The fallacies of novels

edited July 2010 in Life

So, I haven't read any novel since I was like 9 oe 10 and those that I'd read then were written by Enid Blyton ... or someone like that. I hate novels because they're fictional, and written fictions are what I'll never waste my time on, and those that caught my attention are the ones that had ended up on silver screen, like Harry Potter (before it turned gay) and Lord of the Rings. I tried to read them but they're just lame, lamer than their movie counterparts. So ... I gave up reading after a few pages.

It wasn't until I watched Fear and Loathing in Vegas that I realize that novels *can* be interesting to read, and it wasn't until after a year or two after I'd downloaded it that I realize Fear and Loathing *can* be interesting to watch. Everytime I'd downloaded a movie I didn't watch them straight away but instead I'll just browse thru them to check their quality and it just happens that when I browse thru Fear and Loathing I happen to came across the bathroom scene and it was crap, so I just thought the movie was crap and didn't bother to watch it.

So finally on a rainy winter night a year or two after i'd downloaded it, with nothing better to do, I'd decided to force my self to watch all my movie collections labelled "crap", most of them British productions like Outlaws, 2 smoking barrels, 28 days later, until I came across Fear and Loathing and to my surprise, it was actually a great movie.

So after watching the movie, and then reading the novel, and then knowing HST and going thru most of his works that I'd realize that novel can be interesting to read and so I began downloading and reading lots nad lots of novels.

Then it struck me :

Each and every novel I'd came across is written entirely in past tense, as in recalling things and events that had happened a long-long time ago, but when I write, I tend to write in both past and present tense, depending on how the events unfold and transpire in my head, sort of like a commentator commentating things that are happening on the tv screen.

Writing about things as if they're unfolding seems to me like a better and more interesting way to write a novel than just merely recalling events that had happened in the past, like they're a chapter in a history book or something.


So which way do guys think is the best way to write a novel ?

[1] Past tense

[2] Present tense

[3] Both.


  • weathersweathers Regular
    edited July 2010
    Present tense generally doesn't work for novels, short stories, sometimes, or small chunks of narrative. I can't even think of a novel written entirely in present tense.
  • CaesarCaesar Regular
    edited July 2010
    It depends entirely on the writer and the context. There is no "best" way to write a novel.
  • edited July 2010
    weathers wrote: »
    Present tense generally doesn't work for novels, short stories, sometimes, or small chunks of narrative. I can't even think of a novel written entirely in present tense.

    But why ? What's wrong with that ?

    It works when your listening to sports casters and on location news readers ....

    But why not novels ?
  • weathersweathers Regular
    edited July 2010
    Short segments seem to work in present tense but unless you're writing in a limited first or third person there's no way to convey anything that's happened in the past or outside the scope of the narrator.
    You can have a floating narrator but that tends to distance you from characters. Present tense does have the advantage of immediacy but over a full story arc I don't see how that woud work to impart other story elements.

    The main difference between prose and news reports/sports newscasting is that there's only one genre for those things. Everyone knows what they're listening to and what to expect, you don't have to explain rules, why things are happening and what's driven the people to play those sports.

    This is just my opinion, of course, and books can be written in any way. For a conventional, commercial book, I don't think you could write the whole thing in present tense and really have it work.
    Off beat, experimental literature could work with though.
  • fanglekaifanglekai Regular
    edited July 2010
    Stream of consciousness.

    Journals are written in the present and then can be examined by other characters later on. Same goes with epistolary novels. They're a series of letters, so if you look at it that way, they're in the present. The tenses in the letters are usually a mix of past and present. The characters have no idea what's going to happen to them, so there is a sense of immediacy in their writing.

    If you don't have past tense, you don't have any background, motivation, or exposition of any kind. You'd basically have to make your characters stand out by what they do in the present, maybe like a movie that constantly goes forward. This kind of writing is unusual because it's difficult to do and doesn't allow you to show anything from your characters' pasts, which would most likely result in flat, boring characters and a confusing story. It'd be like watching 28 days later with only the main character who doesn't know shit about what happened. It's annoying for the viewer because it's like ok, wtf? We want exposition. We want a story. If you never get the back story or know why characters do what they do, it makes the story pointless.

    Imagine not knowing anything about Batman. We don't know why he does what he does. We don't know who he is. We just see a guy in an outfit going around beating people up. It's like, ok, he's fighting criminals. Cool. There's no depth.

    Reading a novel in future tense would be interesting. I can't think of any examples, sadly. There are a lot of experimental novels out there, though. A professor of mine once mentioned a book written in 2nd person. That sounded interesting, but ultimately I think it's just a gimmick.
  • weathersweathers Regular
    edited July 2010
    Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott is written in 2nd person and a good read. I think the opening chapter is traditional third person but the meat of it is written as if the reader is one of the characters. It's worth picking up if you see it sitting on a shelf somewhere.
  • edited July 2010
    Thanks for the opinions.

    now tell me which one works best :
    ... It gave off a high pitched sound, the sound of high voltage capacitor charging itself. Slave arched upward as the cattle prod
    the Beast had shoved into his ass discharged ....

    as soon as the Beast had done shoving the cattle prod into Slave's ass, he depressed a tiny red button. The cattle prod is giving off a high pitched sound, the sound of high voltage capacitor charging itself.

    Now it is discharging and then ... milliseconds later, Slave's arching !
  • weathersweathers Regular
    edited July 2010
    The first by a mile, in my opinion. Concision is always something to aim for.
  • fanglekaifanglekai Regular
    edited July 2010
    Read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. It's a fantastic guide for writing concise prose.
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