Narration Tense


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Thread: Narration Tense

  1. #1

    Narration Tense

    For my current project I've been using present tense in first person in such a way that it feels like the main character is telling us what is happening as it happens. For example:

    The car pulls into a small dirt driveway and comes to a stop. The driver gets out and opens my door before retrieving my bags. I step out and I gaze upon my new home.
    As opposed to typical past tense story reading:

    The car pulled into a small dirt driveway and came to a stop. The driver got out and opened my door before retrieving my bags. I stepped out and I gazed upon my new home.
    The actual changes are quite subtle, but in my mind, they read pretty different. I don't think I've ever read anything written in the same way as the first example. Is that acceptable? Or is it pretty standard to write as if I'm recollecting past events. You know - like I'm telling a story. I'm not really sure it makes a big difference (or any difference), so I'm torn as to whether stick to my current methods, or just go with a more typical past tense style.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by -AT View Post
    I don't think I've ever read anything written in the same way as the first example. Is that acceptable?
    It's becoming rather common. Why? Because the 50 Shades books are written this way.

    I've always said I dislike 1st person, and I dislike 1st person active voice even more. I like it to seem like someone's telling the story as if they were sitting across from me at a campfire, to give it an image.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
    It's becoming rather common. Why? Because the 50 Shades books are written this way.

    I've always said I dislike 1st person, and I dislike 1st person active voice even more. I like it to seem like someone's telling the story as if they were sitting across from me at a campfire, to give it an image.
    What's to dislike about first person? If that someone at the campfire is telling a story about himself, he's not going to refer to himself in third person.

    That second half is exactly what I'm looking for, though. Personally, I don't know if I want to feel like I'm being told a story, or if I'm right there witnessing the story.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by -AT View Post
    What's to dislike about first person? If that someone at the campfire is telling a story about himself, he's not going to refer to himself in third person.

    That second half is exactly what I'm looking for, though. Personally, I don't know if I want to feel like I'm being told a story, or if I'm right there witnessing the story.
    My dislike of a first person narrative is a long, essay-worthy rant, but the biggest issue I have is that it's so centrally focused that I feel disjointed from the other characters. Emotions are all of the main character's (aside from what we can see on the other characters' faces) and that especially begins to feel rather whiny to me after a short while. I'm not a fan of the narrow base of view, and in my narratives, I jump around from person to person in what I like to call an ensemble cast of characters. It does not work for me as a writer, and I feel like when I read it I'm reading the diary of a teenager. Which sometimes, I am. (see: almost all YA lit)

    But I am but one man. I know a lot of writers on this forum love first person, use first person, and I've personally seen some of them use it very well in their stories in the prose sections. But when it comes down to it, I agree with Stephen King, where in On Writing he says that unless you have a very specific reason to write in first person, don't. As I said, though, that's just me. It's a preference of mine, and I know for a fact a lot of people disagree with me.

    I especially dislike present tense, simply because I feel it sounds unprofessional. There's something about the difference between "I move my hand" and "I moved my hand" that irks me. (I'm being a negative nancy, I know) Overall, it partly goes back to the 50 Shades books. She does this, along with overall bad prose, horrible and unrealistic characters, annoying personifications of "subconscious" (which specifically is not SUBconscious if you hear it well enough to personify it) and many many more examples of the litany of horrid writing techniques that those books are. It's a personal bias, it's an opinion and nothing more.
    Last edited by Bishop; March 24th, 2014 at 06:19 AM.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  5. #5
    I have yet to try writing anything in other the "He walked into the room with a chip on his shoulder" kind of narrative voice. I don't even know if I COULD write something in First person. I probably could, but it wouldn't feel natural to me. Mostly because I wouldn't be doing the things the character is. *shrug*

    PS - Am I a bad writer because I couldn't put a name on the narrative voice I was referring to in the example I gave?
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Bowman View Post
    I have yet to try writing anything in other the "He walked into the room with a chip on his shoulder" kind of narrative voice. I don't even know if I COULD write something in First person. I probably could, but it wouldn't feel natural to me. Mostly because I wouldn't be doing the things the character is. *shrug*

    PS - Am I a bad writer because I couldn't put a name on the narrative voice I was referring to in the example I gave?
    You mean third person?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by -AT View Post
    You mean third person?
    Okay. LOL

    Maybe it's a result of having worked 10+ hours today. Or maybe it simply doesn't matter much to me what it's called. All I really know is what I like to read, and what suits the way I like to write.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Bowman View Post
    PS - Am I a bad writer because I couldn't put a name on the narrative voice I was referring to in the example I gave?
    Third person omniscient in the past tense, to be a bit more exacting.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
    Third person omniscient in the past tense, to be a bit more exacting.
    LOL.

    Now...my next question is...do I really need that information to write my story?? lol
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Bowman View Post
    LOL.

    Now...my next question is...do I really need that information to write my story?? lol
    Not in the least, but if there's one thing my English degree can do, it's this. Sadly, still have yet to find the job title of "British Literaturer" so, you know, I'm stuck with pointing out third person omniscient narratives until then!
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

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