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Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

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Offline Jonathan Hill
08 May 2016, 03:28 PM | Post: #21

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

(08 May 2016 02:22 PM)Jan Hurst-Nicholson Wrote: Wrote:  
(05 May 2016 03:30 PM)Campbell Wrote: Wrote:  I prefer past tense. I don't like the loss of tension in the present tense: the narrator can't know what's coming, so we can't foreshadow as effectively. It also seems less complex without the full range of tenses available. Present tense often means sticking with one narrator, even through the boring and the mundane, just to get to the action.

By contrast past is less immediate, but we can hop, we can foreshadow, we can edit out the mundane, and we can use all twelve tenses to fully convey the complexity of what's going on.

Ultimately it's preference. I suspect some stories will call for one approach, while others suit the other. There's never going to be one write answer.
I agree with this. You can also lose tension with present tense as you know the narrator survived otherwise he/she couldn't be telling the story. But I must admit I have enjoyed a few stories written in present tense.Rolleyes
But if someone is narrating in past tense, surely they survived to be able to tell the story? Unless they're telling it beyond the grave. Present tense characters can still die at any time.
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Offline LindaGruchy Reading The Chandelier Ballroom by Elizabeth Lord
08 May 2016, 08:00 PM | Post: #22

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

Most of the time I prefer past tense, but sometimes present tense works well (or so I hope, since Gladiatrix is first person present tense). I think it's hard to write present tense well, but it can be useful to convert from p[resent to past tense to keep a story tight and uncluttered.
Offline Stu Ayris Reading All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
09 May 2016, 11:43 AM | Post: #23

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

One of my favourite authors - John Le Carre - constantly uses a mixture of past and present tense to wonderful effect. His last novel - A Delicate Truth - is a great example of this. The man is a genius!
Offline davidwailing Reading
10 May 2016, 10:23 AM | Post: #24

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

I've always wanted to write something entirely in future tense. I have an idea for a time travel story that might be ideal. But it will probably come across as so bizarre it will put people off!

I've also always wanted to write something in second person, but it's difficult to get away from it sounding like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. I still might have a bash at this someday though.
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Offline Katherine Roberts Reading I keep forgetting to update this!
12 May 2016, 12:12 AM | Post: #25

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

Future tense sounds intriguing! Not sure I've ever read anything like that.

I've seen short stories written in the second person, but I think it's quite difficult to get right. I originally wrote Book 2 of my Legend of Genghis Khan project in the second person (the original draft had Borta telling her story to Temujin), but I later decided to rewrite it in the first person to match the other two books.

I used a mixture of present and past in "I am the Great Horse"...  present for the battle scenes, and past when things got slower to reflect a horse's different paces. I was pretty sure some readers would hate it, but whenever I ask people if they thought it worked, most say they never even noticed! My editor was the only person who really got worried about the different tenses - part of an editor's job, I guess. A lot of YA is written in the first person present, so it seems to be a genre thing?
Offline Mads Sorensen Reading A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter
14 May 2016, 03:52 PM | Post: #26

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

Complicity by Iain Banks is told from two viewpoints, one of which is second person.
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Offline davidwailing Reading
16 May 2016, 11:00 AM | Post: #27

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

(12 May 2016 12:12 AM)Katherine Roberts Wrote:  Wrote:  I used a mixture of present and past in "I am the Great Horse"...  present for the battle scenes, and past when things got slower to reflect a horse's different paces. I was pretty sure some readers would hate it, but whenever I ask people if they thought it worked, most say they never even noticed! My editor was the only person who really got worried about the different tenses - part of an editor's job, I guess. A lot of YA is written in the first person present, so it seems to be a genre thing?
That's interesting that most readers didn't notice! This fits with what Joo said earlier. Perhaps tense is something 'technical' that the majority of readers don't tend to pick up on, but that writers have to consider as part of the machinery that makes a story work. As with editing, when it's done well it is almost invisible.
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Offline Dorte Hummelshoj Reading Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton
17 May 2016, 11:25 AM | Post: #28

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RE: Do you prefer fiction in past tense or present tense?

I agree with Jennie, "Past tense for me, although I do enjoy a punchy drabble written in present tense".

When I taught literature, I told my students that present tense was for creating a sense of speed and drama – and I don't like speed & drama. I like to dwell on characters, environment etc. So I do read a good crime story in the present tense, but it is always despite the tense, not because of it.

With regard to writing in the second person, I have found an American short story I really liked. Arrgh, what's the writer's name? William something .... I'll ignore the problem and return when my brain comes up with the answer.
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