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What I Want to Know Is . . .

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Oct. 28th, 2013 | 04:17 pm
mood: pensivepensive

So, when you talk about events that take place in a book, you use present tense, right? As in, "Howl throws a magical hissy fit and there's green slime everywhere." But what is the protocol for describing your reaction to a book's event? Sometimes, it works okay to put your reaction in present tense: "It cracks me up when Howl throws that magical hissy fit." (Though is it me, or does that sound slightly weird? As if I'm saying I crack up every time it happens, when it only happens once in the book? Although, of course, I've read Howl's Moving Castle like twelve times, so I guess that "gets me every time" could be appropriate.)

In other situations, though, it comes out very strangely: "I'm startled when the guitar explodes." That makes it sound like I'm startled now. But if I'm reviewing or talking about a book, and I describe the book's events in the present tense, it doesn't seem right to suddenly shift to past tense for a sentence to avoid this: "They rush back into the castle. Then the guitar exploded, which startled me." It's maybe even worse to shift within a single sentence: "They rush back into the castle. Then the guitar explodes, which startled me."

I suppose a simple solution would be to put everything into past tense - "They rushed back into the castle. Then the guitar exploded, which startled me" - but I remember learning at some point that this was Not the Done Thing for describing events in books/movies/etc.

How do you handle this? Am I weird for wondering about it? I guess I write a lot of book reviews . . .

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Comments {1}

"Also, I can kill you with my brain."

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from: toastedcheese
date: Nov. 16th, 2013 05:21 pm (UTC)
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I think that "storytelling" is present tense and "describing my reading experience" is past tense, and you just have to avoid sentences that combine the two tenses, because they're too awkward for print.

So I would say something like, "They rush back into the castle, and the guitar explodes. That startled me."

I don't think it's weird to worry about tenses - it speaks well to your authorial tendencies!

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