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persiphone_hellecat
08-24-2006, 07:13 AM
This drives me NUTS and I see it being done by some of the biggest and most successful authors today. An example...

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. Today was her birthday.

This is where I start getting really upset and throwing books across the room. And I'm talking best sellers guilty of this.

Is it just me? From my point of view, when you are writing in the past tense, or the past percfect tense, you are basically story telling -- relating the story of something that happened sometime in the past. Therefore, "today" wasnt Jean's birthday - her birthday was some time ago -- on the day you are writing about, which is obviously some time after the end of the book takes place or you wouldnt be able to relate the story in past tense, right? Same thing with using the words yesterday or tomorrow -- unless you were using it in quotations. Example...

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. "Today is her birthday," Jean said.

or

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. It was her birthday.

The same thing with using words like "ago", "before", and so on. Example...

Bob walked across the campus. An hour ago, he was in physics class.

No - it wasnt an hour ago. It should be...

Bob walked across the campus. An hour earlier, he was in physics class.

Better?

I was always taught that you couldnt use time indicator words when writing in past or past perfect tense. And yet I see everyone from the great Brown himself to Patterson and so on doing it all the time. What's up with that?

Just wondering because it positively drives me NUTS when I read. It is a really poor example of perspective and I have been tempted on occasion to write to some of the "biggies" and ask them why they cannot get it right.

Does anyone else notice this or is it just me? Just in the event I err and forget myself, when I finish writing something, I always do a "find" in Word and search for words like today, yesterday, tomorrow, ago, before,etc. and make sure I havent used them incorrectly. I wish Patterson, Brown and the others would do the same.

trumancoyote
08-24-2006, 08:57 AM
I kinda like it, actually. Especially when someone uses 'now' in the past tense -- sexy, in a weird, not-a-human-but-still-sexy sort of way.

persiphone_hellecat
08-24-2006, 09:08 AM
Hmmmm ... can you give me an example? Are you referring to something spoken - in quotations? PS I like the new pic.

Jamesaritchie
08-24-2006, 06:20 PM
This drives me NUTS and I see it being done by some of the biggest and most successful authors today. An example...

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. Today was her birthday.

This is where I start getting really upset and throwing books across the room. And I'm talking best sellers guilty of this.

Is it just me? From my point of view, when you are writing in the past tense, or the past percfect tense, you are basically story telling -- relating the story of something that happened sometime in the past. Therefore, "today" wasnt Jean's birthday - her birthday was some time ago -- on the day you are writing about, which is obviously some time after the end of the book takes place or you wouldnt be able to relate the story in past tense, right? Same thing with using the words yesterday or tomorrow -- unless you were using it in quotations. Example...

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. "Today is her birthday," Jean said.

or

Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. It was her birthday.

The same thing with using words like "ago", "before", and so on. Example...

Bob walked across the campus. An hour ago, he was in physics class.

No - it wasnt an hour ago. It should be...

Bob walked across the campus. An hour earlier, he was in physics class.

Better?

I was always taught that you couldnt use time indicator words when writing in past or past perfect tense. And yet I see everyone from the great Brown himself to Patterson and so on doing it all the time. What's up with that?

Just wondering because it positively drives me NUTS when I read. It is a really poor example of perspective and I have been tempted on occasion to write to some of the "biggies" and ask them why they cannot get it right.

Does anyone else notice this or is it just me? Just in the event I err and forget myself, when I finish writing something, I always do a "find" in Word and search for words like today, yesterday, tomorrow, ago, before,etc. and make sure I havent used them incorrectly. I wish Patterson, Brown and the others would do the same.

In all honesty, for me, it dpends on why the writer is doing it. Certainly
Bob walked across the campus. An hour ago, he was in physics class.

doesn't bother me. This is the way people use "ago," and I think it's perfectly acceptable. "An hour earlier" is certainly the correct grammatical choice, but particularly in fiction, common usage usually trumps technically correct usage. Whether it should be "ago," "before," or "earlier" depends on teh tone teh writer is trying to set, rather than on technically correct usage.

As for: Jean and I were sitting in the cafe enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine. Today was her birthday.
Well, for me, it depends on what the writer does next. "Today was her birthday" is not the same as "Today is her birthday," and using "today in the past tense can be a very good way to make a transition. "It was her birthday" is correct IF you intend to remain fully in the past, but it's fine to make a transition so the reader feels more in the present.

It's good to choose a tense and stay there, and it's good to avoid present tense words in past tense stories, with the exception of dialogue. But there are times and places where breaking the rules is a very good thing. It is about storytelling, but good storytelling is not as simple as always sticking to past tense or past perfect.

As has often been said, sometimes the only thing worse than poor grammar and poor usage is perfect grammar and perfect usage.

The question is seldom, "Did a name writer break a rule?" He almost certainly broke many. Good writers almost always do. The question is always "Why did a name writer break a rule?"

And the question is never "Is this correct?" The question is never "Will grammarians get upset over this?" The questin is always "Will the average reader find the story better, or easier to understand, if I break a rule here?"

I'd have to read longer examples to really say yes or no.