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technical ?: flashforward or not?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by buyjupiter, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    I'm currently writing a short story that has a flash forward scene in it. I'm a bit confused as to what tense I should be writing the scene in, since the majority of my story is in simple past tense [with a little bit of subjunctive and other more complex past tenses].

    Should flash forwards be written in future tense, ie He will do the thing? Present tense ie he is doing the thing? If not, [ie, I write the flash forward in whatever tense] how do I signal the narrative is moving forward through time?

    Or am I thinking about this all wrong? Maybe I'm writing the majority of the story in flash back, and the moment or two I break out of the flashback I'm actually in story present. And therefore I should just use present tense?

    This is as cleanly as I can think to write this story without making it boring. If I started with the famous historical incident, people are going to tune out because they already "know the story" and that's not the story I'm telling at all.

    Thanks for all the help!
  2. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    If you're writing from an omniscient POV, I'd think it would work to use future tense for the flash-forward. If you're writing in a limited POV, I don't think future tense would be appropriate, and that to keep the suspension of disbelief, at least for me as a reader, you'd need to frame the main storyline as a flashback.
  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    Nothing annoys me more than flipping between tenses and I know I'm not the only one. So while it could possibly work, do keep in mind that it will bother some people.
  4. neodoering

    neodoering Minstrel

    I don't mind flipping tenses, as long as it doesn't go on too long. A few pages, tops.
  5. staiger95

    staiger95 Scribe

    Without understanding the specific circumstances of your question I would only say, be wary. Changing tense midstream can jar the reader, which in itself can be used as a signal of sorts to indicate a change in temporal perspective. However, that jarring may also distract from the overall story. I would suggest writing the scene in differing tenses and then choose which seems to flow best in your mind. I once wrote a piece in third person, then realized at the end how much better it would have been in first person, so I went back and did a duplicate edit just to see. Write and revise. Write and revise. Discover what works for you.
  6. EmilyMcIntyre

    EmilyMcIntyre Dreamer

    For me, tense tends to be intuitive with the story; flashbacks and flash forwards could be told in any way that best matches the tone and events.

    Most important is consistency and that the tenses are organic. It's very difficult to write in, say, present tense, without occasional lapses into past, and future tense is even more difficult.

    Lastly, I would say that anything that causes the reader to pause and decipher is slowing the story and should be left out. Do you have any beta-readers who can give you feedback? Brent Weeks says this: "The most important things your betas can tell you is: (and I’m stealing this from another writer who helped me, Dennis Foley) if they were ever bored, and when in the manuscript they became aware that they were reading a book again. (Which can happen from confusion, or odd sentence structure, or dialogue that doesn’t fit the voice or anything.) Non-writers are sometimes better at this. You want people to flag where things don’t work–not fix them for you or overanalyze."
    buyjupiter likes this.
  7. Kyle8414

    Kyle8414 Dreamer

    Hmm. Good question. I always find the future tense a little jarring in any case. It always puts a hammer to the 4th wall in my mind, like it just screams "this was written by someone". I have seen quite a few short stories (mostly literary pieces) that opt to establish it's the future and then use the present tense from there i.e. "Fifty years later, he traces those same steps down the road to the river. He kneels exactly where his father fell."
  8. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    I am writing this. You will read it. You will like it.

    Edit: I wrote this.

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