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Present Tense Novels

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Mon September 20th, 2010, 1:17 am

So - are there any readers out there who actually prefer novels written in the present tense? Or is this something misguided authors are foisting on readers who would all rather be reading past-tense fiction?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

RichardWarrenField
Scribbler
Location: Tarzana, CA (northwest of Los Angeles)
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Present Tense Novels

Postby RichardWarrenField » Sun September 26th, 2010, 12:44 am

Yes, I hope this isn't the new "thing" to show how clever writers can be. As I said in a previous post, screenplay narratives are written in the present tense - that is the only place I recall seeing this with any regularity before. As I started WOLF HALL, I wondered if there was a screenplay influence or element to the writing. Of course, I suspect the type of author who would try to be clever this way would despise any comparison between screenplays and his or her work...

Richard Warren Field
http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/
http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/TheSwordsofFaith.htm
THE SWORDS OF FAITH, a unique novel about the "Third Crusade" (Richard the Lionheart and Saladin) that stresses tolerance between the faiths even during a time of great conflict.
Richard Warren Field's blog: http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com

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Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Sun September 26th, 2010, 9:38 pm

"Margaret" wrote:So - are there any readers out there who actually prefer novels written in the present tense? Or is this something misguided authors are foisting on readers who would all rather be reading past-tense fiction?


I'm gonna say they are misguided, but it wouldn't be the first time. :D
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writerinthenorth
Reader

Writing in the present tense

Postby writerinthenorth » Thu March 3rd, 2011, 3:05 pm

"Divia" wrote:I'm gonna say they are misguided, but it wouldn't be the first time. :D


Writing in the Present Tense is the subject of my blog today. I argue for its use in some circumstances, with a couple of examples.

Writer in the North

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Thu March 3rd, 2011, 9:49 pm

Personally, as a reader, I don't find present-tense narratives to have any more immediacy than past-tense narratives, all other things being equal. In fact, for me, the present tense tends to act against immediacy, because I am more aware that there is a narrator telling me a story. With past tense, it's easier for me to just dissolve into the point-of-view character and feel that I am experiencing the events of the story myself. That said, I have read enough present-tense fiction by now that I don't always notice it, so it doesn't bother me the way it used to when it was a relatively new tool in the novelist tool box. It seems to me that some writers find it easier to feel a sense of immediacy when they use present tense - perhaps that's enough to justify it. But it does seem especially weird to me to use present tense in a historical novel - by definition, all the characters in it would be dead by now. And if the novel uses the conceit of a narrative written by the point-of-view character, present-tense is especially odd, because nobody goes through life with a notebook in hand writing "I walk into the courtyard and Mary greets me, so I stop to chat with her, and she tells me...." as the events unfold.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

writerinthenorth
Reader

Writing in the present tense

Postby writerinthenorth » Thu March 17th, 2011, 9:15 pm

In general I agree with Margaret that present tense writing is not a suitable form for historical fiction, but I would be interested to see some examples where it has worked well, either in particular passages or consistently throughout a novel.

Writer in the North
Last edited by writerinthenorth on Thu March 17th, 2011, 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Add link

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Thu March 17th, 2011, 10:03 pm

"writerinthenorth" wrote:I would be interested to see some examples where it has worked well, either in particular passages or consistently throughout a novel.

I think that, whether present tense works well or not, is entirely in the mind of the reader. For me, the only time it works is when there is a sequence in a story where the character is recounting a dream or nightmare -- such passages are usually set apart, such as by use of italics.

Other than that, it feels gimmicky.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Thu March 17th, 2011, 10:43 pm

I really don't notice much once I sink into a novel. I don't think it makes them more immediate. It does tend to be a conceit of literary novels, but fair enough. I'm just reading one at the moment. It's very strange indeed, but quite readable. Definitely literary. The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth.
Bottom line - makes no difference to me.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com


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