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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Blogging NaNoWriMo 2014: Tense Troubles

I wouldn't say all is going swimmingly with my NaNo planning. I'm snatching a few minutes here and there to figure out my characters and their connections but my chapter plan is still non-existent and I only have four days to at get at least the first few chapters plotted out so I can dive in and make a dent in my word count on Saturday.

In the meantime, though, last night I hit a mental landmine. It suddenly occurred to me that, though I know my characters, their relationships and pretty much where I'm going with the novel, I hadn't spared a thought for how I was going to get there - specifically, how I'm going to tell the story.

Quite a few of the short stories I've been working on lately are written in the present tense. I'm growing to like it after years of practically hiding away and holding garlic up at it but I couldn't do a Hilary Mantel and write a whole novel using it. Not now and especially not for NaNo - it requires too much concentration from me for a start. However, the fact remains that I need two distinct viewpoints in this novel, and they need to coexist within chapters (I think, I'm still debating that point).

So I thought of Sophie Hannah's effective technique in her crime novels. She uses first-person present tense for her 'ordinary' character then switches to third-person past tense for her police procedural aspects. It works well as a differentiation tool once you get into the rhythm and now it's one of the things I like best about her books.

This technique would actually suit the novel I'm writing. I need immediacy for one of the characters as I get into her head and describe her rather unique set of circumstances. The other character - not so much. Of course, she still has an important story to tell but I feel I can tell her tale in my comfort zone of third-person past tense.

I'm not under the impression that this switching about lark is going to be easy but it's the right choice for the characters. Now all I have to do is finish my NaNo planning. Oh, and finish the novel I'm trying to redraft before NaNo starts. And write the first draft of my thesis conclusion. And do some other work... All before Saturday. Oh, goody.


Mia Hayson said...

If it's the right choice for your characters then I think it will go swimmingly! Switching is hard, sure, but I think often it's made harder when the characters just don't want to switch so it's a blessing that this works for you!

Good luck for Nanowrimo!


CharmedLassie said...

I'm still confident it'll work - that may change by Saturday!

Good luck to you too, hopefully we'll both have successful Novembers.

Karen Naylor said...

Sounds like you are off to a brilliant start in both character POVs and plot planning and I am sure you will be a NaNoWriMo winner again. I am hoping this year might be the year I manage to make it to the 50K. Fancy being NaNo buddies again this year?

CharmedLassie said...

I suddenly thought I'd deleted you from my buddies list then realised there was a second page - I think I'm too tired for November! I'll do my best to inspire/irritate you this year. I've got more confidence in you than I have in myself so that's good.