The subject for today's post came from a campfire on the Twilight fanfiction site A Different Forest: present tense vs. past tense in fiction.

I've read and loved stories written in present tense as well as others written in past tense. But, as writers, what do you prefer and why? which would you suggest to achieve different effects? As readers: do you have any preference? why?

I found the answer provided by Miaokuancha very inspiring. Here it is:


"Traditionally, the default mode for novels and such has been third person, past tense. In modern times this has loosened up quite a bit.

I have used third person limited (single character POV) past tense, third person semi-limited (dual or multi character POV, but not omniscient narrator) past tense, third person semi-limited present tense, and first person (with varying POV) present tense in my stories. The first person present, with changing POV, came about not by design. The story just insisted on being told that way, and no matter how I tried to at least shoe-horn it into single POV it just wouldn't go. It also wouldn't accept past tense narration. Weird, right?

As a reader, I can accept a lot of variation in narration mode so long as it grips my imagination. The key to this, for me, is two things: (1) the content of the story that is being told, and (2) the narrative voice. By content I mean the plot and the theme. These are at the heart of what the story is about. As for narrative voice, it is the sensory and emotional filter through which we perceive a story. It includes things like

-- What is told outright and what is left only implied,

-- Imagery and diction

The character of the narrator (in all limited POV, be it first, second or third).
Although it works subtly and behind the scenes, voice is a huge element of character, and thus really affects whether the reader can identify with the character and care about the story.

Emotional and thematic perspective on the events, people, and circumstances of the story.
For me, if story content and voice are gripping my imagination, then the particular tense or POV don't really matter. I will agree with other campers that present tense does lend a feeling of immediacy to the narrative, it also limits what the narrator can know about the significance of the events being told, since there is no ability to know what will happen after the events (unless one is Alice ...) This offers opportunities for suspense and surprise in the story as consequences unforeseen at each moment of narrative unfold in real time for the characters and the reader both."


Thanks to Miaokuancha! 

In real life, Miaokuancha is a mother, a registered nurse, and a student of Chinese medicine. In the Twilight Fandom, she's the author of Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water and A Garment of Brightness. Don't miss her stories!
And if you want to read also her non-Twilight-related writing (essays and some poetry), you are welcome to check Miaokuancha's livejournal.

As you probably know, A Different Forest is a very good place to discuss fics and many other topics! See you there.

Your comments are welcome!


Indie Fic Pimp: One Shot of the Week: 5/16 - 5/22: "The Cliff by Raum http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6921947/1/TheCliff Rating: M Genre: Drama/Tragedy Summary: 'O is for originality, C is for..."


Gabriel's InfernoMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book holds a special place in my heart because of its characters and its plot.

It was the right book at the right time, and I do hope that it will be the same for all its writers.

The characters are so well developed that you'll believe that you actually know them in real life; if you are looking for a journey with them, you've found the perfect book for you.

There are many universal themes in this story: becoming (and being) a parent, but also being a daughter/son; faith; redemption.

You'll find that you have many things in common not only with the main characters, but also with the literary characters so well presented in the book, although they lived many centuries ago.

But even if you think that books are just "well written, or badly written," as Oscar Wilde stated, this book is for you. SR's writing style is an art work. I'm Italian, but reading SR's work I forgot that I was reading in a foreign language: his prose is clear and perfectly polished. Every single word elicits a different feeling and you'll be surprised to smile, laugh, think and cry in the same page.

- Raum



Hi guys!
This week the question for the Writing Lab is a very, very big one: how do I create an outline?

I guess that, for everyone, the time we spend writing is often "stolen" among so many other things to do; it's a precious time, so it's better to make good use of it. A solid outline gives you a map and is a good way to avoid to abandon a story after spending so many days working on it.

Big questions require big experts... so for this post I have the pleasure to present the answer of a published author and professional editor: Sandi Layne.

Let's read her post and thank you Sandi!

Originally posted on: http://sandyquill.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/112/

From tangles of string to….?

For SANDI, having an outline is essential in writing a story that will be longer than five chapters.

Which is, by and large, mostly what I write.

I need one so that I can plan a well-balanced trip. On a real roadtrip, the journey is the thing (and in writing, the writing is the valuable process in many cases) but for a book…getting to the end with the major conflicts resolved is kind of necessary for a story a reader will be satisfied with as a final product.

All ends do not need tying. But the biggies…yes.

So, how I make an outline:

When I have a story come to me, I know where I’m ending it. That might be true of many novelists; it might be idiosyncratic. I couldn’t tell you.

I do NOT do any “Harvard Formatting” when I outline. This is just for me, so all that is not required.

Knowing where the story will end means I have a final line on the outline. I write it in on the bottom of my page.

I usually have already started a story before I outline (because I only pursue an outline if a plot has stuck to me enough to get me to write an entire first chapter. And maybe second…) so I put that at the top.

Then, I divide my page into two long columns. In one column, I put my primary conflict steps, from introduction (which should have happened in the first chapter) to resolution (which is already down at the bottom of my page). In this column, I sketch out ideas of how to get from point A to point Z. You may find that you have GREAT ideas that lead up to the resolution and some AMAZING ways to get them rolling, but the middle is all nebulous.

That’s GREAT. Don’t worry about it. Just write down what you think of at the moment.

Then, slide over to the second column.

Remember, this little exercise is for folks who might need some structure in starting an outlining discipline. Once you are comfortable writing and outlining, some of your outlines may be as short and abstract as… well… some of mine are!

In the second column is where you have your other subplot ideas. If you’re writing a romance novel in which the PRIMARY CONFLICT/PLOT is the romance, then this is the column for the business surrounding the romance. For instance: There might be The Work Issue in this columm, as well as the Pregnant Best Friend/Sister issue. Or the Wedding Disaster plotline. And so on. In this column (or columns if that helps) sketch out your idea of the order in which these minor subplots might be solved.

Then, when you have an idea about each conflict and possible resolutions, you will PROBABLY have an idea of how to slot the subplots into the larger major conflict plotline.

Your outline could then be a series of phrases:

Sue and Rhi – coffee @ Starbux. Same time, Ryan and Mitch in Philly. Beers. (Ryan doesn’t know Sue’s preggers!)

Travel chapter. Honesty issue arises…Mitch knows Rhi from high school and nasty break up flashback.

Big phony smile rehearsal. First fight with Rhi and Mitch. VERY POLITE.

You can choose to separate these into chapters or just go with the flow of the story. You might find, though, that chapters are easier. They are for me, anyway.

It seems like a lot of work, I know. And it can be. At first. As with any skill, though, you will become more speedy and accurate over time.

IF THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO then by all means, just write away. It works for many people! This approach is primarily for folks who find themselves floundering with an idea for a story but lack a method for ordering it so they can write coherently.

Please drop me a line if there’s anything I can make more clear.

And have a GREAT evening!

You know the drill: comments are welcome!


The guest of this week's Writing Lab post is not a fanfiction author, but is...Ernest Hemingway.
Yes, that Ernest Hemingway.
On How to Plan, Write and Develop a book I found an inspiring exercise on dialogue. You can do it also when you are not at home -- or in the place where you usually write your fics. You need just a pen and a notebook, or your laptop, and...a lot of curiosity. Here it is:


1. Find a busy place to sit for a while with your writer's notebook and take notes. Cafes are good. Or bus stations or doctor's offices or airports.
2. Eavesdrop. Take notes on how people talk. Write down all the jigs and jags of human speech.
3. Pay attention to the rhythms you're hearing, how many times people interrupt or talk around the topic or use partial sentences.
4. After an hour or so, or however much time you can spend, take what you've written and read it over. Underline the best three lines, the ones that speak about something that not's being said.
5. Using one of these, begin a freewrite for 20 minutes (no editing) for a scene from your book. Write the overheard line of dialogue at the top of your page and start adding responses until you've crafted a conversation.
6. Look it over. Decide what's not being said (the subtext). Is it a strong current under your characters' words?

And now, let's read and discuss this dialogue by Ernest Hemingway. I don't know if your eavesdropping session will be as interesting as this story. Anyway, it is a good reward after your writing exercise.


As usual, your comments and your writing experiences are welcome!  


She's the awesome author of greatly admired stories, such as Dead on my feet; she's a great beta-reader and she's contributed to MyReadingLounge's Writing Lab with a very inspiring article about The opening hook of a story. Today's guest is Cesca Marie.

Raum: The theme of illness is very relevant in your main story, "Dead on my feet", and the hospital setting, with particular attention to the childhood, is present also in your oneshot "And so this is Christmas." You presented both the patient's and the paramedics' POV. Would you like to tell us more about this choices?

Cesca Marie: For the last couple of years I've mainly been writing about disability and chronic illness, trying to represent it in an honest way that didn't sugarcoat or elicit pity. I also have a thing for medical fiction and memoirs (Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon, Gimp by Mark Zupan, A Nurse's Story by Tilda Shalof, etc.), which contributed a lot to "Dead On My Feet" and "And So This is Christmas." I pulled a lot of Edward's attitude both from my own feelings about going through adolescence in a spinal brace, and from a girl I met while travelling who has since died of cancer. That said, it was the first time I've written about cancer. My older stories (most of them aren't online anymore; the quality of the writing was too poor) included characters who were blind, d/Deaf, severely autistic, and mentally ill, but this was the first time I was going to write about a condition that was life-threatening. I chose to write about remission rather than the disease itself, because it's such a fascinating time: you're not ill but you look it; you don't feel that great, and people are happy for you but don't know how to deal with the fact that you're not magically back to your old self. Cancer isn't just a prolonged case of the flu -- it changes everything. A whole new identity has to be forged, and I find that fascinating, especially because we don't talk a lot about how to deal with situations like these in Western cultures. I still receive emails from the friends and relatives of people with cancer asking for information and recipes. The result is that I plug Elise Mecklinger's Goes Down Easy a lot, among other cookbooks. Some readers ask advice for how to give emotional support to a sick person, and it saddens me that something as common as chronic and/or acute illness is still such a taboo subject -- I really hope that one day people will have a more personal resource to turn to than the click-and-point PM button on my profile. Odds are, we're all going to need a resource like that at some point in our lives. 

R: Who is your favorite character in the saga and why?

CM: I like Charlie. He has some less-than-admirable moments, but for the most part he reminds me of my dad. Not very talkative, but a deep thinker.

In "The Hideaway" and in "Dead on my feet" your Bella is ironic, sarcastic and sometimes also naughty. Would you like to tell us more about the way you developed this character? 

CM: In "The Hideaway" Bella is little more than a teenager with an attitude problem. She resents the stagnant nature of her home life, thinks she knows something about the world, and like most teens, is bitter about problems she doesn't have. She matures a little bit in that story, but in the beginning her belligerence was fun to write. 
With "Dead On My Feet" Bella, things were a little more complex simply because the story was longer and she had more of an evolutionary arc. She begins in a place where she's trying to better herself, keeping everyone at arm's length, and in no way inclined to befriend another cancer patient. Her issues come out slowly--even slower than do Edward's. Initially readers struggled with that because they were eager to see Bella and Edward in a relationship, but it just wasn't realistic to have them pour out their deepest secrets, regrets, and insecurities within a week of meeting.

R: Both your Edward and your Bella have OOC elements. In "Dead on my feet" Edward is neither a fascinating vampire, nor an extraordinary handsome young man, as he's usually described in AH stories. You also chose a difficult subject for the story. How do your readers react? Can you describe the relationship you established with your readers? 

CM: The fun of OOC in "Dead On My Feet" is that it's superficial. You're right, Edward isn't a vampire and he isn't good looking enough to stop traffic, but he and canon-Edward have a few things in common. They're outsiders, over-reactors, sometimes bitter, hopeless romantics, at odds with the masses, part of a loving family, and committed to their relationships. That said, the superficial element did turn a few people off initially, I think. It's not easy to picture Edward without his trademark wild hair. They understood why the change was necessary, of course, but the "cancer story" isn't going to have universal appeal. 
My relationship with my readers changed a lot over the course of the story. I wasn't expecting it to become so popular. Before "Dead On My Feet," I was happy if a story got 50 reviews over a period of 6 months, so in a lot of ways I wasn't prepared for the attention it would get or the amount of time I should have to spend interacting with readers instead of writing. Most of the initial response was positive, but as weeks went by and the story darkened I received a lot of hate mail, and even some commentary from people who hadn't read the story but had to throw their two cents in based on hearsay. It's not always easy to shake off the negativity, but I managed to stay focused and finish the story the way I wanted to. One reviewer for the story's last chapter remarked on the way that I didn't ask the audience to become co-writers. I hadn't thought about it until she said something, but she had a point. Some writers like to play to the desires of their audience, and some just want to be storytellers. To each their own. I just happen to prefer the non-democratic model; the choice of the readers begins and ends with which stories we choose to consume or pass over. It's better that way--just look at the platypus; see what happens when things are designed by committee?

R: Would you like to describe your writing process? How did it change during the time you have spent in this fandom? 

CM: My writing process usually starts with a single line, and then everything else falls into place. For "The Hideaway" it was "You survived Prohibition. I'm sure you can think of something." Once I have a good grip on the tone, I can write the rest. I like to have the whole story conceptualized early on, but will settle for not knowing the ending until I've written a little more. Other than that, all I need is a wall to put my back to (people reading over my shoulder is by far my biggest pet peeve) and my laptop. 
The only difference in how I normally write and how I wrote "Dead On My Feet" is that I didn't take many breaks. The story was composed in blocks of ~8k words per week, so I had to be on the ball.
R: You are also a Beta reader. Did your experience as a Beta influence your writing process and your stories? 

CM: It doesn't, really. I'm very picky about what I take on in terms of beta projects. If a story's synopsis or outline doesn't capture my interest, I know I won't do a good job beta-ing it. I'll lose interest. I'll be tempted to skim. Providing low-quality beta services doesn't appeal to me, so I end up turning down a lot of requests. And to a certain extent, there are things that a true writer will learn independently. If a person really, truly wants to be a writer, (s)he'll own a style guide and grammar book. (S)he'll examine the market/fandom for what's hot, what's not, and what's been done to death and resurrected in sequel form. A beta reader can't teach these things, but a writer who wants to know them and is actively seeking answers will often produce a compelling story. Attitude counts.
R: In "The Hideaway" Edward says: "Dreams are some of the best things about being human. You get to change and develop…to become instead of just be." Could it be a trait d'union among your stories, at least among "The Hideaway" and "Dead on my feet"? 

CM: You're probably right. Both stories deal with characterization and personality in very close proximity, so personal development is a ready-at-hand theme. I guess that sort of makes the stories bildungsroman in a technical sense, but it is only fan fiction.  

Thank you, Cesca Marie! I made a blinkie for Cesca Marie's story "The Hideaway." Here it is!

If you read these fanfics, please don't forget to tell the author that "Raum sent you" and say "Ciao!" from me! Thanks!


Let's say that you are working on the outline of a multichapter story. Maybe it's your first! You are bonding with your main characters, you have an idea that encouraged you to write, some inspiring scenes popped in your mind. Well.
But, what is the main conflict of your plot?
Your characters are in a certain situation when their story starts. They will be in a different condition in your last chapter. What is the path that you want them to follow?

Let's read an answer by the author LJ Summers. She's written many well-known stories in the Twilight fandom and she's also a wonderful beta reader, with a very broad experience.
And in real life...she's a published author and a professional editor: she really knows her stuff!
LJ Summers says: 

"You need to have ONE primary conflict that should be introduced in your first chapter and not resolved until your final one (or the penultimate one, depending upon your secondary plots).
Then you have secondary plot points.
If you view this like a braid of hair, you can weave the story by keeping all of your major plot points in hand, combining them at every chapter to some degree. Or at least the main one and one or two lesser.
In my story We Know You, I introduce the Volturi as Bella's enemies at the end of the first chapter. In almost every chapter thereafter, I make reference to them either when bounty hunters show up to get Bella, when she remembers things that happened to her, or when she speculates who might be looking for her. Her relationships and living conditions, loves and duties weave the details of her life, but the story ends when Aro finally comes to collect her to kill her for her "crimes." There is a quick fight and that threat isn't ended until the second half of the last chapter. It wasn't easy to do that...I had to work at it...but it kept the main conflict of her psyche present.

For me, the braid-image helps me to keep the tension balanced in my stories. It might be more like macrame sometimes, though."

As usual, your comments and your writing experiences are welcome!  
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