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July 09, 2009


Patti Abbott

Nice summary for those of us not there. Thanks.


Now let's hear some views on tense.

David J. Montgomery

David spoke a little bit about tense -- mostly in the context of the first person present. I don't remember exactly what he said, but he didn't seem overly fond of it.

I have a dislike of the present tense -- I usually find it distracting. Occasionally authors can pull it off (which basically means I don't notice it). But I really don't see the point. I don't feel like the story is more "immediate" or whatever they're trying to accomplish.


Yes,it tends to be more literary -- poetic, if you like. I had to rewrite a novel, shifting from present to past, and the whole flavor changed. Readers are used to past tense, and that sort of thing is governed by the numbers.


Young man. Will you please speak with Ms. Fonda regarding her use of what can only be described as blue language?

Lugwig Wittgenstein and I once shared a Turkish water pipe containing some monster poppy from a recent trip to the Golden Triangle, and after a particularly useful toke, Witty opined, "We have but our own tongues laboring words, strung together like puka shells around the neck of Christian Hosoi, with which to express not only our thoughts, but ourselves as a society."

He then proceeded to throw up in my fedora, but the point was driven home like a drunken cheerleader the morning after prom.

Lisa Damian

Thanks for the summary. Good advice.

Richard S. Wheeler

I've found third-person limited, with POV changing with the chapters, the easiest way to tell a story and the easiest for readers, too. Another variation is to divide the novel into parts, each told from one character's POV.

I've done some successful experimenting with what might be called first-person limited: Each chapter is headed with the name of the narrator, and this permits interior views of several characters, not just one.

I've done several and have a major one coming out in March.

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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