not immediately clear that the story has transitioned to the present again--or write a different transition which does. (So, for example, using your example, "Laughing he had said, 'Ye think too hard about things.' He kissed her forehead and then her lips.") If the present is in present tense, either past tense or past perfect (definitely not present though, 'cause then it might end up becoming confusing at what point is what event taking place in the overall timeline). I've seen it done both ways for present tense. The key for it would be consistency so you don't get readers saying you slipped tenses by mistake. Once it happens more than once the same way, in the same manner, to herald a flashback, it should be clear for the rest of the story.
     
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  7. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Shadow Lord

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    It depends on the effect and mood you're after. In my WIP, I have almost everything in past tense. The main story and stories of the past are distinguished by context.
     
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I agree with Helio here, it's hard to parse out what you're having trouble with without more context.

    But in general, with narrative your allowed to drift into memory and thought, whether it's a full flashback or just someone drifting into a snippet of memory. The key is the segue into and out of those things. It has to be natural and smooth, like transitions in a movie. If they're too abrupt or poorly executed, it throws the audience out of the story.

    For example, someone drifting into a snippet of memory.

     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Past perfect is an irritating thing. I myself er, ahem, recall teachers in elementary school or junior high being very strict about it. You must stay in past perfect! Don't mix your past and past perfect tenses! To this day, I still feel a very present danger when handling the types of recollection passages you mean. I'm not incredibly natural with it and have to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb during revisions.

    But I think Mytherea offers great advice. Typically for a long recall passage in an otherwise past tense narrative, you can use the past perfect to transition into the past event and then just use past tense until you decide to transition out and back to present events.

    A lot of things might modify that approach.

    How, the POV character is experiencing that flashback may also be important. Is the character moving in and out of the memories of that past event and evaluating them in the present as well? I wrote one of those in-between flashbacks recently. It transitions into and out of the past with past perfect, but in the middle I did this thing where the POV character views his own reactions and actions mostly in past perfect but his brother's actions are mostly in past tense. The idea is that he's seeing his brother as if he's "there" in the past viewing the brother and other events again, but things there make him jump back with the sudden memory of how he himself "had acted." He's caught between both past and present. It would be something like this; imagine the transition has already happened and the event with this character's sister is the memory:

    Her sister paced casually as she described the executions she had ordered. A smile touched her lips when she mentioned the young father who not only had refused her attentions but had also called her a bitch.

    Emily had sat perfectly still. She had not known how to react.

    "Are you unwell, sister? I assure you, more is to be done, and you can have a share in it." Her sister seemed genuinely concerned for the briefest moment then poured herself a cup of wine. Outside, a summer storm sent lighting across the dark patch beyond the chamber's small square window —as if hunting.

    She had had the thought: This is not my sister. They've done something to my sister. The gods have done something to my sister.

    But her sister continued describing the massacre of the Gurletti people, pacing and drinking her wine as if all was well....

    Ok, that's just spur of the moment. As I said, I usually have to go over everything carefully in revision. But even in the recollection, I went a step further into the past, before events in the flashback, with "the executions she had ordered" and "the father who not only had refused her attentions."

    One thing I worry about is having a very long recollection or flashback that is mostly in the past tense, because maybe the reader can get lost in it and I want the reader to remember this is an MC sitting at a feast being miserable in the present, heh. But sometimes I want the POV character to entirely forget where he is and have to snap out of it, and I want the reader to have to do that also.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  10. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    The book begins with her daily routine, reflecting on the age of her children when they moved to this location; what they are currently into now and a short recollection of their becoming involved in their current apprenticeships. Then she goes to open the mail to find a wedding invitation, and goes into the memory of how she is related to that person. And it is pretty much back and forth between present day and what she remembers as she moves along in her travels to the wedding.

    I am questioning should the memory be read as happening then, vs it has happened...Thanks for all the feedback. It's most helpful!



    “Well, I’ll let you get to your evening. It was very good to see you again. Tell Jenny it was good to meet her,” she nodded as they made their way to the door.

    “Glad you dropped by Lady MacCarthy. Do so again should you wish,” he waved to her as she stepped out. The lock clicked behind her and the shade was pulled on the window.

    Turning, she made her way down the walk, a nod to the couple that she met. Continuing on toward the edge of town, she darted between two buildings and with a thought was back inside the Day Dream.

    She had been away from Rhydin for eight years, living under the protection of wards and spells at Tzaddi where things such as shadows – at least those that were extraordinary – were kept from its lands. That by no means prevented her own darker nature from existing; but it did inhibit it somewhat – enough for her to see more grey lines the way she did before Jax… the name slid slowly from the back of her memory to take center stage. She had not thought of him since… well, since then.


    Eyes narrowed as she recalled their meeting…

    Not long after she and Derrien were married, his ex – Suria – had some sort of blood poisoning. If the staff at The Temple were unable to cure her, Derrien wanted to sire her to save her. No, no, no… that could not happen. He seemed to still be attached to her as it was. A bond such as that would make matters worse.

    To that end she began searching for alternative sires, if that was indeed the avenue Suria chose to take. A conversation with Jax resulted in a mental-link with his sire – Morgan. She agreed to speak with Derrien about it. Relieved, she asked Jax what she owed him for his help. He said he would think on it and let her know.


    ((this))

    Lost in the depths of his emerald gaze, they leave the tavern. He leads her to the mouth of the alley, his gaze cool as he turns to face her again, his eyes immediately finding hers.

    She follows behind him, curious as to why; though the thought vanishes as their eyes meet.

    A hint of power seems to back the hunger in his gaze. As if to test the strength of his mental contact, his low voice commands, “Come closer, Gypzee.”

    She takes a step closer to him.

    The fingers of his right hand stroke her hair, pushing it back as his light touch continues down to her neck. His eyes remain on hers as if to hold her there even as his left arm slips around her waist.

    She shivers from his touch, eyes widening just a bit; but as she continues to look at him they return to normal.

    The power to his gaze is stronger now. He further exposes the left side of her neck. His voice is heavy in her ears as he whispers. “Lean your head back, Gypzee, and close your eyes.”



    She blinks slowly, a soft tug at the back of her mind; but she lifts her chin even more, her head rolling back as her eyes close.

    He pulls her body to press against his until the distance between them is no more. His cool breath brushes against her neck as he whispers to her. “Now, relax...” His lips press to her neck, the initial touch a soft kiss.

    A gasp leaves her lips, hands raise to rest at his sides.

    His fangs swiftly sink into her neck, drawing out her life as his grip tightens slightly.



    ((vs this))


    She followed behind him, curious as to why; though the thought vanished as their eyes met.

    A hint of power seemed to back the hunger in his gaze. As if to test the strength of his mental contact, his low voice commanded, “Come closer, Gypzee.”

    She stepped closer to him.

    The fingers of his right hand stroked her hair, pushing it back as his light touch continued down to her neck. His eyes remained on hers as if to hold her there even as his left arm slipped around her waist.

    She shivered from his action, eyes widen just a bit; but as she continued to look at him they returned to normal.

    The power to his gaze was stronger now. He further exposed the left side of her neck. His voice was heavy in her ears as he whispered. “Lean your head back, Gypzee, and close your eyes.”

    She blinked slowly, a soft tug at the back of her mind; but she lifted her chin even more, her head rolling back as her eyes closed.

    He pulled her body to press against his until the distance between them was no more. His cool breath brushed against her neck as he whispered to her. “Now, relax...” His lips pressed to her neck, the initial touch a soft kiss.

    A gasp left her lips, hands raised to rest at his sides.

    His fangs swiftly sank into her neck, drawing out her life as his grip tightened slightly.

    If only he had stopped with this one encounter, her life now would be very different, she thought as she turned the chair to gaze out across the garden.



     
  11. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    No comments???? No ideas????
     
  12. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    It really depends on what you want.

    Personally, I kinda like the present tense flashback. It feels more immediate. It gives the sense that she's really there, it is really happening now, even if it is a memory. For intense flashbacks especially, that works. If you have a lot of these occurring throughout the story, you might consider putting the flashback portions in italics also. The overall sense for me as reader would be this feeling that there are two stories overlapping, of cutting between one and the other, the present story and that past story.

    With the second version, I'd probably start with She had followed behind him, including the "had." But even there, for such sharp breaks or leaps into the past events, full italics would probably work better. Or, might.

    I'm a little confused, because the exact point of transition isn't clear. At first, I thought "and with a thought was back inside the Day Dream" was the signal that now I'd be in that dream. And for a bit, it seems we are in the past; but then comes, "the name slid slowly from the back of her memory to take center stage. She had not thought of him since… well, since then," which kinda signals to me that, no, now we are about to go back to that past. But then I'm given a third signal that we're about to go back to the past: "Eyes narrowed as she recalled their meeting…"

    The longish paragraph between the very first signal and this last signal seems more like a description of what happened in the past but not being really in the past. Which is okay, I suppose. The two paragraphs after that last signal are similar. They're describing the past from a distance. I feel still present in the .... er, present, but am receiving an overview of what had happened. This, again, is not so much an issue for me. It's what comes next, those two alternative approaches, that throws me for the loop. They are sudden. There's no real transition into either one. (The three transitions already mentioned notwithstanding; those have been a kinda fakeout or feint, heh, since you didn't transition immediately into the past-told-as-if-present.)

    So...for this reason, I think that clearly delineating what is actually past, and wanting us to be there as if in the past experiencing that event (and the MC also), might require full-on italics to show that it's to be read in a different way. The alternative might be to have a single transition then leap to the past event, in past tense still. But I think that using the present tense for that flashback probably would require italics.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You might see more interaction if you take part in other threads in the community. You’ve posted your introduction and this post asking others for input, but haven’t engaged posts by other members asking for input on questions of their own. The more of that you do, the more you build a repoire with people in the forums.
     
  14. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    That I understand, but I live in a rural area without an internet connection unless you wish to pay with an arm, a leg, or your first born. So I have to rely on cell data & have to watch my have usage. Occasionally I have an opportunity to get to the library, the book store or other free WiFi areas & even then I have to prioritize. Thanks!
     
  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I agree with FifthView that I like the present tense flashback. I've seen this done before. If it is short passages, and happen often throughout the manuscript then I might separate them and put them in italics, or even save them as separate chapter openings, again, always in italics. This is more of a structural thing, but I think readers then might be able to separate that each chapter always begins with a flashback, in present tense and italics, so the transition isn't so confusing.
     
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  16. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Steerpike is right though, that often on these forums we have been burned when offering feedback to people who take it the wrong way and get upset. A lot of members don't like offering feedback to people they don't feel they "know", so you may find you get radio silence :)
     
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  17. Gypzee

    Gypzee Apprentice

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    The italics makes sense, but then would LONG stretches of it be harsh on the eyes?

    I go back & forth between the references of using

    Much of what is written is her recollection until she reaches her destinations; so a large part would be in italics. Wouldn't that grow tiresome to the reader after a while? What about a slight indention? Or it could be written as occurring presently, and italicize the present; but then you would have the same thing eventually.

    As for the first signal … Day Dream is the name of her shipping company, the ground work for it having been laid earlier in the story. But not knowing that, I can understand the confusion. That said, does the longish paragraph make better sense? I can completely remove the “Eyes narrow” since the previous is lead in is enough..

    Thanks for all your input. Very new at this!
     
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Ah, that context does make a difference! :ROFLMAO: I do think you don't need the "Eyes narrowed part."

    Possibly, depending on the font and size, but maybe not.

    The biggest issue, as I see it, is how a large number of long flashbacks might affect a reader's interest in the whole story. I read a novel last year that used italicized flashbacks, and one particular flashback was very, very long. I felt perturbed in a bad way when I hit it and began reading, even thinking something along the lines of OMG WHAT THE HECK. I did settle into it after a bit. But the problem is that I can become very absorbed in whatever story is happening in the present and grow annoyed whenever I'm forced to slog through a break in that story.

    This is my own issue with flashbacks in general, particularly long flashbacks, regardless of whether they are in present or past tense, italics or regular print.

    So I wonder whether having a first part of a story that is heavily weighted with flashbacks might be more of a structural issue with the story, as Heliotrope mentioned. I know almost nothing about your story, so I can't really say yea or nay. I do think readers become absorbed in more than simply character, that is, they become absorbed in plot and a series of events relating to the throughline of a story, and breaking often from it to have long flashbacks might kill the flow of that. Perhaps if the flashbacks bear upon the present storyline in interesting and important ways, that might not be so much of an issue. But if these flashbacks are merely character-building devices, they might become more of an issue if they break the flow frequently for extended lengths. As I said, I know nothing about your story, so I can't really judge that.

    I suspect, based only on what you've posted here, that the flashbacks will tell an interesting "past story" that you may be weaving in and out with the "present story." If so, that's a juggling act of keeping the reader equally interested in both. I wonder if other structural changes might help, for instance simply writing the past story then doing some leaps forward as time passes—i.e., tell the whole thing chronologically. Or, perhaps instead you could edit all those long flashbacks in one of two ways: either simply edit them so that they are shorter, or break up the long ones and insert present events between the new sections of flashback.

    Edit: BUT, I could possibly see writing very short passages of present events in italics (but past tense) and the present-tense past events in regular font for the first half, and then somehow transitioning later at a key point in the story to the opposite. This would be tricky as heck to pull off, but not impossible, I think. Essentially, I do think that whatever the "primary" story you are telling should be in regular font, and italicized portions should be used to supplement or enhance that story and be fairly brief; and, you could do this to focus on the "past story" first and the "present story" after some carefully written transition point in the whole thing. But I only add this edit because my mind's been pondering this after you mentioned it, and it feels like a thought experiment for me, heh, a curiosity. I don't think I'd suggest doing this for anything but a very peculiar story. In other words, it wouldn't be something I'd suggest at all, but who knows, some potential story might exist that would benefit from such a treatment.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
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  19. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, like FV says, I'm not sure on the entire context of the manuscript.

    Margaret Atwood has a series called The MaddAddam Trilogy. I've only read the first two books, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood but both are structured with alternating chapters of "before" (written in past tense) and "after" or "now", written in present tense. It takes a moment to get used to, but once you figure out the pattern you start to look forward to learning more about the "past story"... but then are excited when you finish the chapter and get grounded again in the "now" story. Each have their own separate characters (except for the MC) and plot line and arc. It is masterful, but I'm not sure it would work without the careful structuring.

    If you only have a few sections of flashback, then I'm not sure a full flashback is the right method to use. I think simply staying grounded in the 'now' story and used past perfect (had) then it might be more palatable for the reader.
     
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