Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another Day, Another Post, Another Prompt

The past few days have gone by in a blur. Getting ready for the new school year and editing my current manuscript for a fifth and final time has kept me too busy. So, when I noticed that I hadn't posted since last Wednesday, well, it took me by surprise. Time not only flies when you are having fun, it obviously does that when you're really, really busy, too! Okay, now that I am done making excuses, let's get down to serious business....writing.

Today I thought I'd write about use of verb tense and POV. What works best and in what situation? In my opinion -- and it's often been stated -- that if you use the first person POV and the present tense, the reader has a more intimate connection with what the narrator is feeling, experiencing. Compare for yourself:

I enter the room and see the crowd. I want to run away, the nervousness I feel overwhelms me. I notice him standing apart from the others. He smiles at me; I blush, but manage a quiet response.
"Hello," I say, and then in sudden panic turn to find the nearest door.

Or, how about...

I entered the room and saw the crowd. I wanted to run away, the nervousness I felt overwhelmed me. I noticed him standing apart from the others. He smiled at me; I blushed, but managed a quiet response.
"Hello," I said, and then in sudden panic turned to find the nearest door.

Granted, it is a slight difference, maybe not noticeable to some. I feel the present tense gives the reader the sense of living that character's experience, right at that moment, rather like virtual reality.

Or we can play with this and change it to the third person POV and past tense.

She entered the room and saw the crowd. She wanted to run away, the nervousness she felt overwhelmed her. She noticed him standing apart from the others. He smiled at her; she blushed but managed a quiet response.
"Hello," she said, and then in sudden panic turned to find the nearest door.

So, what do you think? Do you notice or feel any difference? Which do you like better? When you write, which POV and verb tense do you prefer or find easiest to write in? Give me your opinion.

And now I'd like to experiment around a bit with the next writing prompt. I will write it in the first person POV, present tense, but when you write your story, you can decide which POV and tense to use. And if several respond, it should be interesting to see the results!

Okay, here goes....

I walk into the darkened room, my heart pounding. The fear overcomes me; I think I am drowning. Reluctant to move, my steps are cautious. I want this to be over, to find what I came for and go home....


UnendingPain said...

Each way of writing is good for a different style of writing. I sometimes mix the styles of writing when I take too long of a break in between writing, so I really should go back and edit the work I have so far, but I haven't gotten the chance yet.

Arielle said...

I always write longer stories in first person past tense, while I save first person present tense for my short stories. I feel that the present tense is best for short stories because they are so fleeting. ^.^

_-*Kristen*-_ said...

oh gosh, i know how you feel about school. my first day was an almost disaster. :) I'm really going to miss summer break. I posted about it on my All you can do is smile blog if you want to read about it.

I walk into the darkened room, my heart pounding. The fear overcomes me; I think I am drowning. Reluctant to move, my steps are cautious. I want this to be over, to find what I came for and go home....

but I'm not sure what I'm looking for, I'm not quite sure why I came here. He called wanting to talk to me, but I didn't know if I wanted to see him again. Not after what had happened so long ago. I just didn't want to mess up what I had right now. A loving boyfriend, and a stable enviornment. It was a once only deal, and it has only happened once to me ever. I didn't want to screw this up.

I turned on the light and he was there, waiting for me. "What did you want?" I asked him.

"Only to talk to you." he smiled at me like he used to. Like he did when he loved me, and when I loved him back. "I've really missed you."

"I don't care." I heard my voice waver. I tried to keep cold, but I just couldn't. All of the walls that I had built up wern't working as well as I hoped. I shouldn't have come here, I shouldn't have risked everything for him.

He stood up from his bed. "I love you, Luna. I really do. Nothing has worked out for me the way you did, please come back."

I felt hot tears on my eyes. Nothing had really worked out for me either. I had been trying, but it just wasn't working. "It only worked because you walked all over me, because I let you."

He came toward me and pulled me into a tight hug. "You know that isn't true." he said softly. I breathed in his scent. He always smelt of tag and cigarettes, and I loved that smell. I did miss him, but I had Robert now. He was my everything now, not this man in front of me.

"I know it isn't, but you had your chance." Slowly, and deliberatley, I pried my unwilling body away from him. Away from my ex love. "I do miss you, and I do love you, it's just not the same anymore. I have someone new." I turned away from him and walked out the door. I'm not sure why I came there in the first place.

Maybe it was to rub it in his face, maybe it was to have closeure, maybe it was to just see him again.

teacherwriter said...

ARIELLE ... I agree that present tense lends itself to short stories. They are like snapshots of life and present tense seems to describe them best.  First person POV is my favorite probably because I write mysteries.  This genre seems to have a quite a share of books told in that view.UNENDINGPAIN ... Yes, when choosing a tense and POV you have to consider what is the perfect fit for the type of writing you're doing.  That's why if the writer is unsure, trying it out in a couple different ways will show which might sound or read better.KRISTEN ... School can be rough, no doubt!  I posted a comment on your blog.Your story is full of intimacy.  You seem to have an ease with writing about relationships, don't you? :)  You switched from present tense to past tense part way through the story.  Do you think you are most comfortable writing in the past tense or maybe it's just your subcontious mind leading the way?  I'm always curious about this.  I have a feeling most authors find one particular POV and verb tense their favorite mostly because it's what they find easiest to write.  What do you think?

brainsnorts said...

the problem with present tense is that it forces the situation to occur in "real time," which is not possible in most stories. you can get away with it in some short stories, but only if they can occur in real time.

also, when reading aloud in present tense, the "s" sounds force you to read more slowly because the "-ed" of most past tense verbs will assimilate into the next initial sound more easily than an "s" will because of a forced pause between the "s" and the initial sound of the next word. however, that "s" will only be at the end of most verbs if it's written in third person.

here's what it boils down to:

1. always use past tense unless present tense will add something to the story that is not there with past tense.

2. always use third person unless, again, first person will add something. for example, if you're writing a memoir, even if it's a fictional memoir, then you should use first person.

3. always have a paper towel nearby if you're eating potato chips at the computer so you can wipe your fingers and keep the grease off the keys.

that about covers it.

_-*Kristen*-_ said...

yea i have some problems with switching tenses a lot, i try to keep it in check but is does that sometimes and i dont realize it