Newbie Bane of Tense & a 50 word story

Am I the only newbie writer struggling with tense and first/second/third person? God I hope not. Feel free to lie to me and tell me no. 😛

  1. She picked up her purse and checked the contents…
  2. I picked up my purse and checked the contents….
  3. I pick up my purse and check the contents… 

Gah! So many choices, which to choose, and why, and when? It’s all so frustrating. Some books say that writers naturally favour one over the other; I don’t think I’m there yet. I start out in one tense and shift back and forth. It’s a nightmare. I have a whole novel in my head ready to write, but cannot for the life of me decide which option to write it in. Can you believe that? Of all the possible things, THAT is the one stumping me. Have you ever had this dilemma? How did you make a final decision? For those who are pubbed, have you ever submitted a story but been told to resub it switching from first to third? 

NOTE: For more detail on first vs second vs third for noobs like myself, there’s this great blog I found posted on Grammar Girl, it’s worth checking it out as she breaks it down much better than I could ever attempt. 🙂

50 Word Story – Haven’t done this in awhile so please enjoy, and if you’re in the mood too, please submit one via comment. It’s trickier than it seems. 😉

Do You See Me?

You make your way toward the stairs, turning off the many lights I’ve left on as you go. You come up and slide into bed muttering, “Always with the lights, why does she always leave them on.” I stifle a sob and mentally respond,  So you’d know I was there.

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18 Responses to Newbie Bane of Tense & a 50 word story

  1. Don’t worry, I do the same thing. I write in 3rd person, and sometimes when I’m in The Zone, my tenses switch. I catch a lot of them, but I’m glad I have betas. 🙂

  2. I had a hard time finding my voice at first, but I now know it’s firmly in the 3rd person category. I don’t like writing 1st-person. At all. An early attempt at an ms had me switching back and forth and my advice to you is to take one scene/chapter and write it once from 1st person POV and once from 3rd person POV. It needs to be a strong scene, one that matters to you, the character and the book. It can be short, but it needs to be important. Write it both ways and decide whether one was “easier” to write or flowed better and whether one “reads” better. Then go with that.

  3. Oh, Tammy, what an excellent story! Wow…

    Regarding tense: I originally wrote SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES in 1st person present tense. I struggled with it for months until I realized it needed to be 1st person past tense. Ultimately, my instinct guided me.

    In my new novel, THRESHOLD, I alternate between third person present and past tenses. I use the present tense when writing visionary scenes from the POV of the Native American shaman. It worked very well.

    Voice and tense are tools, and each have their own use. I think the decision as to which to use has to be made by the writer’s gut. It’s more art than science.

  4. No worries, Tammy – I definitely have the same trouble when starting a new project. Like Devin, I’ve learned to go with my gut. Daughter of Time series is past tense first, my new sci-fi project is third person present. No idea why, I just go with it. The hard part, like you say, is sticking with one – but that’s what good betas/editors are for 😉

    LOVE the story!

  5. shaydenfl says:

    Honestly,
    It depends on the mood of the story. If I want to have FUN with the story, I write in first person. The downside to this is you have to tell the WHOLE story as it happens to the main character. Letting the reader know what the bad guy is doing behind the scenes is damn near impossible.

    It’s the stories that have a LOT of background info I use third for. Especially for younger audiences. That’s my take on it. 😀

  6. sallyawolf says:

    I think that point of view.depends on what your story is about, and what you want the reader to feel.

  7. T. James says:

    Choice of POV and tense… entire books have been written on it. The trouble is, the ‘best’ approach is obviously unique to each piece of work, so rules don’t apply…

    The only thing I can think of to do if I was stuck on these for a novel would be to write a summary, and send it out to any writer-mates you had who you could trust not to knick your idea, and ask them which they would use and why. It could bring some clarity…

  8. T. James says:

    Your fifty word short works well BTW… 🙂

  9. Gareth says:

    Here you go. Damn that was challenging:
    “What the hell do you think you’re wearing?”
    “Its my favourite shirt.” I uttered.
    “You can’t do the top button and it’s bunched.”
    “I don’t care, I like it.” I declared
    “You know that you’re the one for me, fatty!”
    Some days it doesn’t pay to look in the mirror.

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