Monday, December 20, 2010

Chapter Two: Tense shifts

Totally about 3000 words with little dialogue, I have to say that this one has been one of my favorite chapters to write thus far. Cherry shows so much diversity as a character in this chapter right from the opening paragraph. Not only that, but displays of her "creature" side come through as well. I gave small hints throughout the chapter as to what type of creature that might be. Also, I delve into what a very terrifying stalker might be like.

I think that the one thing I am going to have to go back and edit are the tense shifts I placed in this and in the first chapter. I attempted to use them as hints to where the reader was in time, and found I had become inconsistent in later chapters. I am going to have to spend some time making sure that that isn't the case because as time goes on the jumping into the past ceases and everything becomes very obviously present tense. I'll give you an example. For a past "dream experience", I wrote a section like this;

She fixed the blankets on the bed so that they were back to the way she had found them and put her shirt back on.

For a present tense "real time experience", I wrote a section like this;

Cherry coughs the dust from her throat and wipes her face with the back of her hand.

Notice the "ending in -ed" tense in the past and the "ending in -s" for the present? Later in the story, all of the present tense items end in -ed, using it as an active voice rule. It wasn't really until tonight that I reread it and disliked the "ending in -s" tense writing immensely. Now I am wondering whether I should go back and make it all end in -ed for tensing and leave it to the reader to understand that parts that seemingly make no sense are in the past or format the past instances in italics or changed font. If there are any suggestions you may have, I'd love to hear them.

This bring up an excellent learning lesson for me; I either need to learn to pay closer attention so I don't have to go back and make huge editing changes like this, or just not bother so much with tense shifting like that if I don't know how to do it well enough to pull it off throughout. I have learned now to pay closer attention to these kinds of things while writing, and what a stinging lesson that turned out to be. Do you work with tense shifting in your own writing? Do you find that it comes naturally, or that you have to pay close attention?

Aside from this huge tensing issue I just tonight realized was a problem, I am very satisfied with this chapter for what it gets across. I think I have given just enough of a hint as to what and who Cherry is, and added imagery to the story using all of the senses. I also added plenty of character tension between Cherry and another of the three main characters; Dimaia. 

I like being able to write both Cherry and Dimaia because I think that in ways they are both a part of who I am only exaggerated. I love to have them argue and bicker throughout the book because it is almost like having an argument with myself. I see how that could be very frustrating for others in reality because I really can tend to get unreasonable. Do you write aspects of yourself or are your own characters people that you wish you could be more like? Do you find yourself relating to your characters on an emotional level, and if not, does that hinder what you are able to portray?

I think that I will leave it there for now, as I really need to figure out what I am going to do to fix this tense shift issue I am having. My best to you all, and happy writing! 

For more information on tense shifts, see this handy diagram!

1 comment:

  1. It's tough to say; I think you can probably use past tense throughout if you want--it depends on what you want to do. I know you're concerned about grounding the reader in time/place, but past if you choose the details well your reader will easily follow you. Depending on how you want to accomplish that, you might frame the scene so it's clear it's in the past or you might leave it ambiguous at first, gradually shedding light on the time/place as the scene progresses. (I see this used to heighten dramatic tension--beginning the scene with an important or surprising detail and leading the reader on for just a little while as he/she orients himself/herself in the context).