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Present or Past Tense in Fiction Writing Options · View
belletrist
Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 7:11:45 PM

Rank: Rookie Scribe

Joined: 2/18/2012
Posts: 2
Location: Australia
The amount of times I've tried to rework my novel because of tense - I find both have their advantages and downfalls. Which tense do you prefer when reading a novel and why? Is there a preferred style in the literary world?

Any input is appreciated. Thank you :)
mhend90
Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 10:34:42 PM

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Joined: 5/2/2012
Posts: 11
Location: Cache Valley, United States
Hmm, I guess it really depends on personal preference. I use both, but it depends on how I want others to read it. Typically when I write from a limited first person viewpoint, I will use present tense, acting as if my character is experiencing things the same time the reader is. When writing in 3rd person (limited or omniscient) I fall into a past tense.

I've noticed that many writers will use past tense, as if 'retelling' a story that has already occurred. I don't think this is wrong, it really depends on the presentation of the story.

I've rather enjoyed using 1st person present tense, as I feel it invokes a more intense and personal experience. Play around and see what suits your needs with the story best; it's different for each one!

M. Hendrix

Read more from me at altnsippets.blogspot.com!
Dreamcatcher
Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 6:14:30 PM

Rank: Forum Guru

Joined: 3/15/2011
Posts: 2,675
Location: In the shadows again.., United States
mhend90 wrote:
Hmm, I guess it really depends on personal preference. I use both, but it depends on how I want others to read it. Typically when I write from a limited first person viewpoint, I will use present tense, acting as if my character is experiencing things the same time the reader is. When writing in 3rd person (limited or omniscient) I fall into a past tense.

I've noticed that many writers will use past tense, as if 'retelling' a story that has already occurred. I don't think this is wrong, it really depends on the presentation of the story.

I've rather enjoyed using 1st person present tense, as I feel it invokes a more intense and personal experience. Play around and see what suits your needs with the story best; it's different for each one!

M. Hendrix


Nicely stated..

VanessaFinaughty
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:39:16 AM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 5/8/2012
Posts: 71
Location: South Africa
I think it depends partially on the type of story you're writing. Personally, I think you should write the tense that you prefer reading, although there are times when other tenses do work better. The only thing with present tense is that it's not a natural way of speaking, so it's harder to get it right the whole way through.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you - Ray Bradbury.

Find me on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/VanessaFinaughty
Hire me as your editor: www.write-way-freelancers.com
mhend90
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 5:51:59 AM

Rank: Active Ink Slinger

Joined: 5/2/2012
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Location: Cache Valley, United States
VanessaFinaughty wrote:
I think it depends partially on the type of story you're writing. Personally, I think you should write the tense that you prefer reading, although there are times when other tenses do work better.


I agree with that. Writing what you are comfortable with is how you will produce your best work, but it can be just as fun to try something new. Experimenting in writing, expanding your boundaries of experience, going outside your comfort zone... It can help improve and develop your writing as you continue. Who knows, maybe you'll end up preferring one style over another one, and find your 'niche' (or know for certain areas you must avoid at all costs!).

But there's a time for writing, and a time for experimenting. Sometimes they happen to just overlap cat
VanessaFinaughty wrote:
The only thing with present tense is that it's not a natural way of speaking, so it's harder to get it right the whole way through.


It can be hard to keep the tense in the 'present' when writing it (which is what my lover helps me with, being the wonderful person she is!) but with practice it becomes easier. I've noticed several times now, since having been working on my latest multi-chapter 'experiment,' that I've begun having a hard time using third person tense in other forms of writing that require it! I always had the problem of using third-person in a first-person setting, and now the problem is reversed! It is hard at first to make the mental change, but like any skill the more it's used the easier it becomes to use it.

Read more from me at altnsippets.blogspot.com!
DirtyMartini
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:54:08 AM

Rank: Moderator

Joined: 10/12/2010
Posts: 3,923
Location: Earth, for now..., United States
belletrist wrote:
The amount of times I've tried to rework my novel because of tense - I find both have their advantages and downfalls. Which tense do you prefer when reading a novel and why? Is there a preferred style in the literary world?


There was a similar thread not long ago over in a FB writing group I'm in...if I recall, the general consensus was that the main thing was being consistent...one writer said she was used to writing in past tense, but wanted to write a story in present tense but that she found herself falling back into past tense...

That's when your problems begin, because you confuse the reader...same with switching POV, the main thing is being consistent throughout the story...

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

DirtyMartini
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:54:08 AM

Rank: Moderator

Joined: 10/12/2010
Posts: 3,923
Location: Earth, for now..., United States
belletrist wrote:
The amount of times I've tried to rework my novel because of tense - I find both have their advantages and downfalls. Which tense do you prefer when reading a novel and why? Is there a preferred style in the literary world?


There was a similar thread not long ago over in a FB writing group I'm in...if I recall, the general consensus was that the main thing was being consistent...one writer said she was used to writing in past tense, but wanted to write a story in present tense but that she found herself falling back into past tense...

That's when your problems begin, because you confuse the reader...same with switching POV, the main thing is being consistent throughout the story...

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

DirtyMartini
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:54:09 AM

Rank: Moderator

Joined: 10/12/2010
Posts: 3,923
Location: Earth, for now..., United States
belletrist wrote:
The amount of times I've tried to rework my novel because of tense - I find both have their advantages and downfalls. Which tense do you prefer when reading a novel and why? Is there a preferred style in the literary world?


There was a similar thread not long ago over in a FB writing group I'm in...if I recall, the general consensus was that the main thing was being consistent...one writer said she was used to writing in past tense, but wanted to write a story in present tense but that she found herself falling back into past tense...

That's when your problems begin, because you confuse the reader...same with switching POV, the main thing is being consistent throughout the story...

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

VanessaFinaughty
Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 1:04:06 AM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 5/8/2012
Posts: 71
Location: South Africa
DirtyMartini wrote:
There was a similar thread not long ago over in a FB writing group I'm in...if I recall, the general consensus was that the main thing was being consistent...one writer said she was used to writing in past tense, but wanted to write a story in present tense but that she found herself falling back into past tense...

That's when your problems begin, because you confuse the reader...same with switching POV, the main thing is being consistent throughout the story...


That's why you need an editor ;-)

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you - Ray Bradbury.

Find me on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/VanessaFinaughty
Hire me as your editor: www.write-way-freelancers.com
VanessaFinaughty
Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 1:08:04 AM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 5/8/2012
Posts: 71
Location: South Africa
I've written a few stories in present tense, but was only happy enough with one to publish it. I quite like that one, and, because of the contents, it worked pretty well, I think. As you say, it's good to experiment, because it definitely improves writing style and skill, and it also helps you to discover exactly what you prefer, from experience and not from other people's opinions.

As far as confusing tenses with regards to references to the past, that's not so hard once you figure out how. It works exactly the same way as normal tense, except that you wouldn't have words like 'had' when writing in present tense, but would use 'was' instead (when referring to the past).

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you - Ray Bradbury.

Find me on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/VanessaFinaughty
Hire me as your editor: www.write-way-freelancers.com
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