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  1. #1
    Moriartea is offline Newbie
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    Post Question on Present Tense/Past Tense?

    I'm sorry if this is a ridiculous question or something, but it's been bothering me for the past hour and everyone I've asked has either said one way or the other - though hasn't particularly explained why.

    I'm writing a story ( very short, amateur story ) that's written in the form of a journal, I guess.

    In it, the character which is narrating it all ( I'll just call him John ) is clarifying all the events that happened the week before to his brother ( but rather than telling him in person, he's writing it. For minor reasons. )

    So, I'm wondering, is it a bad idea to use present tense? They way I've done it is rather strange, and I'm almost positive switching from past to present tense at all is frowned upon, so suggestions would be lovely!

    So, as an example, it goes like this:

    'John' starts of the journal ( Or letter? ) mainly addressing his brother and explaining how the next few events he's about to explain are probably "unbelievable to an extent in which he has no reasonable explanation", before that 'chapter', 'prologue', or whatever it is ends, and then he begins explaining like an everyday journal, what happened.

    Now the beginning I've got in all past tense, but when I begin to actually describe the events that took place, I use present tense. I know past tense is probably the way to go, but I think present tense would help with describing a lot of it, and with suspenseful things, and what not.

    Have an example if that helps, but I feel like I've already rambled too much.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Question on Present Tense/Past Tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Moriartea View Post
    I'm sorry if this is a ridiculous question or something, but it's been bothering me for the past hour and everyone I've asked has either said one way or the other - though hasn't particularly explained why.

    I'm writing a story ( very short, amateur story ) that's written in the form of a journal, I guess.

    In it, the character which is narrating it all ( I'll just call him John ) is clarifying all the events that happened the week before to his brother ( but rather than telling him in person, he's writing it. For minor reasons. )

    So, I'm wondering, is it a bad idea to use present tense? They way I've done it is rather strange, and I'm almost positive switching from past to present tense at all is frowned upon, so suggestions would be lovely!

    So, as an example, it goes like this:

    'John' starts of the journal ( Or letter? ) mainly addressing his brother and explaining how the next few events he's about to explain are probably "unbelievable to an extent in which he has no reasonable explanation", before that 'chapter', 'prologue', or whatever it is ends, and then he begins explaining like an everyday journal, what happened.

    Now the beginning I've got in all past tense, but when I begin to actually describe the events that took place, I use present tense. I know past tense is probably the way to go, but I think present tense would help with describing a lot of it, and with suspenseful things, and what not.

    Have an example if that helps, but I feel like I've already rambled too much.

    Thanks!
    That's not narrated by John. If it were, it would read, "I start off the journal mainly addressing my brother ..."
    It might be easier to understand if you just posted a few lines from the actual story.

  3. #3
    Moriartea is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Question on Present Tense/Past Tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    That's not narrated by John. If it were, it would read, "I start off the journal mainly addressing my brother ..."
    It might be easier to understand if you just posted a few lines from the actual story.
    Such a quick reply!(:

    Oh, sorry! How about this:

    Bob has also mentioned my ‘lack of patience’ when it comes to speaking with you, and so in an attempt to keep you from resorting to, by Bob's terms, ‘locking us up in some sort of medical compact’, this was his suggestion.
    And from the actually journal bit, or whatever:

    A split-second of disorientation that converts sharply into perfect awareness. Not from a nightmare, not from a dream, but from an obnoxious sound spewing out of my mobile phone. Obviously, I am bewildered. When had I set an alarm to the Bee Gees? That's absolutely hateful. It’s sparks a reminder of something, though I can't remember exactly – whatever it was, I've obviously forgotten it by now.
    The rest is all present tense, and I'm unsure as to whether any of that is right. LOL.

    Thank you, though!

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Question on Present Tense/Past Tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Moriartea View Post
    I'm almost positive switching from past to present tense at all is frowned upon, so suggestions would be lovely!
    Not at all- in narrative we can use the historical present (the present tense for past events), which is meant to draw the reader closer to the events. I can't see anything wrong with the tenses you use in those two extracts. We often switch- I was on the bus this morning and this guy gets on... (the past locates the action and the changes signals the point where the story really starts)

  5. #5
    Moriartea is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Question on Present Tense/Past Tense?

    Oh, thank you! I'm surprised we've never talked about it in class. I researched it a bit more though, and I understand what you mean. :D Thank you so much!

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