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14

A lot of it is just convention. Most people seem most accustomed to reading past tense, so it tends to not be noticed by the reader. There are exceptions to this, however. YA, especially, has a lot of present tense writing, and in that genre it seems to be totally unremarkable. Fans of present tense often argue that it gives a sense of immediacy to the ...


11

TL;DR If you're going to do present tense do it for a good reason and mitigate the downsides. Long version Present tense lends a sense of immediacy to the work and also may make it feel like you are reading a screenplay or drama as opposed to a typical past tense novel. That's the good part. If you want urgency and a sense of being close to the action, ...


9

Past tense is my instinct. Yet it depends on what you are writing and the writing's purpose. If it's an adventure story or something with more of a fast pace then clearly present tense might be best. "What was that? Rustling in the bushes nearby. Footsteps just beyond--sound like a person, a large person. I must move on. Now." That is more effective than: ...


7

If your essay is analytical (and I'm struggling to think of any other reason you'd write an essay about The Great Gatsby) then I'd put it in the present tense. Gatsby loves Daisy, but Daisy is married to Tom. Gatsby doesn't have the bloodline to impress her; all he has is money. So he throws lavish affairs at his ostentatious house in a effort to show her ...


7

Let's break down your illustrative sentence: Users can delete Servers This statement describes a capability -- users can perform this action. I'm hard-pressed to imagine how a different tense could be used here. Some technical writers (or style guides) make this overly passive -- "the system supports user deletion of servers" or some such. Speaking ...


6

It's not strange at all. That's exactly how I would do it. A flashback of two paragraphs can take past perfect. A flashback of several pages can be in the simple past as long as you establish the time shift clearly at the beginning, and use the past perfect in one or two sentences at the beginning. You should also clearly indicate when the flashback ends: ...


6

Here's what I'm familiar with: a lot of people see present-tense as a description of something happening right now, while past-tense is a narration of events that have already concluded. So: Some readers find present-tense more immediate and, well, tense. Some readers take issue with past-tense narration, seeing it as an unjustified device: If somebody's ...


6

One way to look at it: how do people in real life present thoughts and emotions? Either through their actions (facial expressions, body language) or they say something. You could get across emotions by describing these things (something like the "universal expressions" in the TV show Lie to Me come to mind). I think objective third is pretty difficult to do ...


5

It should be pretty simple to write her decisions if they are truly brief. For example: Vala whirled to face her attacker, checking him over for potential weaknesses. She noted a gap in his armor just above his waist. Gotcha! she thought. A quick jab with her dagger tore a scream from his throat. Emotions and thinking should be just as easy: Jane ...


5

I think you have it written correctly. "I remember Eve" means that at the moment he's speaking, he does in fact remember her. To say "I remembered Eve" means that at some point (in the past) he didn't remember Eve, and then at some point (still in the past, but more recently), he did remember her again. The same with "I don't think I'll ever recover" ...


5

I think that beginning with a series of flashbacks might be difficult for the reader to follow if there was no sense of what they are moving towards. This might not be exactly what you are doing, but in any case my advice would be to consider an in medias res structure. Instead of narrating consecutive flashbacks leading up to the present, begin with a ...


5

That actually might be really interesting. Particularly if you label the flashbacks as "1958" or "Forty years ago," and then the present is "now" or "Present day." And if your flashbacks get closer together (one year ago, six months ago, four months ago, six weeks ago, three weeks ago, one week ago, three days ago, thirty-six hours ago...) and speed up, that ...


5

You're making the time shift too casual, too non-committing. That's a major jump granting a new section or at the very least a new paragraph. You can't just go by with a single clause of a longer sentence. Lauren is quite right when making it stand out with italics, but if you want to avoid formatting it that way or think it disrupts the flow, you can fit ...


5

On the language level: when you show a moment from a continuous, slow or unchanging process or state - showing that the process was in progress, or the state was such already when the observation began. On writing level - purpose: when you want to induce the feeling of stillness, create image instead of action, describe state instead of activity. Also, ...


5

When it comes to fiction there is no accepted tense. As long as you don't change tense, perspective or person midstream you're fine. Yes past tense is most common but I've read future, present, and past tense and I've read first, third and even second person (that one took a little getting used to but was very well used by Charles Stross) The real answer ...


4

Personally I wouldn't change from first to third person in the middle of the story, it's always a little bit jarring for the reader. That being said, maybe being jarring is what you want in this case. It would make the flashbacks stand out. Being in first person for the flashback would also make it feel more personal, something you might want for that ...


4

Try this: San Francisco is just coming to life. I can see all of downtown from my hotel room. Ten stories below, the traffic is backed up on Powell Street. ... etc. ... etc. Two weeks earlier I am sitting in a bar in New Orleans. The bartender asks me etc. etc. The italics on their own line become a timestamp rather than part of the sentence.


3

One can debate the validity of the flashback technique, as Lauren Ipsum and Tylerharms do in the comments on another answer. Like many techniques, it can be done well and it can be done lamely. (Oh, how I hate movies that start out with a character brooding over the scene of the disaster -- whether it's the end of his marriage or the end of the world or ...


3

Not sure if I'm missing something, but this doesn't seem confusing to me. I'm assuming that the person that "my" refers to is not Anne, in which case it's the narrator. Therefore, I'd say that the first example is more correct. The narrator is recalling a story and telling it to someone, therefore both statements should refer to the past. However, the ...


3

I think you mix things up here. Present tense does not build immediacy, immediacy should be there if you use present tense. At least I expect it when present tense is used. As Kate mentions the sense of immediacy is independent of the used tense. But if you use present tense, your writing should better have this sense. Just using present tense will not add ...


3

The most important thing to consider is whether or not there are valid justications for the effort of changing posts to the past tense, given that you are increasing your workload and increasing the risk of introducing errors into the text. In terms of justifications, the only one I can think of is that readers may get confused reading something in the ...


3

You are going to want simple past most of the time. Simple past gives you the widest array of active verbs, and it's the active verbs that you absolutely need to make your narrative vivid. I should say, actually, that this explanation only applies to people writing in English, written by people for whom English is the primary language and for whom their ...


2

I write blog posts in the present tense even if I'm writing about something which happened in the past, because it's funnier to be "present" as the gag is unfolding. I prefer novels in the past tense, but it's just a preference, and I could get used to a story told in the present tense.


2

I'd go with past, actually. If you use past perfect, there's no need to italicise, is there? It's effectively not a flashback, but just narration. Flashbacks are meant to take on an element of immediacy, of being dragged into a moment re-lived. (In fact I've actually switched to present tense for flashbacks with no reader confusion. Indicate that you're ...


2

Third person objective works best for screen plays. Are you writing for print or film? I've read in a number of places that experimenting with perspective, or using anything other than first person or third omniscient/limited for print, as an unpublished writer, is a quick path to an editors trash can.


2

I find these answers interesting because to me, a diary is a place you confess your innermost thoughts, while a journal is something you write in every day to talk about what you did. (note the jour- root, meaning "day") That having been said, if I'm reporting on what I did today, or yesterday, I'd use past tense, because it's something I did. But if I'm ...


2

The best you can do, I think, is to try and pick up on the tone of the work that the original writer was trying to convey. Since your profile indicates that you're an Indonesian/English translator, I did a little research into Indonesian verb tenses, and I think I understand your problem. While this may be an oversimplification, I've found while verb forms ...


2

You can accomplish what you want with a single punctuation change, comma to colon: Two weeks earlier: I am sitting in a bar in New Orleans . . .


2

I am not in academia, but I think if you would use the present tense for a book, then a letter — which presumably has to be published for you to have access to it — would fall under the same rule. Otherwise you have something like, "John Adams writes in Defence of the Constitution that England is a monarchical republic, but in his letter of 1 ...



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