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Writing narration in Present tense

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. ^Maybe it would feel less like an epic tale from long ago or a distant land?
     
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  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I wonder if they are more useful when I have a reader whose experience is more like mine, heh. But this would be a frightening possibility. Y'know, "All I ever learned is becoming more irrelevant as I age." But see there, I'm not even sure I can modify "irrelevant" that way. I'm assuming you'll know what I meant by it. :ROFLMAO:
     
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Maybe. But I’m not sure it would, at least to me. I guess I’m trying to pin down the “why” of some of the statements about how it affects the work. I don’t see it, yet, but maybe they’re right. But the argument are generally just conclusive statements, so I’m wondering if people can dig down into why, from a technical perspective, readability, or whatever, they think the results would be one way as opposed to another. It’s interesting to me probably largely because my own reading experience is not along these lines.
     
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  4. Devora

    Devora Sage

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    I find from the story I'm writing that writing with a subdued voice works best for present tense. The story in question is more of a Cyberpunk noir so i found the third-person present tense is working best for it.

    I guess with most fantasy it tends to be a more grandiose approach with the voice, like (as others have said) reading a story of old. To pull away from being told as if it were a legend takes away some of the feel since it's almost expected of the genre.

    But I may be repeating what has already been said.
     
  5. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    As for why I hate it so much... I'm honestly not sure. It may just be one of those irrational things.

    If I had to guess, I'd say its because I'm something of a scan reader. Sometimes, odd things in a text will only come to my full attention about 5-10 seconds after I've read it. Because present tense is odd to me, it means there's little alarm bells going off in my brain non-stop until I realise why. By which point I'm quite vexed anyway.

    But I could be wrong. Its not like I read all that much of it.

    That said... other than some people just find it natural, I never quite get what the advantage of it is. It doesn't feel immediate to me, that's for sure.

    Fortunately, nobody has been insane enough to give me any sort of legal powers. Besides, even if anyone did, there'd be no space for you in jail after I locked up everyone guilty of poor tube etiquette.
     
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  6. ^Fair enough.
     
  7. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Truth be told, I wish this was the case for me. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of good reads out there I'm missing out on because the tense just doesn't work for me. What a shame. Then again, a lot of things don't work for me. But I'm somewhat of a weird reader. I didn't like Outlander (I couldn't even get past chapter 1 and let's not even mention the whole aspect of forced adultery in the book) + most books that are esteemed as literary masterpieces are not to my liking. In general, I prefer to be entertained by the books I read. If I want to learn, then I'll pick up a science magazine. SO...tying this into the OP, present tense doesn't allow me to feel entertained. It feels like work. There it is. :)
     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Mmm, I would suggest there is a (potentially) rational dislike for the present tense. When you start telling a story as if it is happening, it goes against reality and logic of story, unless it is a transcription of say... The dialogue of Seal Team 6, a coroner, etc. It can be an effective story-telling device, but without a logical premise for how a story is narrated in present, it comes off hokey or gimmicky to me.
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I can see that, for people who interpret a story as being narrated by one of the characters. I never read a story that way unless the author makes it explicit that this is what is going on, and in that case a present tense story might seem a bit more odd. I know from other discussions that a lot of readers do read stories as though they’re narrations of past recollections of the characters.
     
  10. Devora

    Devora Sage

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    I agree. Once you use First-Person Present Tense, you're asking for trouble. It comes off like reading a bad fanfic.
     
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  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    For one thing, Character A's present is not Character B's present. The author would have to be more explicit, even heavy-handed, in order to keep clear the sequence of events. A straight translation at the sentence level would quickly break down.
     
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It's true that both "presents" are not the same, but I'm not sure that matters. Scene breaks are commonly also breaks or gaps in time. The next scene may be contemporaneous, prior, or after the previous scene within the chronology of the story. I'm not sure a scene being in present tense changes any of that, at least if I'm understanding what you mean correctly.
     
  13. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, it's really annoying when I have a birthday party and all my characters bring the same presents.
     
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Oh, Svrtnsse, that's all in the past now.:)
     
  15. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I really didn't notice whether stories were written in present tense or past until I started to study writing and take writing more seriously. Now, I find I have to kind of switch gears and adjust. It usually feels weird for the first bit. Otherwise, present or past, it doesn't matter all that much to me.

    As for writing, IMHO, if you're kind of new to writing, I'd say stay away from present tense until you're able to comfortably write stories in past. When I started writing waaaay back when, one of the biggest mistakes I made was misinterpreting the tip to write active prose vs passive prose as meaning to write in present tense.

    Any way, when I did that, it seemed like it made my writing better because of the immediacy it gave the prose. It made things read so much faster. But I found for me, it just a superficial improvement that masked other issues I had. In addition, I found as a writer, being so mentally in the present made it feel unnatural to have my characters delve in to introspection and have their thoughts wander beyond what was in front of them. IMHO introspection is important in writing.

    Now this isn't to say it can't be done and feel natural. It's just that at that point in time, I didn't have enough control of over writing to use it effectively, so my stories turned out unclear and superficial. But once I dropped the present tense, my stories got better.
     
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  16. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Personally, I can easily enjoy reading well-written present tense prose. I know readers who can't or won't. One such reader told me the same thing as DemesnedenoirDemesnedenoir said, that it's illogical for a story to be narrated in present tense. The present tense for them disrupts their suspension of disbelief. I understand the sentiment, even if I don't adhere to it myself. Because my target audience consists of people like this, however, I often choose not to write in present tense. I had an idea for a story written as a transcription of a present tense narration, and wrote the first few scenes of it, but as was said, present tense transcription can make sense. I may finish the story, after I finish with my current main project.
     
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