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#1 of 10 Old 08-16-2009, 02:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would like to post a q about my tense issue...this is what I have so far:

* chapter 1 = present tense(this is what is happening now)

* chapter 2-6 = past tense (looking back to what happened 1 year ago)

* chapter 7-25 = present tense (flipping back to present time)

the question is....should I keep the tenses THIS way? or should I change it all to be PRESENT tense, even though those 'looking back' chapters are in the past?

what's your opinion?...

thanks!
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#2 of 10 Old 08-16-2009, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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here's what I have...the last paragraph from chapter 1 and the first paragraph from chapter 2...to show what I mean...I think it works, but then again, can't see the forest through the trees...need some help with that


Thanking her with one of my own, I use the last leg of the ramp to the plane to reclaim my breathing, wipe the sweat from my brow, and do what I can to make use of it to fix my hair. Taking in several cleansing breaths, I feel a proud smile crawl up onto my face. A year ago I would have never dreamed myself able to do this. Yet here I am. I'm doing it. I'm really doing it.


Last year, while I was searching through my shoulder bag for keys, I swept back a few strands of frayed hair and tucked them behind my ear. The street lights glowed just enough to illuminate the key hole, the sound of the busy city humming in the distance. Jostling the bag, I heard my keys jingle absolute bottom. I dug to retrieve the set.

what do you think? does it work? I continue on with the PAST tense for the next few chapters and then we jump instantly back to PRESENT when she gets on the plane...like a flash back...

thanks in advance!
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#3 of 10 Old 08-16-2009, 03:59 PM
 
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Honestly, if the bulk of your novel is written in the present tense while dealing with, well, the present, it only makes sense to change tenses when speaking of the past. Your two paragraphs make the transition very clear, and the continuing use of that tense will make it clear that you're still in flashback mode. Just be certain to have a clear transition back to present tense (even something as simple as "Now, as I walk to the parking lot I paw through my purse in seach of my keys...") and you should be fine.

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#4 of 10 Old 08-16-2009, 05:31 PM
 
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Sounds like it works for me. I am with pp that you need to make a very clear transition back to the present as well.

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#5 of 10 Old 08-17-2009, 01:17 AM
 
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It seems to me that the only reason you need any "past tense" chapters is because the first chapter happens out of order. So I think my first question would be, is it NECESSARY to have that first chapter in there? Because it sounds like the story actually starts 6 months earlier than where your novel starts, and the usual advice is to start the novel at the start of the story. If the first chapter could be removed altogether, then couldn't the whole novel be in the same tense?

Another question would be, is the first chapter really a first chapter, or is it more like a prologue? I'm not usually a fan of prologues but they can have their place. A prologue need not happen "in order" with the rest of the novel, and could be written in another tense entirely.

FWIW in your sample, I think start with "Last year" reads awkwardly. It does convey that this bit happened earlier, but it's not a very firm time marker. "Last year" could be any time from a day (if today is Jan 1!) to more than a year ago (if today is in December!). Could you at least nail the timing down to a season, ie, "Last summer" or whatever?

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#6 of 10 Old 08-17-2009, 09:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aufilia View Post
FWIW in your sample, I think start with "Last year" reads awkwardly. It does convey that this bit happened earlier, but it's not a very firm time marker. "Last year" could be any time from a day (if today is Jan 1!) to more than a year ago (if today is in December!). Could you at least nail the timing down to a season, ie, "Last summer" or whatever?
ahhhh, Last summer is perfect...thanks!

It's not a prologue, but a painting of a picture of a person that 'a year ago' was not the confident person she is today...I could easily move this chapter back into the timeline, but for right now, I think I want to see if it works this way... like she has a flashback - as we all do from time to time - when she realizes that even just a year ago she couldn't even imagine herself with this much strength to be able to do what she's doing... so when you see her in the next chapter (in the flashback) you see just how much of a mess she used to be...

then again, if it confuses the reader I should just scratch it and make it start at the beginning and just do it that way...
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#7 of 10 Old 08-17-2009, 11:53 AM
 
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Aufilia, isn't the usual advice to start your story in the middle of the action? Granted, MommyHawk is more in the middle than most, but I've seen her structure work in published novels in the past. A five-chapter flashback is pretty large, though.

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#8 of 10 Old 08-19-2009, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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5 chapters too much?...hmmm....let me see what the critique group thinks...as they get to read/edit it soon! so excited to be a part of a real live group! : although the advice and support I get here with MDC writing mamas helped me have the confidence TO write
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#9 of 10 Old 08-20-2009, 02:23 AM
 
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Yay, glad to hear you have a critique group! I'm not saying five chapters is too much, just that it's large. It probably works. I remember how nice your starting passage was.

Sabra: Mama to Bobbie (3/02), Linda (1/04), Esther (10/05), Marie (11/10), & Douglas (11/12)

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#10 of 10 Old 09-02-2009, 01:26 AM
 
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As a reader, I like the distinction between now and then. I don't know that it's necessary with so few jumps in time, but I've been driven crazy by books that had lots of jumps and nothing that really said "this time"/"that time".
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