I had a quick question about tense. I wrote a story for WotF, and it came out in present tense. That's just how the voice of the story came out, which is also the voice of the MC since the story is in first person. However, I know that present tense, while it seems to be catching on in some places, has not been the most popular of m.o.'s. I know about five years ago, there were some professional magazines who, if they were interested in your story, insisted that you change it to past tense before they would publish it.
Do you guys think I should change the tense for safety's sake? Has anyone noticed WotF having a preference?
First person, present tense is generally considered an annoying form to read. Actually, all present tense. That's why it doesn't go over well.
However, if you truly believe it is the right form for your story, then stick with it. But it's very likely that it will receive some rejections purely based on its form. As for WotF? I'm not certain, but I doubt that's their thing.
I had a first person present tense story once and it piled up many rejections before I retired it. But if yours is brilliant (mine was not) then be the artist that you are and put it out there and hopefully someone will like its uniqueness enough to take a chance with it.
Present tense stories do have a long and honored history---a Damon Runyon story just wouldn't be a Damon Runyon story if told in anything but present tense---but I don't know what they want at the WoTF contest.
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YEah... I'm thinking I might just change it, unless at some point when I am redoing it I see that it really was necessary to the story. I don't know why it came out in present tense. That in itself is probably a clue--if I don't see a real REASON for it to be that way, then it probably should just go along with the standard past tense.
I've read some short stories in first person present, and they really could not be any other way; it was just so integral to the experience of the story. But i think that is the key. It should be integral, not just "there." Especially if I want a specific market for it.
Sometimes we tell each other our stories face-to-face in present tense.
quote:And then he says, "What are you doing here?" And I tell him I don't remember. And he says, "Well, we've got to get out of here, right now!" And I don't know what to think, because I don't remember who he is either.
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited April 13, 2011).]
I'm writing my current novel in present first person. I saw a story written this way once and it repelled me. Now I'm using it myself. It simply felt right. I'm ready to turn it afterwards but it would feel out of place.
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I'm currently reading Paulo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, which is (a) recent, (b) in present tense, and (c) winner of more awards than you can poke with a stick. It's very readable. Thus, I conclude that if done well present tense works. I've also read (and written) some really bad present tense work. So I deduce that the reason present tense is usually advised against on aspirant forums, blogs & writing books is because it is very easy to get wrong. So if it works, and you know why it works, then it works: Don't mess with it. But if not...
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One of the last books I ever read that "I couldn't put down" (in fact, I stayed up until something like 3am until I could find a stopping place) was in present tense: BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM THE AIR by James Tiptree.
The suspense in that thing was excruciating, and probably spoiled me for any subsequent books--hence the fact that I have not been able to find a book "I couldn't put down" since.
(Plenty of books I've been anxious to get back to, such as the one I'm currently reading--Jo Walton's AMONG OTHERS--but none that I couldn't put down. I blame that also on having learned, over time, a lot about writing and good storytelling.)
My story is written in such a way where it sounds like a guy telling you a story. Kind of like when you are at a Dunkin Donuts and the old guys are sitting there, "So I go to the mechanic's, and he walks over to me and punches me in the nose. Then he says, "You think you're funny, huh?" And of course, I don't know what he's talking about, so I run away. Well, he's got this dog, right? ANd the dog starts chasing me. He chases me all the way down the road..."
I mean, my story has a different voice from that . But it has a certain cadence to it that is lost in past tense. I didn't want to have the story fail before anyone read it, though, by having it in present, you know?
I generally dislike first person and positively loathe present tense. [Probably because too often it's either forced, or poorly done.]
However, once in a while something just wants to be told that way. If it's right for the story, it won't smack the reader in their timesense, and it'll feel natural to itself. That's the key, I think -- let the viewpoint be natural, rather than trying to force it into any particular mold.
Present tense brings an immediacy to the story that past just can't do. If you felt compelled to write it that way, there is probably an underlying pacing reason or some other aspect of the speed and immediacy of the story that pushed you there.
I'm pretty sure the wildly successful series HUNGER GAMES is a present-tense story, 3rd person I think?
I totally disagree that first and present are more "immediate" -- first, by its very nature, wants to TELL you the story, and present tense inherently is stop-motion rather than flow. You need to be very skilled to get past either barrier, at least for me. Maybe less-skilled readers have fewer objections.
"Night of Knives" is entirely third-person present-tense, and it took me FOREVER to get past it. In fact, it distracted me from the story itself. It's a good story, and I eventually got through the book. But I never got used to the tense.
I have no objections with present tense and agree that it adds immediacy to the story. We are thrown into the present, uncertain if the mc will live to tell his story. The Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy was perhaps my favorite done in present.
First person definitely requires a different writing style. You would never say, "I stood there with my eyebrows raised" (Unless you were in front of a mirror). But you could say, "Kathleen stood there with her eyebrows raised" (when she read Wordcaster's poorly crafted post). Anyway, imo they are not interchangeable.
First person present? That's a tough one to pull off, I imagine, but annoying would not be an adjective I would use to describe such a story if written well.
You know what they say opinions are like, right?
The ONLY thing I get distracted reading is second person, because I feel like someone is telling me what to do. That's MY opinion.
I've read 1st person Past and Present, and have liked and disliked both. Why? The same reason I've liked and disliked 3rd Person Omniscient Past and Present; 3rd Person Limited Past and Present; 3rd Person Multiple Personality Limited Past: It worked or it didn't. It was used well, with skill, or not. It is easier--sometimes--to tell how skilled a writer is in 1st person, period. I don't think the tense is the qualifier, but the skill with which it is wielded.
Again, my opinion.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited April 15, 2011).]
quote:Veronica feels strong hands on her arms, dragging them behind her back, pulling them together. Then she feels rope against her wrists. A bolt of panic surges through her.
Well, no wonder it was a tough read... it does the same thing I see over and over from novices in present tense: it TELLS everything, as if we're watching it in stop-action via some topdown display, with little "emotion balloons" above each character's head. Which as I've said before, is a fault encouraged by present or first -- which actually require a lot more skill to get right than do 3rd or past. This one sounds like the product of a trip through a writing group where everyone has just learned all the Rules Of Writing.
I'd have done something more like [this is already from Veronica's POV, no need to use her name here]:
quote:Strong hands grab her arms and wrench them behind her. Rope tightens around her wrists. She thrashes against the bonds.
Well, that still sucks (if left to my own devices, I'd get away from the MS's choppy style), but you get the idea.
[This message has been edited by Reziac (edited April 15, 2011).]