intense

In emergency, break glass. This won't help, but it'll make a great crunching sound.

Nothing quite like being stuck on four stories at once. "Liegeman" is wedged because I'm convinced it's boring; the Montana story is stuck in worries about present vs past tense; the post-Eyghon story is under lockdown because I believe it retreads territory others have covered before & better; the Big Bang story is in stasis because I'm not yet ready to do the work of re-outlining.

Time to start another story, obviously.

Poll #1335317 A different kind of tension

Present tense is:

Easy to read.
0(0.0%)
Hard to read.
0(0.0%)
Distancing.
1(4.0%)
Intimate.
3(12.0%)
No big deal.
0(0.0%)
The right choice when going for an effect that I'll tell you about in a comment.
0(0.0%)
Completely normal and natural.
0(0.0%)
A crime against nature.
1(4.0%)
Best left to writers for whom it's their natural voice.
1(4.0%)
Hip back when Donald Barthelme was doing it.
0(0.0%)
A weird trend in LJ fandom, like five-things metafictions.
1(4.0%)
Are you like this about everything? For instance, do you get all hung up about the serial comma?
2(8.0%)

Past tense is:

Easy to read.
0(0.0%)
Hard to read.
0(0.0%)
Distancing.
0(0.0%)
Intimate.
0(0.0%)
No big deal.
1(4.0%)
Conventional, therefore invisible.
1(4.0%)
Completely normal and natural.
1(4.0%)
A crime against nature.
0(0.0%)
Old and moldy, unlike the hip, fresh trends of the 1960s.
0(0.0%)
The right and proper tense for fiction.
1(4.0%)
No, really, you should just always write in the past tense if this is the sort of whinging we're going to get from you when you essay the present.
2(8.0%)

Since you mentioned it, I think the serial comma is:

Obviously required. Duh.
0(0.0%)
The only way to avoid ambiguity in certain kinds of lists.
6(25.0%)
Properly called the Harvard comma.
0(0.0%)
Properly called the Oxford comma.
0(0.0%)
Wait, what? There are people who don't use the serial comma?
2(8.3%)
Now I'm absolutely certain you're oppressing me, because I don't use the serial comma.
5(20.8%)
NB: All polls are provided for entertainment purposes only. No guarantee of suitability or fitness for a particular purpose is given.

PS: I moved from outlining the GEB (an eternal golden braid) descent-into-hell story into writing actual prose for it. So yes, I carried out my threat to start another story. I love writing Ethan's point of view. Oh, I am going to make Giles suffer in this one. Yay.
  • Current Music: Sunlight : Kyte : Kyte
I switch back and forth between present and past and occasionally venture forth into second person. I KNOW. ::wide eyes::

Also, I have a love-hate relationship with the Oxford comma.
In a past life I was a technical writer. My editor taught me to love it and use it and cherish the clarity it brings. The sense of safety when one writes lists. I also imagine her looming over me when I need to decide between "that" and "which".

Second person is great for short stuff where the gimmicky-ness is all part of the fun.
As long as it's well-written, I tend not to notice whether fic is in past or present tense. Trying to write present tense, however, is treacherous. I nearly always find myself sliding back into past without realizing it. Usually after some bit of past perfect that really should have been just past, and then I have to stop and sort out which tense I should have been using where.

I'm strongly in favor of the serial comma. Its declining use in recent years distresses me.

*wishes I still had an editor icon*
Yes, that's exactly it! I'll shift to discuss events in the past, and boom, there's the past perfect where it doesn't belong, then I need to revise to get rid of it, and things that sound natural in past perfect are all wrong in straight past and argh! Have been telling myself to eat my vegetables and finish the exercise, because I'll learn something from it.
I had to comment just to be able to use this icon. *points*

Present tense can make a story feel very immediate. I think it heightens the sense of tension a reader feels, or at least it *can* be used in that way to good effect. Sometimes it's good for short stories because of that, but mostly I prefer past tense.
That icon is joy-making!

I am struggling with it too much just now, I think. I'm going to back off the decision and rewrite in past so I can spend the brainpower on character issues, not on fighting with my prose.
Personally, I default to the past tense unless I'm writing something that seems to demand it. In fact, the only times I think I've gone with the present tense have been two fics that were set in a "news" broadcast and one that was in the form of a journal. Otherwise, past tense just seems more natural to me for storytelling.

That said, present tense doesn't bother me in others' stories unless it calls attention to itself, which probably means it's not a voice the writer is entirely comfortable with and is coming out forced.

I swear up and down by the serial comma. Leaving it off tends, in my mind, to create a visual impression of a stronger link between the last two things in a list than in those preceding. Then again, I'm also fond of the comma splice, even though I know better. I just like commas, apparently. ;-)
Leaving it off tends, in my mind, to create a visual impression of a stronger link between the last two things in a list than in those preceding.

Yes! Though I tend to hear the link, rather than see it, if that makes sense. The comma produces a pause between items, and no comma means the items are joined, and spoken as if they were a single item. Either way, items without a comma separating them are linked, and if that's not the writer's intention it can be bad. Viz the famous example:

This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

I hear that comma splices are less of a sin for our cousins across the pond. They give me hives. I've been known to throw perfectly harmless books across the room because of them.
I think I'd like to see you write something in present tense. *nods*

To me, present tense always feels languid and emotional. Not sure why, though.
It's immediate. Probably seems sort of tautological, but I think the emotionality comes from that sense of things happening now. No reflection.
I think that present tense, when done well, can be very effective; but it has to be done very well, because people are less forgiving of it. I think in order to truly be effective, it has to be used for a specific effect. It shouldn't be your default setting, but used when and where appropriate.
I think your point about people being less forgiving of it is a good one. It's the unusual choice, so it calls attention to itself, so it has to earn its presence in the story. Or so my current theory goes.
There are some folks who use present tense as naturally as breathing. nwhepcat is one. Because past tense is so standard, I notice it even when I first start a story of hers, but then quickly don't.

However, there are a lot of young writers who seem to think first person present is the best thing EVAH. Unfortunately they haven't mastered the basics and should really stick with third person, past tense.

For folks that fall in the middle of those extremes, if there is a good, intentional reason to use present tense, such as a particular need to create greater than normal immediacy, contrast, etc., then sure, use it.

And you definitely have that skill to pull off writing with it.
I think present tense is very useful for a sense of immediacy, intimacy, and unpredictability (because it suggests that the events aren't being recalled in tranquility but observed in real time.) I can't say I've always used it so, but that's what I'm thinking today.
I've a nasty tendency to slip back and forth between the two tenses. Both have their place, I think: past is better for general story telling, while present is better for getting into characters' heads (unless they're going to start thinking about past events, in which case everything turns into an awful grammatical muddle). I try to circumvent said muddles by bringing random time paradoxes into the story and pretending that an evil plot monster has/did/maybe ate my grammar. It seems to be fooling people so far.

As to the Oxford comma... but... it's the best thing ever, it's so splendid, and wonderful, and good!