Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

I’m feeling tense. Here I am, writing my memoirs, and I keep jumping between present and past tense as I write. I know that just won’t do but I can’t decide which one feels right. I like the immediacy of the present tense, but I would have to re-write my beginning (which begins at the end, so to speak) in order to use it. (Let’s face it though, I’m going to have to re-write a LOT either way.)

If I don't decide on a tense soon my head might explode, and then there'd be brains all over my manuscript

Is anyone else having this problem?

I would really appreciate some advice from the more seasoned writers amongst us – I have no real training in writing per se so I am lost when it comes to all this. I just write on instinct, but that seems to be failing me on this one. (Actually, as I just wrote that I realised it wasn’t strictly true. I had decided to write in the past tense but, as I am writing, I keep slipping into the present-tense style that feels more natural. Does that mean that I should be writing in the present? Or is it just that I am a schizophrenic or undisciplined writer?)

Can I write in the present tense and still allude to future events or realisations? Or is that only possible if I write in past tense, and hence from a position of hindsight?

Are the rules so important in writing? Can I break them if I want to? Don’t you know I have a problem with authority? Aaaaaaaagggghhhh! I really am getting tense about my tense.

Help please!

By the by, I just read an interesting little article by Marg McAlister about cutting back the use of “I” in your first person writing (which will no doubt be a major focus of my editing process).


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Do you remember those twistaplot books for kids? You know, the ones where the protagonist (and reader) would reach a critical junction in the narrative and must make a choice about how to react or choose which next step to take. Depending on the decisions made the narrative would unfold in various directions, more choices would be offered, more paths taken, until you reached one of several pre-determined endings. Don’t you think life is kind of like that?

The eternal question: where do I want to go?

Today I am facing my own twistaplot decision point – I have been offered two roles at two great organisations and now I must choose between them. Great, right? Well, yes, I am in a pretty lucky position. But at the same time it is hard – what if I choose badly and live to regret it? The truth is I am an eternal optimist and am fairly confident that, whatever I choose in life, it will work out well, or at least that I will make the best of it.

It got me thinking though, don’t you think it would be cool if life, like a twistaplot, allowed for re-reads and new decisions and experimenting until you found the narrative outcome you most desired? That would be cool. The living life, unlike the writing life, does not allow for rewrites (well, I guess it does, but not easily). Maybe that is what makes it so thrilling to be alive, making blind decisions and hoping for a happy ending.

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