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yesandno
06-23-2007, 05:52 AM
In Flash Fiction, what do you think about switching tense to indicate and emphasize scene changes? Is that too jarring? Is it even grammatically permissible?

I do this a lot, but wonder if it's a problem.

nevada
06-23-2007, 06:12 AM
Usually, you dont want to switch tense. I have noticed that you do that and it is jarring. Switching tense interupts the timeflow of the story. It can be done but it should be done with a reason and purpose. For example, I have a short story that's written in past tense and in first person. At the end, after the climax, I switch to present tense in order to show that the story was being related and that now after the climax things are totally different. But it's only a few paragraph. (Maybe even only one) It's clearly indicated with a row of asterisks to indicate major scene change

But to just switch tense for no reason is extremely jarring. It confuses the reader as to what is "now" in the story. So don't do it. Unless you have a really really good reason for it. Definitely not midscene or midsentence.

yesandno
06-23-2007, 06:32 AM
Party-pooper ;)

I always envision the scenes in my head in relation to one another on a timeline, and it flows smoothly to me. I hate that it doesn't translate well.

nevada
06-23-2007, 06:35 AM
They are in relationship to each other on a timeline but that relationship can be indicated by other things than tense. Tense changes are confusing. They bemuddle what you're trying to be clear about. Believe it or not, adherence to some rules actually frees you up to be more creative. Think of it as music. YOu can play any notes you want, but certain notes together make a pleasant, harmonious chord. THe ordered use of those chords make music that you want to listen to, whatever style you prefer.

Think of sentences as chords. You can do what you want, but some things will jar. Some will create harmony and joy. Within that harmony and joy, you can get your point across easier.

benbradley
06-23-2007, 07:19 AM
They are in relationship to each other on a timeline but that relationship can be indicated by other things than tense. Tense changes are confusing. They bemuddle what you're trying to be clear about. Believe it or not, adherence to some rules actually frees you up to be more creative. Think of it as music. YOu can play any notes you want, but certain notes together make a pleasant, harmonious chord. THe ordered use of those chords make music that you want to listen to, whatever style you prefer.

Think of sentences as chords. You can do what you want, but some things will jar. Some will create harmony and joy. Within that harmony and joy, you can get your point across easier.

From my admittedly limited writing experience I agree that one should stay with one tense, but not so much with this musical analogy. Things are not always harmonious, and the going to dischordant and back to harmonious chords is one way of adding and releasing tension in a musical piece. Sometimes you WANT to jar in a musical piece.

A better comparison with changing tense might be suddenly playing out of tune...

yesandno
06-23-2007, 07:29 AM
The problem I have with the musical analogy is that I love crazy, doesn't-follow-any-rules, improv music. It's a bit simple to say that it doesn't follow any rules, I suppose, but the main rule is that if you hit a note that doesn't sound quite right, you'd better follow it with one that does.

Twizzle
06-23-2007, 03:31 PM
the problem is--if you're writing for yourself, go for it. but if you're writing to be read, by readers, you might want to worry about harmony. nevada's dead-on. You don't want to jar the reader out of the dream.

Soccer Mom
06-24-2007, 06:48 AM
It's particularly jarring in a short piece. I don't care for it as a technique.

Just my .02

Cassiopeia
06-24-2007, 02:43 PM
I must admit to being guilty of doing it in my drabble The Hero, I had really no other alternative and i don't recall anyone moaning about it. :)

Jenny
06-25-2007, 10:16 AM
and my $0.02 - it depends on the market you're writing for. Some like traditional/easy reading; others like adventure in the story and its style. If you think the market you're aiming for will live with strange (in the best way) writing, then go for it. ::taking off my would be writer's hat:: as a reader, I prefer a single tense throughout a story. It helps with flow - but I'm not an adventurous reader.