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Past or Present tense?


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#1 AmandaBurckhard

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 08:01 PM

I was wondering your thoughts on past or present tense writing. What are some advantages and disadvantages of each? What genres or types of stories work best for each?

#2 Caterina

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 09:25 PM

IMO, I'd say they were pretty equal as far as advantages or disadvantages went and go with every genre. I think it has more to do with how the author writes the story and if it flows with the tense they use.

#3 anne

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 09:33 PM

Present tense will create more immediacy and provide great character insights; but it is hard to sustain sometimes. It really depends on your style and preference and the moment, plot etc. I guess it's important to be consistent with tense. If you have lots of flashbacks, present tense is useful because you can then oscilllate back and forth seamlessly. In my WIP,I use both present and past when shifting between time periods. I hope I helped you a bit. GL

#4 AmandaBurckhard

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 09:43 PM

Well my new WIP is a YA sci fi with some time travel involved

#5 AMK

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 10:51 PM

I think present would work nicely for your genre, premise, and audience. I was impressed that our own Litgal choose present for her SISTER QUEENS. The hist fic audience is less open to change than YA readers. But she did it and did it well. It worked and has been well received. Just please read a bucket of present tense YAs before you decide. It can be nightmarish if you aren't overly familiar with the technique.

#6 AmandaBurckhard

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 10:56 PM

I just read The Scorpio Races and I loved the way she did present tense. Does anyone else have any suggestions for YA books in present tense?


#7 Caterina

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 11:15 PM

The hunger games

#8 Utsav M

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 04:28 AM

grrr... you stole my suggestion cat! but yeah, Hunger Games

#9 AmandaBurckhard

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 09:58 AM

Lol I've read those. Might have to reread them now though

#10 AMK

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 02:57 PM

Scorpio Races was THE BEST. I'd also read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.

#11 KC Rivers

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:09 PM

I tend to be in the sad minority; I actually don't care for present tense writing at all. If the book is good, I can look past it, but I pretty much always write in the past tense. It's something that I've thought about a lot with my own writing, because a lot of young adult authors tend to write in the present tense. The YA book I'm reading now, Vicious Deep, is written present tense. It's a good storyline, which is why I'm still reading it, but generally I tend to find it distracting.

That's just my own personal taste, though. I can see benefits to both styles. Historical and a lot of YA tends to be in present tense, so I'd say a lot of it has to do with what you, the author, prefer and how you think it flows with your storyline.
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#12 Litgal

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:26 PM

First, THANKS AMK for saying I did present tense well :)

I think you have to be true to your story as it comes to you. I'd never written anything present tense before "The Sister Queens" (let alone first person present tense). In fact I hadn't even read much first person present tense. but that's how my first narrator started talking to me. You cross your muse at your peril.
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#13 jwmstudio

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:48 PM

Lit's Sister Queens is one of the few first person present tense books I've read where the tense wasn't distracting. At first, I didn't even notice. :tongue: In general, present tense wears me out.
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#14 K McClelland

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 05:56 PM

I only write in first person present tense...I actually tried to do it other ways and it just didn't work out right. I think others have given good advice. I learned that writing what works best for you is going to have the better outcome regardless of what other people think works best for the genre or whatever. If you aren't comfortable with what your writing, it's not going to work out the way you want. (usually) I say 'usually' because I've had to step outside of my comfort zone a little because sometimes things I'm uncomfortable are necessary. But when it comes to the tense you write in, then you do need to be comfortable.
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#15 AmandaBurckhard

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 06:07 PM

If I gave a shot and tried to write in present instead of past, how do I know I'm making it work?

#16 K McClelland

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 06:24 PM

Write a little in one and see how it feels, if it's not right, try it in the other one. Since I already had something written, I just tried to switch what I had into past tense. It didn't work. The flow was off, it read and felt awkward, and I had to think about it too much. When I write in first present, there's no pausing to see which way I should write a word. Sometimes I use a word and it's past tense, but I don't notice that until a CP points it out. And even then, I go with what they say because I believe them, but I've noticed I apparently talk in past tense. Or at least, that's what I gather when someone points certain things out. Example: I would imagine-should be- I imagine. When I say it in normal everyday life, I say 'I would imagine'.

So point being, there are some points I have to think, but for the most part it just flows in present. Writing is feeling (for me at least) and I write what feels right. If it feels right to you, then that's the way to go. Write a few pages and stop and read it. If it reads right to you, keep going. If it doesn't, change it up and try it another way. LOL if any of my ramblings make sense? :tongue:
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#17 Tom Preece

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 09:52 PM

The most powerful part of my WIP mixes the tenses. The point of view is 1st person, but much of it is as the 1st person would describe what is happening to another, (the reader maybe) as in, "You feel trapped in your own personal horror movie and you can't shut your eyes..."




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