PoV/Tense shift experiment -- 432 words

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by Warren_Paul, Mar 28, 2012.

  1.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Hey everyone, just a quick query here, not after an in-depth critique - but feel free if you want to. ;)

    We recently had a conversation in GWD about changing tense in a scene, and it led me to an idea. I've done up a new version of the first scene in my book, and as part of it the character flashes back on memories of a battle just been. The scene shifts from 3rd-person to 1st-person past - where he recounts the scene - and then back to 3rd again. I use italics to show the shift.

    Just wanted people's impressions on if the idea works or not. Thanks



    ***​


    The sword sank halfway in the snow. Nolan rested his head against it, and breathed heavily. The warmth of the power crystal seeped into his hand as his fingers grasped the hilt tightly. Too late he realised his eyes were closed. Memories flashed before his mind, and their screams. He heard it all again.

    I remembered pulling my sword free of the body and struggling to my feet, and gazing out across the pass. There were bodies, as far as I could see, both friend and foe. Unimaginable, I’d thought at the time.

    ‘Fall back, fall back! To the wall!’ I'd heard, no idea who spoke, but at the time I didn’t care; I had followed along all the same.

    I remembered Jordie falling in beside me and saying, ‘This is a good day to live, is it not?’

    I’d thought, how could he possibly joke at a time like this? But that thought had been pushed aside when the arrow took Jordie in the back. I remember the shock on his face, how his mouth fell open in surprise as he fell to the ground.

    Once I was done panicking, I’d tried to drag him to the wall, pulling him along by the arms, until Varren found me.

    His words haunt me still. ‘He’s dead, Nolan, you can do no more for him.’

    I remember him tearing my hands from Jordie. I also remember the sword that struck him down, remembered how he stared in my eyes as he fell to his knees. I remember watching the life go out in his eyes, and how I’d screamed like a baby and ran.


    Nolan started at the hand on his shoulder, and scrambled away on his backside, in a desperate attempt to get as far from the hand as he could. He stared at it, the thick gloved hand staying in mid-air, where he’d left it.

    His eyes slowly drifted up the arm that belonged to the hand, until they rested on a man’s face, old and wizened – with a thick beard that blended in with the fur cloak covering him. Nolan knew he should recognise that face, but he couldn’t think – the memories of the battle clouded his mind.

    The man crouched beside him. ‘Just breathe, Nolan, and the shock will pass.’

    Nolan didn't breathe, only stared - he couldn’t manage anything else.

    ‘Commander Orevalin,’ a voice called, echoing from the wall.

    ‘The first time is always the worst.’ The man patted his shoulder. Is he trying to be comforting? It didn’t work. With a sigh, the man got to his feet and left him.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  2.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    The I remembereds took me out of it wp - it distanced me - have you tried it without so that the flashback is happening in real time? Its just if you're taken over by a memory or vision you sink into it completely. Just a thought.
  3.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Doesn't work for me, I'm afraid. It reminds me of the kind of human interest magazine article in which the writer uses the subject's story to frame an interview. (Edit: I hope you know the kind of thing I mean, because otherwise that could come off as sounding a bit contemptuous, which wasn't my intention.)
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  4.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Sorry, HB. I don't actually understand what you mean. :eek:


    Ok, here is it rewritten with a more active tense, no remembers or recalling.


    ***​


    The sword sank halfway in the snow. Nolan rested his head against it, and breathed heavily. The warmth of the power crystal seeped into his hand as his fingers grasped the hilt tightly. Too late he realised his eyes were closed. Memories flashed before his mind, and their screams. He lived it again.

    Tearing my sword free I stumbled away from the body, the blade heavy in my hand. My muscles ached, exhaustion overwhelmed me, but still I staggered on, seeking my next prey. There were bodies everywhere, as far as I could see - both friend and foe.

    ‘Fall back, fall back! To the wall!’ I had no idea who spoke, but I didn’t care. I turned, and followed the rest as they retreated.

    Jordie fell in beside me ‘This is a good day to live, is it not?’ How could he possibly joke at a time like this?

    I couldn’t think about it for long. An arrow took Jordie in the back. He gasped, and fell to the ground.

    He looked up at me, and reached out his hand. I just stared at him, unable to breathe.

    ‘Don’t leave me,’ Jordie said. I found the will to move, and grabbed his arms, pulling him up the slope.

    Varren found me, and tugged at my arms, ripping them away from Jordie. ‘He’s dead, Nolan, you can do no more for him.’

    I took one last look at Jordie, and let Varren turn me away. I ran, on aching limbs, with teeth gritted. We were almost at the gates when a dark figure came out of nowhere, his blade slicing through Varren’s back.

    Varren fell to his knees, his wide eyes staring at me. Slowly the life went from his eyes, and he fell face first into the snow. I screamed like a baby and ran.


    Nolan started at the hand on his shoulder, and scrambled away on his backside, in a desperate attempt to get as far from the hand as he could. He stared at it, the thick gloved hand staying in mid-air, where he’d left it.

    His eyes slowly drifted up the arm that belonged to the hand, until they rested on a man’s face, old and wizened – with a thick beard that blended in with the fur cloak covering him. Nolan knew he should recognise that face, but he couldn’t think – the memories of the battle clouded his mind.

    The man crouched beside him. ‘Just breathe, Nolan, and the shock will pass.’

    Nolan didn’t breathe, only stared - he couldn’t manage anything else.

    ‘Lord Orvaelin,’ a voice called, echoing from the wall.

    ‘The first time is always the worst.’ The man patted his shoulder. Is he trying to be comforting? It didn’t work. With a sigh, the man got to his feet and left him.

    *​
  5.  
    crystal haven

    crystal haven Member

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    I like the scene, but feel the 1st person didn't quite work for me, too much explanation, perhaps.

    Have you tried making it a bit disjointed? Remove some of the 'I' ,anything that gives a grounding, if you can. Shorter sentences. It might give more of a dream feel. Also have you tried 1st person present tense? A flashback/memory is very real -happening now to the person.

    Or my suggestion might be a rubbish idea.
  6.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Ideas are never "rubbish". :)


    Personally I detest 1st person present. I did think about it, but whenever I've tried to write it, my scenes come out too poetic.


    Making it more chaotic is an idea though, something I'll think about.
  7.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

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    Hi WP

    I'm afraid it doesn't really work for me either. I think the problem is that the bit in italics is presented as Nolan's thought process but doesn't actually read that way. It's too matter of fact and too impersonal. Is that really how he'd remember the battle? It's also very, very similar to the third person narrative voice. In short, you haven't convinced me that it is now Nolan "speaking" in place of the third person narrator.

    The whole point of jumping into first person close is to lend a sense of immediacy to the action and to develop character in the process. Your extract would work better in its current form if you just kept it all in third person and reported on what Nolan was thinking via the narrator.

    Regards,

    Peter
  8.  
    Bowler1

    Bowler1 Senile Member

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    I can see why you posted this section on here, you already suspected it was not pulling together, your instinct is correct, trust yourself more Warren.

    The second section worked better, less distant, but it still felt a little off to me as well. I find myself agreeing with Peter Graham.

    The baby screaming as an emotional description, has me raising an eyebrow everytime I read it. It does not work for me.

    I'm still in two minds about the floating hand - it is artistic I will give you that, but I'm not sure. Others I'm sure will like it.
  9.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    Hi WP,

    When I'm writing I find it really difficult to switch all the little things between first and third person, but I agree with Crystal that perhaps it's the coherence that's making the first person bits read rather like third person.

    might become:

    (although I'm not sure it should...)

    You could bring it closer, perhaps with something like this:

    (although as I wrote that I wondered if teeth gritting tends to be unconscious as a reaction to stress, and so the first person POV might not mention it?)

    If I were you, I'd play with the language of Nolan's first person bits and see what you come up with. I think battlefields probably smell and (according to the Culloden museum) they're noisy too. Perhaps some of those impressions might bring across the first person experience thing more clearly? I don't know how coherently one thinks in times of enormous stress and fear -- although some people do get a distancing effect that makes everything clear, I think it may be hard to write that as distinct from a third person voice -- if that makes sense?

    (I love first person present -- I feel I should say that since almost everyone else hates it).
  10.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Thanks Peter.

    I think as an experiment it's a failure. I might just go and do it all 3rd person. I didn't want to get too in-depth with it because that would make it go on for over a page, when I don't want it that big.


    EDIT: people's posts crossed over with mine. will have to consider comments. :)

    Yes, it is a bit too coherent I think.
  11.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Okay, Crystal and Hex, you got your wish. present tense... *shudder*

    But an attempt at a very chaotic present tense. Kinda interesting. Fun experiment this is.

    It's actually for the most part a slew of internal thoughts now, I think.

    I'm still thinking about the hand thing you pointed out, Bowler.


    ***​


    The sword sank halfway in the snow. Nolan rested his head against it, and breathed heavily. The warmth of the power crystal seeped into his hand as his fingers grasped the hilt tightly. Too late he realised his eyes were closed. Memories flashed before his mind, and their screams.

    My sword, where’s my sword? It’s lodged in a body. I’m stumbling, muscles aching, exhaustion killing me. Bodies everywhere; friends, enemies and strangers, they all look alike.

    ‘Fall back. Fall back, to the wall!’

    Whose voice is that? I don’t care; others are running, so I’ll run too.

    ‘This is a good day to live, is it not?’ Jordie beside me, where did he come from? Is he joking?

    Jordie isn’t running anymore. He’s standing there, surprised, about what? He’s falling into the snow. Something is sticking out of his back; an arrow.

    ‘Don’t leave me.’ His hand’s reaching for me. Why can’t I move? Nothing’s working. Chest hurts, can’t breathe.

    I’m pulling him through the snow, up the hill. It’s hard, so heavy, and painful.

    ‘He’s dead, Nolan, you can do no more for him.’

    Hands are on my wrists, Varren’s hands. They’re tearing my grip from Jordie. No, he’s not dead, he told me not to leave him.

    I’m being pulled away. Jordie looks so far away now. I think I’m crying, I don’t want to leave him, I can’t, but Varren won’t let me go.

    There’s the gate, close now. So tired, just want to stop, but can’t stop yet. I’m stumbling again, why did Varren let go?

    He’s behind me, on his knees. Varren’s staring at me. His eyes are dead. He’s dead.


    Nolan started at the hand on his shoulder. His heart leaped up his throat and tried to hammer its way out. He scrambled away on his backside, in a desperate attempt to get as far from the hand as he could. He stared at it, the thick gloved hand staying in mid-air, where he’d left it.

    His eyes slowly drifted up the arm that belonged to the hand, until they rested on a man’s face, old and wizened – with a thick beard that blended in with the fur cloak covering him. Nolan knew he should recognise that face, but he couldn’t – the memories of the battle clouded his mind.

    The man crouched beside him. ‘Just breathe, Nolan, and the shock will pass.’

    Nolan didn’t breathe, only stared - he couldn’t manage anything else.

    ‘Lord Orvaelin,’ a voice called, echoing from the wall.

    ‘The first time is always the worst.’ The man patted his shoulder. Is he trying to be comforting? It didn’t work. With a sigh, the man got to his feet and left him.
  12.  
    Bowler1

    Bowler1 Senile Member

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    I thought that was much better - breathless/confusion felt better from the character and drew me in more. The return to present links well.
    I'm trying new angles as well and it is a challange.

    To be fair, there is nothing wrong with the hand bit and does express the character confusion. Its an unusual description choice, artistic as I said. You don't need me to tell you how to suck eggs, I like your style and you have a good eye for plot/storyline. So it could stay easily, that one is your choice.
  13.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    I think some of this is a success. The start didn't work for me, but from about here:

    I felt it was stronger.

    It sounds very childish in bits. I'm not sure why, though.
  14.  
    crystal haven

    crystal haven Member

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    I like this is better, but feel similar to Hex - the bottom section works better than the beginning, for some reason.
  15.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Agree this works much better. I think where it works less well is where you say "I am doing X" or "I am being X" -- this feels like the narrator observing his experiences rather than actually experiencing them. When I wrote my first-person present novel, I found it better to try not to use the "I" word at all in action sequences.
  16.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Interesting. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not though, it might be right.




    Ok, no I'm doing's.


    Interesting to see if can actually work, I thought I was just messing around with some crackpot theory that everyone would hate.
  17.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Ahem... beating the dead horse here, another experiment...

    But since there was some progress on the last version, I thought why not?

    It's starting to get tight and crazy disjointed though, but that's half the point.

    ***​


    The sword sank halfway in the snow. Nolan rested his head against it and breathed heavily. The warmth of the power crystal seeped into his hand as his fingers grasped the hilt tightly. Visions surfaced before his mind, painful memories. He heard their screams, saw their deaths - was drawn deep down into the memories.

    Stink, and smoke, can barely see. A body, blade lodged firmly in it, my sword.

    Stumbling, always stumbling, and aching muscles - exhaustion killing me. Bodies everywhere; friends, enemies, and strangers, can’t tell the difference.

    ‘Fall back. Fall back, to the wall!’

    ‘Don’t leave me.’ Hand reaching for me, face pleading. Why can’t I move? Chest hurts, can’t breathe.

    Dragging through the snow, up the hill; it’s hard, so heavy, and painful, dreadfully painful.

    ‘He’s dead, Nolan, you can do no more for him.’

    More hands, Varren’s hands, tearing my grip from Jordie. No, he’s not dead, he told me not to leave him.

    Tears, running down my face, left him... left him.

    There’s the gate, close now. So tired, just want to stop, but can’t stop yet. More stumbling again, why did Varren let go?

    Varren’s staring at me. His eyes are dead. He’s dead.


    Nolan started at the hand on his shoulder. His heart leaped up his throat and tried to hammer its way out. He scrambled away on his backside, in a desperate attempt to get as far from the hand as he could. He stared at it, the thick gloved hand staying in mid-air, where he’d left it.

    *​
  18.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    Hiya WP -- I think this is much better. I made a couple of comments, but they're tweaks.

    It's good stuff. Well done :)

  19.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Thanks, Hex.

    I did look at that question, and almost took it out, guess you just tipped the balance for me. :)


    Yay, experiment isn't a failure after all!


    I'm hoping this style here might work as a hook, what do you think? Unusual and intriguing enough to catch the editor's attention? Or would they go running away screaming at the first sign of it?

    If I do go with this, it will be the first thing you read.
  20.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    You're going to hate me WP; I didn't like it. I could only tell what was going on cos I'd read the earlier versions. This isn't a problem; you will never hook every reader in, but sorry, didn't work for me.

    (But when you get to me or Hex say yea and the other says nay, it usually means it ain't boring....
    So that's good, in it's own right.)

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