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Old 02-19-2011, 08:45 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by screamingturnip View Post
Present tense is really the only easy way to write immediately and that makes it indispensable. .
No, it isn't. It's just a gimmicky way for writers to believe they're being immediate. Writers seem to love present tense, but most readers hate it because, to them, it isn't immediate, just irritating.

There's a reason 90% of all novels and short stories are written in past tense, and that reason is because most readers readers prefer it.
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Old 02-19-2011, 09:43 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
Writers seem to love present tense, but most readers hate it because, to them, it isn't immediate, just irritating
Do you have actual evidence for that?
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Old 02-19-2011, 11:35 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
No, it isn't. It's just a gimmicky way for writers to believe they're being immediate. Writers seem to love present tense, but most readers hate it because, to them, it isn't immediate, just irritating.

There's a reason 90% of all novels and short stories are written in past tense, and that reason is because most readers readers prefer it.
Do you mean 90% (I assume that's not a statistic and is used here to suggest the bulk of) of written or published novels and short stories?

Anyway, it's perfectly possible for most readers to prefer one thing but not actually hate the alternatives.
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Old 02-20-2011, 02:36 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
There's a reason 90% of all novels and short stories are written in past tense, and that reason is because most readers prefer it.
I'm with Jamesaritchie on this; I dislike present narration for the same reason I dislike showy prose--it's a distraction from the story. In short stories, for a particular effect, maybe present is the best choice. Maybe. But for most stories, I think it's just showboating.
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Old 02-20-2011, 03:32 PM   #30
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I wrote my last novel in present tense, and if it's a distraction, no one mentioned it. I think the trick is to make it invisible, just like all the mechanics.
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Old 02-20-2011, 04:00 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Julie Worth View Post
I think the trick is to make it invisible, just like all the mechanics.
Yeah, I agree about the invisibility. I was reading Rape by Joyce Carol Oates a couple of years ago and didn't realise it had switched to second person point of view. I don't like second person usually except in very short pieces, and even then not very often. She'd made the switch seamless and it was a thoroughly good read.
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Old 02-20-2011, 09:31 PM   #32
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I write in whatever tense the story would work better with. I quite like present tense for some stories, but it doesn't work in others. Past tense is probably my default, but that doesn't mean I'm dead-set against present.

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Old 02-21-2011, 06:47 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by sambgood View Post
I also write in whatever tense suits the story most. Though I do think it works really well for short stories. It might just be what I've written but I noticed that in some of my short stories, present tense increases the tension. These stories are the ones that take place in a span of minutes and are written with at least a two- or three-thousand word count.
Oddly enough, I actually find that I usually end up with past tense in my short stories. My novels are far more often present tense.

I also tend to pair first person with present tense and third person with past, though I've had exceptions.

Frankly, present tense paired with first person makes more sense to me, unless it's established that the narrator is looking back, telling a story that already happened.
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Old 04-03-2011, 09:35 PM   #34
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I've seen a couple posts here that present tense is a distraction.

What specifically about a first-person present-tense written novel would distract you? I'm very interested to hear in-depth negative opinions on this, because I am about to copy and edit my first-person past-tense novel into a present-tense version. I'll have two versions of the same novel this way to compare to one another, but I'm surprised by some of the negative opinions on present-tense. Please give me a sense of why a first-person present-tense novel would distract and/or irritate and/or enrage you. I'm sincerely interested to learn.
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Old 04-03-2011, 09:56 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago Expat View Post
I've seen a couple posts here that present tense is a distraction.

What specifically about a first-person present-tense written novel would distract you? I'm very interested to hear in-depth negative opinions on this, because I am about to copy and edit my first-person past-tense novel into a present-tense version. I'll have two versions of the same novel this way to compare to one another, but I'm surprised by some of the negative opinions on present-tense. Please give me a sense of why a first-person present-tense novel would distract and/or irritate and/or enrage you. I'm sincerely interested to learn.
In my case, it's the present tense far more than the first person, that causes an issue, and I wish people wouldn't link them as it's very possible to like or dislike one or the other in isolation.

I find it jarring because I don't think present tense handles sequencing or the flow of action very well. Everything happens in the same instant, so it's like watching action under a strobe light.

Some writers praise it for its immediacy, but I find using present magnifies any issues with the prose, and I focus on those. Good present tense - like good past tense - is invisible; the reader focuses on the story not the writing. However, in my experience it seems much easier to write bad present tense than bad past tense.

Present tense draws my attention to the writing and away from the story: and that's bad.
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Old 04-03-2011, 10:29 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave.C.Robinson View Post
In my case, it's the present tense far more than the first person, that causes an issue, and I wish people wouldn't link them as it's very possible to like or dislike one or the other in isolation.
Yes, I understand. In fact, it's why I wanted to be specific that it wasn't just present-tense, but also first-person, to show there were two variables I was facing as opposed to the more "traditional" past-tense third-person.

Quote:
I find it jarring because I don't think present tense handles sequencing or the flow of action very well. Everything happens in the same instant, so it's like watching action under a strobe light.
Good point. One of the challenges I expect to face when I edit my novel to a present-tense version will manifest itself when the scene changes within a chapter (ie, leaves the house, takes the train downtown, walks through the neighborhood, reaches the next house). I don't intend to actually write what happens between house and train station, per se, but what he's doing at the house in Paragraph A, and then what he's doing at the train station in Paragraph B. It will create some of that strobe effect that you so aptly coined, but I think if I make my transitions solid and consistent, it won't be a distraction to the reader. I feel pretty confident in my ability to avoid the minutia of first person perspective. In fact, it's the vacillation between intricate detail of an action and near-obliviousness of other actions that add a layer of tension to my story.
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Some writers praise it for its immediacy, but I find using present magnifies any issues with the prose, and I focus on those.
I really appreciate your feedback so far, but if I could maybe ask you to elaborate on the above quote portion a bit more. What do you think it is about present tense that magnifies the prose for you? What would be a hypothetical instance (or two) of this? If you want to make up a fake couple lines of story to illustrate your point, that would be especially helpful. Because I think it's this area where maybe I'm not seeing a potential obstacle I might face, and if I can be pre-warned to look out for it, I think my writing will be that much better.

And, yeah, the immediacy is an element that I'm expecting to enhance my story. I'm unsurprised to see that point getting brought up; it makes sense to me.

Quote:
Good present tense - like good past tense - is invisible; the reader focuses on the story not the writing. However, in my experience it seems much easier to write bad present tense than bad past tense.

Present tense draws my attention to the writing and away from the story: and that's bad.
As a reader and a writer, I agree with you about the quality of present vs past tense. Obviously, it's a statistic that I feel compelled to overcome.

Again, thanks for your feedback and any more feedback you can provide. That point you reiterate at the end of your post is a reader reaction I am anxious to explore further.

Cheers.
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Old 04-03-2011, 11:14 PM   #37
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I don't care what tense it is, as long as it's interesting. All POVs can be done brilliantly, or poorly. Depends on the talent and skills of the writer, imo

I recently wrote a first person short and I rather like how it turned out. I surprised myself
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:02 AM   #38
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I think a blanket-rejection of everything written in a less common style serves no one.

I've had this discussion many times, and half the time people can't even remember what tense and/or POV the book is in. I've had heated arguments with self-professed haters of first person/present tense and somewhere along the line Hunger Games came up, and those people hadn't even noticed that it's written in first person and present tense.

I think picking on tense is an easy scapegoat when you weren't enjoying the story an awful lot anyway (and probably wouldn't have enjoyed it had it been in your preferred tense).

At another workshop, I once attracted a critique from a woman banging on about how one 'should' always write in third person and past tense. I got so annoyed at her that I wrote a story in second person, future tense just to piss her off. I sold the story, too.
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:11 AM   #39
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I write in the tense the story demands. Sometimes that's present. I often don't even notice the tense until I edit.
Same here. If I try to force a story into a particular tense that's not the right one for it, I will continually drift back to the tense the story wants to be in. (Same with POV.) Why fight it? Story always ends up better when I listen to what it's telling me.

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Old 04-04-2011, 04:06 PM   #40
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Chicago Expat, I don't think in transitions. I've noticed that beta readers more often complain about my frequent lack of transitions when a story's in present tense rather than past.

Other than that, I know that when beta reading, I often find more tense confusion in present tense works than past tense.

Some people find present tense distracting in itself, just as some find first person or second person distracting in itself, because they either aren't used to it and/or they don't like it. For them, that tense and person will always make "bad" writing, unless they find a story that entices them enough to distract them from it so they don't notice.
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Old 04-04-2011, 07:20 PM   #41
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Quote:
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Some people find present tense distracting in itself, just as some find first person or second person distracting in itself, because they either aren't used to it and/or they don't like it. For them, that tense and person will always make "bad" writing, unless they find a story that entices them enough to distract them from it so they don't notice.
That makes sense. Distraction borne from unfamiliarity. I buy that.
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