Word on a Whim

What began as a blog about writing and publishing has become a blog of whatever I feel like writing. Jules Lucton.

Tense?

All the books I wrote before ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ were written in the past tense, which I believe is the more traditional style of telling a story.  I wrote those early stories without having to give a thought to the grammar – it just seemed to flow. With the Serge character, I felt that the present tense seemed appropriate for Serge’s outlook; he lives in the present moment and his actions are responses to what is happening right now.

I started my latest book in the present tense, as this now feels more natural to me, but at the end of the first chapter I decided to do this one in the past and rewrote it.  Rewriting it was more than just a case of sticking ‘ed’ on the end of words as I found that some bits just didn’t sound right and had to be rephrased. Moving forward, if I finally settle with the past, I will have to concentrate to use ‘said’ instead of ‘says’ and so on, until it becomes natural again.

I did go looking on the internet to see if people had tense preferences, and I think it was this comment on a forum that swayed me towards the past:

“Reading an extended piece in present tense often makes me feel as if I’m being hit repeatedly over the head with a teaspoon.”  (Emma)

I kind of know what she means, but yet it was this same quality that I felt gave my book a freshness, a faster pace and a sense of the seasons rolling quickly by.

To help me decide, I took an extract from ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ and converted it into the past.

Here it is in the present tense:

Leo has had enough – it had been funny and intriguing at first – but now he will block the number.  Better still he will plunge the mobile into the water – as far down as he can sink it – and then jump in after it and follow it down to the depths where the water turns to mud.  He raises it above his head to achieve the maximum downward thrust but slips on the ice and falls to his knees – the phone flying from his hand and almost slithering over the edge.  He remains kneeling on the ice and clasps together his painfully cold hands, and sobs in despair…

  “Oh, Lord.  If you really do exist – as my mother believes you do – then please don’t let me ruin her Christmas.”

… and this is my ‘translation’ into the past tense.

Leo had had enough – it had been funny and intriguing at first – but now he would block the number.  Better still he would plunge the mobile into the water – as far down as he could sink it – and then jump in after it and follow it down to the depths where the water turns to mud.  He raised it above his head to achieve the maximum downward thrust but slipped on the ice and fell to his knees – the phone flying from his hand and almost slithering over the edge.  He remained kneeling on the ice and clasped together his painfully cold hands, and sobbed in despair…

  “Oh, Lord.  If you really do exist – as my mother believes you do – then please don’t let me ruin her Christmas.”

Have I got myself confused here? Do I need to change “will block the number”, “will plunge” and “can sink it” to “would block the number”, “would plunge” and “could sink it”, or are they still valid in the future when I am writing in the past?  I think I could have got away with the future, but it grates a little when followed by “He raised” instead of “He raises” – or would that read okay to everyone else?

Anyone’s feelings or advice on this will be very much appreciated and will help me to decide whether to go forward in the present or the past.

Thanks,

Jules

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2 thoughts on “Tense?

  1. Do you really think anyone but you gives a monkey’s whether you even write another novel, never mind what tense you do it in? Do it in the past tense since that’s where it is at the moment. That way you don’t have to re-write the first chapter again.
    Put the novel aside until you have completed the screenplay script – then that will be ready to send off in the autumn and you will have a little dream to live on during the winter months.

    Oh, and about Facebook. Have you noticed how little you have written since you joined it? You switch on the PC to do some writing and then spend the evening looking at what other are doing and grinning like an idiot if someone likes your silly comment.
    Grow up and stop wasting time.

    Jules Lucton

    • mumanisnowhere on said:

      Ha ahahahahahah hohohohoho diddlee squat an banish the foe o Ms ex Thomas,
      doubt let go of and relax in that which you are best at being who you are an I love you for that xxx

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