Releasing your inner dragon

Live Edit: Choose the right narrative voice for your story

April 04, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 12
Live Edit: Choose the right narrative voice for your story
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
Live Edit: Choose the right narrative voice for your story
Apr 04, 2024 Season 4 Episode 12
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie in a live critique where they tear apart a willing victim's work.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


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Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie in a live critique where they tear apart a willing victim's work.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

when you're writing in first person present tense. One of the weird disconnects that the adult brain has is. So wait a minute. You're standing in front of me telling me a story right now about something you're doing right now.

Some more else right now. But you're in front of me right now, but you're also over there right now. And so whether the reader realizes or not, there is a disconnect there that it's harder to suspend disbelief just because they can't just fall into it, as opposed to the characters in front of me right now telling me something they're doing in the past.

It's in the past. So it's easier for the adult mind to suspend that disbelief

Releasing your inner dragon.

So we have another brave human being who has sent us their baby, their first chapter, their introduction to this story. For us to apply our editing pins to it and return it covered in the red ink of its blood, destroyed and lying in a corner.

You sound like a writer.

Yeah. We have received another chapter for editing, so I will admit I have not read it. I have glanced at the first chapter. Drake has not read it. So we are going.

I always come into these things blind.

We're going to.

Hit this blind and we will see how far it takes us and what this person will learn from our editing. So I'm going to share my screen.

And while she's doing that, if you guys would like to have your pride and joy slaughtered on YouTube, just send us, you know, whatever send us. I mean, you really don't need to send us more than about a thousand words if you've been paying attention. We rarely get past three or four or 500 words We can fill in hour, usually on somebody's first three or four or 500 words, but send us a thousand words send us the first chapter, whatever to

The email will be in the week below. And when we do these, because we're always looking at doing these every now and again, we do more on a whim. We like to have one in the, you know, one of the editing things that we could do. And we we were I think both of us are kind of tired today and we were like, you know, instead of talking about the topic, let's let's have some fun, so send us your submission and we will eventually get to it.

And in particular, yeah.

All right. So if you are not on YouTube, this might be a good episode for you to go to our YouTube channel and subscribe. If you're listening to the the audio only. But we will of course, read as we normally do. Okay, so I am going to read the first paragraph or so or maybe the first page until Drake puts his hand up and we've got something to discuss.

Or you just stop because you want to.

Or I stop because. Because I have something to discuss.

That happens to.

It does happen. I press the accelerator of my Aero V12 to the floor. The engine roars, drowning out all other sounds. My arrows slingshots me through the bad lands of my current home Summit city. The open road in the Badlands is a single place. I'm truly free, free of society, free of others. Expectations free of vulnerability. That attachment spring life taught me it is best to depend on myself, over relying on others.

Not everyone can handle the therapy. The Badlands hands out. You either love it or hate it. But either way, the Badlands tries to kill you. Sort of like Australia. It's my first home and returning to it cleanses me of the city's filth and grip on my soul. So. Yeah. So. Yeah.

Okay. No, go ahead.

Okay, so I, I like the opening paragraph, but I have some problems. The first sentence is doing too much.

Yeah, it's a run on sentence.


Before we get into that.

So I can't hear which of my critique pods somebody brought. I think it was the Tuesday critique pod in the writers room. Somebody brought a first person present tense piece.


Now, anybody who's listening is. Knows that I hate first person, Present tense. You do not like present tense, but we will never use that as our critique. Like, yeah, this is first person intense. We're going to critique it and we're going to do it exactly the way it should be done. It will be hard for us to or at least I know it is for me.

I can't edit live because I keep wanting to. My brain wants everything in past tense, so you know, I'll make mistakes in the editing because I might say, you know, if it was written this way, I'll do it in past tense. However, I did want to with my writers, remember, and I want to do it now. I want to talk about there are two reasons why I tell people to at least think about whether they should use first person present tense or not.

And one is a business reason and one is a story based reason. Neither one of them should be taken as you should not write in first person present tense. First of all, there are genres that are much more accepting than other genres, but also some stories might actually. I mean, I do have a published story that's published in First Person Present Tense, and it's a short story, but still, you know, I do have something published in this.

There are reasons for using it, but there are two things that I do think that people should think about. So first, from a business standpoint, one of the hardest things to do in this industry is to sell your first book. The second hardest thing to do is to sell the second book. The third hardest thing is to sell the third, the first 10,000 hardest things that are to sell the first 10,000 copies of your book.

The 10,001st hardest thing is to actually write the book, but it's way easier than selling the first 10,000. And the reality is there is a percentage of every genre who.

Refuse to.

Read present tense in our genre of epic fantasy. It's closer to 40%. They just will not read present tense. They will put the book down. In romance, it's much less. And why it's much less. Those genres have been kind of force fed the first person, present tense kind of thing, so maybe it's less than 10%. There is still a percentage.

I've never not met someone in any genre who where I haven't found somebody said, yeah, no, I put the book down if it's in present tense. So what that means to me from a business standpoint is I know the hardest thing in the world is to sell copies of my books to new readers. And if I'm in romance or or way, that means one out of ten are going to put the book down.

If I'm in, you know, our genre, we're talking four, maybe five out of ten are going to put the book down. So from a business standpoint, that just seems like a dumb idea to me. That's just flat out. Do you have anything to say on the business side before I move to.

No, I think you've covered it. All right.

So now let's talk about from a story side. This is going to get geeky grammar. Manipulation of time is the most important thing for us as storytellers. The ability to move in the past, move in the future. You know, all of this stuff. And so when we're talking about time manipulation, what we're really talking about is verb forms.

And we have four verb forms in the English language. We have future tense, present tense, past tense and past perfect tense, past perfect being the time period before the past tense of, you know, past tense. When you were writing in past tense, you have access to all verb forms. You can slip before the past into your past tense, your future tense.

You have present tense in your dialog. And what that brings to your toolbox as a writer is this amazing ability to be able to manipulate time. I mean, I've read here on the podcast that one paragraph in my current work in progress, where in one paragraph you're in the now of the past tense, we then slip back 1500 years in the next sentence, and then we're back to the now of the past tense.

And it's.

Lawless. Nobody even notices that they're that they're being herky jerky all over the place when you were in first person. So let's not even talk about tenses when you're in first person. First person is the most limiting of the POVs. And what I mean by that is, is that depending on the story that you're telling, if you try to do too much in first person, you will break.

The first person will just break your story or at least hinder it. So like one of the big topics of contention in first person is, you know, people will write multiple p.o.v.s in first person and they're like, of course I can do it. Technically, you.


And there's literally no way to do it without some type of problem for the reader. Yes, you can cheat. Like this writer that had come to the podcast. She was writing to narrating characters and she's like, Yeah, But at the beginning of this chapter it says John and the beginning next chapter it says Sally, and she does that every single chapter.

I'm like, Okay, that's great. It's a crappy, you know, title header that you have to tell the reader whose character you're in. But it's also the magic of First person is building this very intimate relationship between the reader and one character by forcing them to build that same level of intimate relationship with another character or, God forbid, three or four characters.

You are never going to get them to buy in at the same level as they will with one character. And so if you are telling a story with multiple characters, first person is going to hinder you. You look like you had some things to say.

I will die on the seal.

That you.

Cannot do what you cannot do multi pov with first person well. No. You cannot.

You can’t do it flawlessly. I.

I will die on this hill, at least not in one book. So for example, Jacqueline, Carrie did it, but she did it in different books.

Each book.

Has got a different first person narrative.

Right. A hundred.

Percent. You can do that, but you cannot switch in a chapter and the reason why you can't switch in a chapter is because the strength of first person lies in the narrating voice. It lies in the fact that every word of prose is internal monologue. So I am literally in the head of the character. I am every single thing is through that narrating voice and you, in order for you to switch to a different narrative voice, you would have to have as strong a voice, which means I now have these two competing voices in my head.


I. I don't buy that. You can do.

That. But it's even worse in my opinion, because the problem is, is that each one of them, their name is I.


So that's like writing third person where every single character is named John. Yeah. So what you run into is weird things. I'm going to exaggerate of course, but you run into weird things like, you know, chapter one. I woke up, I stretched, I yawned, I went to the bathroom, I stood in front of the toilet and I peed.

Chapter two I woke up, I yawned, I stretched and I went into the bathroom and I inserted a tampon. It's like, Wait, what? So, yes, I'm exaggerating, obviously, but that's the problem is that they're both I there's no, you know, great way to distinguish between the two. And so you're going to constantly make stuff up and you're going to have to constantly tell things to your reader and you're going to have to use some weird acrobatics to, to to try and not lose your reader through these things.

So it again, it comes down to voice for me because that eye is attached to a single thing. Yeah, right. It's right. I have less of a problem with the with the swap around that, but that's okay. So finnish only has one.

Right. one.

Pronoun finnish and it has one pronoun. Hän. And Hän applies to men. It applies to women, it applies to the desk. It applies everything. Everything is Hän. There is there is nothing else. There is only Hän. And so I'm used to that kind of verbal gymnastics. But to me it's more about like the strength of the voice and maybe even that single pronoun makes it more apparent, right?

Because in finnish you derive from context everything gender wise about the character. Right? Right. You have to there's no other way to do it.

But anyone that was raised in a romantic language.

You're 100%. But what I'm saying what I'm saying is because of that, the voice of the narrator is so important.

To me because it gives.

You the context. And now you're asking me to switch context on a pronoun that I associate with a singular person.

One person. Yeah. And that's.

For me. It's very hot.

So, again, if you're depending on the story depending on the complexity of the story, first person is the most limiting of the POVs that we have access to. And you just that's why I never write in a P.O.V.. I'm telling a story and then that story is going to let me know what is going to be the best POV to tell that story in, which is why I have stories in first person and in third person and so on and so forth, because depending on the story, like let's say the story has to include crowd emotions and feelings, well then you're, you're stuck in third person omniscient because that's the only P.O.V. where you

can be the whole town or the whole country or the.


World. You can't do that in a limited P.O.V.. And so if the story requires being in the head of the entire society, there's no way to do it in limited, you're just out. So again, that's why I never write in a P.O.V.. I look at my story and I go, okay, what what P.O.V. is going to? Because every P.O.V. omniscient third limited first person, they all have advantages and disadvantages.

All of them have disadvantages. So what you want to do is go, okay, so which P.O.V.? This is the story I want to tell which P.O.V.s advantages are going to help this story more than their disadvantages are going to hinder it. And that's how I choose my and what we're talking about here. We have multiple if the story needs multiple P.O.V. characters, then the negative that first person brings to trying to run more than one character through a first person story far outweighs the benefits that first person is going to bring to the story.

And so I'm just not going to do it. So that's that's the one thing, you know, from a from a from the point of view. But now let's add in tense. So as I said, when you're in present tense, you get present tense verb forms and future tense verb points, which we use very few future tense bird forms.

You're the you literally don't really get past tense and you definitely don't get past use.

None in finish.

Yeah, well, let's finish. You also have no consonants when there are a war where the polls.

Yeah, there.

Was. There was there was a war with Poland and they walked away with all the consonants leaving us only the vowels and no future tense.

And no future tense. If I really want to pick on you, I still think it's hilarious what you call your spouses, because the Finnish word for spouse basically translates to what the person I hate the least or something.

I hate you less than other people.

I hate you less than other people. Let's get married.

Hey we are the happiest people in the world in the world for the seventh year running. And that is because we have low expectations.

They cheated on me, but they were just the person I hated the least of everyone else. Like, it's not that big of a deal.

Low expectation man.

They’ll ensure your happiness. I'm still happy.

my goodness. So getting back to the tenses again, it comes down to building that illusion. Just like first person builds the illusion that it's me and this other character. And we're just going against the world. When you're in present tense, you're building this illusion that everything's happening right now. And so when you go into back to back story, when you have to bring in that past tense of something that happened before the now that you're telling your literally rocking the boat, you're breaking that illusion and kind of throwing stuff in, that's always going to feel weird.

It's always no matter what you do, every sentence is going to be it. Any savvy reader is going to go, Wait, they did a typo. no, no, that's that's actually right. And so now I'm not watching the movie. I'm actually trying to grade your grammar. But I think it's even worse than that. And this isn't just me because I know people who also feel this way.

So for the adult mind, like one of the reasons why if you write second person, it has to be in past tense. I'm sorry. It has to be in present tense. It has to be in present tense.


Because you can tell me you're creeping into a room right now and there's a scary sound right now, and this is what you hear like. And I'll go, okay. Yeah, I'm there because I'm just reading. But you can't tell me last night you went into this creepy. I'm like, No, no. Last night I was at the movies.

Like, what are you talking about? So it has to be in present tense because it's the only way to trick the human mind to suspend disbelief

when you're writing in first person present tense. One of the weird disconnects that the adult brain has is. So wait a minute. You're standing in front of me telling me a story right now about something you're doing right now.

Some more else right now. But you're in front of me right now, but you're also over there right now. And so whether the reader realizes or not, there is a disconnect there that it's harder to suspend disbelief just because they can't just fall into it, as opposed to the characters in front of me right now telling me something they're doing in the past.

It's in the past. So it's easier for the adult mind to suspend that disbelief

now. So I'm not saying don't write in first person present tense, not in any way saying that. I'm saying from a business standpoint, you have to understand that there's going to be a percentage of your readers that are just not going to read your stuff and not going to buy your stuff.

So if you're cool with that, then the people with it. Second side of it is make sure that the story like Hunger Games.


You cannot get a more simplistic story structure than Hunger Games. And every time I say that to somebody who's a fan, they're like, it was a very complex story. No, it wasn't. The world was complex, the worldbuilding was complex. The you know, all of that was complex. But the story itself was one straight line with a dot at the beginning and a dot at the end.

That's the structure. It starts with one character. It does not have any back story side plot subplots or anything like that. It goes linearly, straightforward until the end. And that's it. That's the story structure. It's a straight line. You can't get more simplistic than that. So first person, present tense is not going to hurt that story because it doesn't have anything there for it to hurt.

It's when you need backstory or subplots or side plots or, you know, parallel stories or multiple characters or any of these other things that we're doing that that is where the structure gets more complex. And first person, especially first person, present tense, just is going to always you're swimming upstream, you're fighting the point of view and the tension you've chosen that's going to be, you know, an obstacle to the story that you're telling as opposed to helping the story you're telling.

But anyway, I just want to go in that sense.

We started yeah, I want to bring us back to the actual paragraph. Yeah, I do. Like, however, like all that being said, I do like the opening.


I like that we are moving I like that. we are active. I like that we have a location. We know it's a current summit city. I like the expression of ourselves. We're free of society, free of others.

Expectation gives us.

Motivation and what we want, what is important to us. That's the thing. That's what's going to connect the reader to a character is understanding what they want, what's important to them, what is their love. And if it's something that we can relate to, like being free of all this bullcrap because we're all stuck in that. So yes, 100%.

Great. First paragraph, 100% that that opening line needs to be at least three sentences.

So there's a couple of line editing stuff, and I want to do that before because I'm going to unload on that second paragraph. I can already see it coming. So I want to get some line edits here on the first paragraph. So it is a run on sentence. Now, the way that I like to think of a sentence is count how many pieces of information you're giving the reader and try to restrict any given sentence to like maybe three.

Yeah, four.

Five at a stretch. All right. So if we look here, we have the action we're doing. We're pressing an accelerator, we have the vehicle, we're doing it in an aero V12, we have the engine roaring, it drowns out all other sounds. We're getting slung shot through the badlands, and we've learn about the current home and its Summit city.

And that is seven pieces of information in a single sentence. Seven pieces of information is at least three too many, in my opinion. So I would break up, but I would just press the accelerator of my aero V12 to the floor and the engine roars.

Actually, I would I would go even before then. I press the accelerator to the you know, to the floor, period. The engine roared or roars again. I'm going to always turn it past the engine roar, drowning out all other sounds, period. My aero shit, slingshot, slingshot shoots me. I can't do past present tense.

Slingshot swing through the badlands to my current home. So a big.


I mean, that's the way I would do it. But this is all subjective. You can do it. You know, you could easily do it. I pressed the accelerator, my area, my arrow, V-12 to the floor, and the engine roared. Roars.


Period. It drowned out all of the sounds. And that's the reason why I don't like it that way. Because now we're adding this it in there. That doesn't need to be there because of the fact that.

Yeah, under it.

You know, we can, we can just have the engine roars drowning out all the sound so and this is why sentence structure is so important. So I mean look at how petty that is that that I just went down the difference between I pressed the accelerator my area V12 to the floor comma and the engine roars period. Now we have to add a pronoun.

It drowned out or it drowned out, whatever. And so.


By instead of putting it the period before the engine roars and letting that be the noun of the sentence, the subject of the sentence, the subject and verb, actually the engine roars, comma, drowning out all the sounds, period. We don't need that that extra pronoun. I'm constantly looking for ways to cut down on my pronouns. Yeah, and sentence structure is how you do it.

Now, the other thing is paragraph structure gives emphasis to this line here, free of society, free of others expectations free of the vulnerability that attachments bring. That is a powerful lie. It is a powerful sentiment. It is a powerful understanding, and it is buried in the Medal of Honor percent. So when you have a line which is so strong and so central to the character, put it in its own paragraph.

Well, let's let's back up. Because if we're looking at I agree with that, and that's going to stay the way it is. But if we look at the first paragraph, the I press my accelerators, all actions, and then the open road is this esoteric comment. So even that could be and it doesn't have to be. This is all subjective, but even that could be because it also is a pretty strong statement.

And then yeah, you can do what you did here and just combine all the esoteric stuff up in one. So the open road is the start of the paragraph here society. The other thing I would say is when you use it occasionally there is a strength to cadence. Yes.

So where you could do this. Right.

But this but then then you need to pay this off so you could do this free of others. So you could say free of society, period, paragraph, free of others, expectation, period, paragraph, break free of the vulnerability that attachments bring. Now, that does a couple of things for you. One, it gives you a very nicely cascading paragraph structure because of the length of the sentences.

It draws attention to what is going on on the page. It is very strong. It reads very strong. But if you're going to go that strong with a sentiment, it needs to be at the heart of the character. Because if you don't set it up like that, then you're basically setting up a Chekhov's gun of emotional. Yeah, personal motivation.

And so that's that's awesome. I was going to go here later, but let's start here and work backwards. I was going to go the other way. Yes. This is the strongest way to do it. This means that the read you are saying this character, their entire existence derives from their desire to be free and I'm going to pay that off in this story.

But let's say it's not as strong as that, but it's still a good element of this character. Maybe we would do it all in one paragraph, but still separate sentences. So the open road to the band lands a single place. I truly feel free, free of society, free of others, expectations, free of the vulnerability, all in one paragraph that is still adding that strength to them.

Yes, they're fragments of sentences, but it's still it's just not as it's not going to draw it in again. It depends on what you're trying to do. And then technically we can do it. If it really doesn't mean that much, we could do it with the commas like it was originally done free of society, comma, free of others, expectations, comma.

But that's the.


Dramatic way to write it. So this is subjective.

Yeah. And it's.

Objective, but it's also depends on how core this is to your character.


That's what I'm saying. We're taking liberties with the writer's story because we don't know. So you as the writer need to understand. Doing it one way with commas means that you're not really forcing the reader to have to to contemplate these three kind of things, putting them in their own individual sentences, fragmented sentences. But in the same paragraph, the reader is going to have to put more emphasis on them and think about them a little bit more.

Dividing each one out is not only a fragmented sentence on its own, but a paragraph on its own in three consecutive paragraphs. That's the one that's going to really make the reader have to go, okay, this is important, this is serious. This literally is the core of this character. So it and this is why I stress so much of why sentence structure in paragraph structure is so instrumental to controlling the reader, controlling what they think about, controlling what they are paying attention to, controlling what they what the emotions that are feeling and so on and so forth.

You can do so much.

We're just not even we didn't change a single word.

But yet these are three completely different. They're going to be read completely three that then we read three completely different ways by literally just punctuation.

Yeah. So all of that is I agree on, on all of those because that was my big points there. Then the next, the next section of that paragraph is like taught me it's based to depend on my self over relying on others. Not everyone can handle the therapy that the bad lance hands out. And here again the sentence is doing too much good.

So not everyone can handle the therapy that the Badlands hands up. A period would do much better here than that. Wasn't because it allows you to then break apart. Not everyone can handle the therapy and then you either love it or you hate it, and you don't have the two ideas clashing into the same set.

But then you need another period at the end of that because we're still going on too long.

Yeah, you either love it or hate it.

But that's a.

Fact. And either way is the same sentiment.

Yep. Much.

Yep. Because then we don't need. But So you either love it or you hate it. We want them to swallow that separately. Yeah. And I didn't say that so far this podcast, but I've said this in the past. I do see punctuation as bites of food. So when do we want the reader to swallow? They're going to swallow and mix all those flavors up.

So when you have all of these flavors. So we talked about, you know, like in that person's word, seven ideas, but you could also think about those ideas as flavors. So not everyone can handle the therapy of the bad land that the badlands hands out. That's a flavor. Let's say that's chocolate. You either love it or you hate it.

That is lemon juice. And then either way, the badland tries to kill you. Sort of like Australia, that is. I don't know what would not go with those at stake. And so I don't want them to take a bite of chocolate steak with lemon juice on it. I want them to taste the chocolate and then taste the lemon juice and then taste the steak.

You know, I want them to taste each of these individually so they swallow them individually and consume them the way I want them consumed as opposed to a steak covered in chocolate and lemon juice in one bite. That's just I love all three of those other things, but together, I don't think that's that's going to be very tasty.

So that's the problem with run on sentences to me, you actually, the reader, does not consume what you think. They're consuming. You consume it because again, you're the writer, so it makes perfect sense to you. But they swallow every single sentence and they own and then they clean their palate. They take their sip of water between paragraphs. That's why it's so important to fit that paragraph structure.

So if we go back up to those three lines, the free of this, free of that, free of that, they're clean in their palate between each one of those. And so each one now is this know that's almost like a new capsule.


So from ways that they're just Yeah unless it's unless it's something so mundane and it's all connected, you know I always use this an example. Drake walked into the kitchen, picked up a pot filled with water and put it on the stove. The heat. Technically, it's just one motion, but if for whatever reason, I need to give the information to the reader, if I need to write that sentence, running it as a running sentence is not going to hurt anything, you know?

Plus it's just mundane, so who cares? We've all done it.

You know, only reason to write, to run on centered is because you you need to communicate the motion to the reader, but you don't want them to retain anything out of it.


You just want it to be action that just drifts by.


Blurred action in the background.


Maybe later in that scene, ninja attack and I end up using the pot of boiling water to throw what? No space face. So now it doesn't come out of nowhere because we saw it. But me actually starting the boiling doesn't matter. Yeah. So it's just this background thing that we plant it so that later I can use that pot of boiling water in a fight or whatever.

So then we come to the last sentence. It's my first home and returning to it cleanses me of the city's filth and grip on my soul. So I have a problem with a sentence. So. And I'll tell you what it is. Here we are with. I pressed the accelerator of my aero V12 and we are getting Slingshot through the Badlands to our current summit city.

Right. This sentence threw me out. It's my first time because I and this might be a present tense problem, but what. What I ended up here was going, Okay, so we're leaving the Badlands. And then it's my first home and we're returning to it. So I got a forward, backward kind of impression because this sentence, because it has that returning to it sentiment in.

It threw me out because I just read that we're leaving.


Right. What does that do on some what? I mean.

I do.

I’ll answer for.


So I this, this needs to be visiting. It might be.

Like well I actually.

Work or something but, but that, that.

But I also.

Think the first home and current home first of all we don't want home.


Twice like in rapid succession when it could be something else because ten other ways that you could write that.

Sentence. I think that dichotomy, you know, because here's the thing actually be the first one that I would change the thing you're using in the in this last sentence. It's my first home. You're using home in the context of a place that I love. But you and the first and the first one, my current home. You're not using that in that context.

So you can easily say, you know, my aero slingshots me sling shoots me through the badlands to my current residence or my current the current place where I keep my stuff or whatever. There's a million ways we could write that my, you know, without having to write home, because then home has a much better meaning down here.

And if you replace that with if you say my current residence or something like it, then you can cut the first as well. Yeah. And you can just make it a clone which is much more powerful. Yeah, but I still would cut that returning and change it to something like visiting or something like that because the returning I think is what threw me.

Yeah. I think as we were leaving it.

But now we're returning to it. At least that's what it felt like to me. So I think that, that that's a verb choice that you can make, that that would be a better choice. Are then let me read paragraph two. After two weeks of eating dust and suffering under the constant heat of summer sun, even I am ready to get back to my flat to take a nice long bath and eat something besides kibble.

The final 3 hours stick by about half as fast as it should. The Long broken road, surrounded by miles of dust and sand creates an endless landscape interrupted by occasional broken down building long, deserted towns or roving caravans searching for resources in the badlands. Just as time almost stretched on forever, the city loomed should not be looms.

Actually, the.

Paragraph was a complete tense shift as well.


And loomed on the rise and welcoming me home with its bright lights. Bison evicted the strict and sickly smells I drove into. It's more every bit as rugged and dangerous as the badlands, just less honest than filled with false hope for those that live there. A few more miles. After a few more miles I am home. getting out of the Aero,

I activated the lockdown mode. Okay So again, I'll start off with something that I like. I do like the noir feel of this. It's got a very nice noir


Now. There's a lot to work on here. That being said, one is that there is a tense shift here and we shift from present tense to past tense. Pick one. I personally would recommend past tense. I don't think you need to saddle yourself with present tense. So I would rewrite the first paragraph in past tense and continue in past tense.

It's because I see we go back to I drag my weary bones so.

Well so this so.

This is a this is a great example of literally I went when I was just talking about the perils of first person past tense or present tense. Yeah. So in that paragraph in the third sentence, it starts with the long broken road. Yeah, we're in past. You know, this is a tense shift, so this should be the long broken road surrounds miles of dust, sand.

Creating an endless


But then we get to interrupted. This is going to always feel herky jerky because you're going from present tense to a past tense verb. There's no other way to write that sentence there. So to avoid that, you have to reconstruct the sentence to make the buildings, the broken down buildings become the subject. Because now we can have the broken down, you know, broken down buildings, interrupt the occasional art, you know, the endless landscape, sorry, broken down buildings interrupt the the endless landscape that's the only way to keep it in present tense.

And that's the problem so many people have with present tense, because this sentence can't be written. I mean, it is a tense shift. The first one is a tense shift. It should be long broken road. The long broken road surrounds.

Miles of this concept. Now you live.

Yeah. The longer road doesn't surround it. You read it. The long broken road surrounded by miles. So let's say it was written that way. So again, if it is written that way, let's say because you did read by so let's say that the writer wrote The long Broken road surrounded by, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah.

Again, it has to be written by surrounded. So the only way to keep it in present tense, we would have to write it. We'd have to reverse it. Miles of dust in sand surround the long broken road. That's the only way we're gonna be able to keep that in.

But it's still it's still a tension because he says the long broken road surrounded miles of dust and set. It should be the long broken road surrounds it.

If it doesn't have the by so you read it with the by. So it wasn't a tense shift it was just you have to write it in past tense.


Because you're you have to slip in a past tense from your present in story because this, the miles of dust and sand have already surrounded the road. So if you're going to write it this way and you have the by again, you have to have that by between surrounded in miles, then it would not be a tense shift, but it would still feel like a tense shift because you're going from present tense, the past tense, if it was written in present tense, the long, the long broken road surrounds, miles of dust and sand is not what it should have been.

If the road is actually around the miles of Dustin Sand, if that's the picture that the reader is trying to to the writers trying to paint, then yes, it's a tense shift 100%. It should have been surround and not surround it. It depends on did they tense shift or did they miss the word by.

Our switch saying they probably missed the word by.

That's what I'm saying. Yeah.

So if they missed the word by then, this is correct. It's not a tense shift because you intended it to in the past tense.

But that hurts.

The fact that you're writing in present tense. So I wouldn't write it like this. I would flip the sentence around if this is the image I'm painting and I'm writing in present tense, I would write Miles of dust in sand surround the long broken road because that keeps it in present tense as opposed to this weird past tense being thrown in.

Again. All of these are problems that present tense and trying to write in present tense cause, yeah, we don't.

None of us tell stories.

In present tense. We don't tell stories in real life. We when we were two years old and we were talking about Jimmy punching us in the face, it was it already happened. We have always told stories in past tense. It is the natural way to tell stories. Barn on period. I hate that that present tense has become even a thing.

But here's the other thing you have to understand of why present tense, especially first person. Present tense has become relevant because the industry is filled with stupid people. I'm going to say it and I'm going to stand by it. The industry looked at Hunger Games and went, wow, Hunger Games was success. Why now? They could have chosen that.

It's a good story. They could have chosen that was well written. They could have chosen had dynamic characters. No, no, they didn't. None of that could be it. It must be because it's written in first person present tense, which is the dumbest conclusion to come to. And then they were reaffirmed in that belief. With next year Divergent coming out and it was also written in first person present tense.

So the industry went, Yep, yep. That proves it. Present tense. Let's start buying a bunch of present tense first person president stories for Wyatt, because that's the only reason why these kids are buying this book is because it's in first person present tense. That is how dumb the industry is. They are lemmings. And if you're with the industry and you're listening to this, I hope you take offense.

I don't care. You know, this is your and I'm not saying you personally. Maybe you also think that the industry is filled with dumb people, but that is literally why first person present tense has become relevant.

I think the most lemming behavior I've ever seen in my entire life was when I heard that Warner Brothers and Mattel are now bringing out an entire Barbie universe of movies because Barbie was successful, because it was about a toy. And it's like that. That's the lesson you're taking out seriously. That's the lesson.


My favorite.

Of how.

Stupid the industry actually is and I've told this story once, but it's been years, so I'm good friends with Todd Lockwood. He's probably the most famous magic, the gathering fantasy illustrator on the planet right now. He wrote a book. He wrote a book about a girl and her dragon and all stuff. And he's most famous for drawing dragons.

And I want to say it was Del. I don't remember who bought it, but anyway, somebody bought it and he was like, Great, here's the cover that I drew for you. Now this is a man who gets paid $5,000 for cover art, and he works for every major publisher. And this is one of the major publishers that he works for.

They literally pay him, I don't know, 60, 70, 80,000 a year just to give covers to them. So he gives them one for free for his book and they go, yeah, no, no, we're not using your art for this book. And he was like, What? So yeah, you're the you're the writer. You can't be the cover artist.

That's impossible. And he's like, But, but I'm Todd Lockwood. I literally the best dragon artist in the world. Like, of course I'm going to draw the Dragon cover from my Dragon book. Like, why? That would be insane. Not to.

Two years.

Two years. They fought him on this until finally taUe was like, I will buy your book and let you give us a free cover for it. Fine. And that's when the original publisher, like I said, I can't remember it was, but they were like, Okay, fine, we'll do it. That's how these people are. Like, because writers cannot draw their cover.

They wouldn't let the most famous illustrator in the world.

Give them a free cover.

For his book that they bought. Like that is the epitome of how stupid these people are.

So anyway.

So to get back to this.


Rant on First Person.

We've got to get off. This first person isn't the.

The theme is, me and Marie hate first person present tense. That’s the theme.

Okay, so it's also a run on sentence and that's what I don't like about it. Yeah. Then then we come to just as time almost stretched on forever, the city loomed on the horizon, welcoming me home with it's another very long run on sentence.

And the next one's a run on sentence as well. But anyway.

We've talked about it. But what I actually want to talk about here, because we've we've covered run on sentences, but what I want to talk about here is just as time almost stretched on forever is a very weak way to give a very good concept. Time stretched on forever punctuated by the city. Looming before me is a much.

But just.

Lose the just lose the almost.

So I agree. But even if you kept the just because the just at least juxtapositions.

The two.

It's the almost almost began started those.

Words almost.

Always should be cut because they add they actually weaken the story. So even if we just cut the almost and it reads just as time stretches and again you tense shifted.


You tense shifted to this whole paragraph because loomed also is a tense shift if we want to keep this in present tense just as time stretches on forever, the city looms on the horizon. Now I've got another issue with this that I'll get to in a second, but the almost.


Listen to Yoda do or do not. So things don't need to almost do anything. Things don't need to kind of sort of be like, you know, almost like a, you know, a drowning rat. No, like a drowning rat. This thing, it's so much stronger.

Or if it's a.

Similarly anyway, you're just painting a picture.

Don't paint a half picture.

You know, almost as if, you know, like time stretches.

What picture you painting.

Paint the picture.

Time stretches off so and so.

You're already I mean, it's drama doing this started to began to sort of kind of like almost it just weakens your your message.

I like and at I've had some people who said to me in the first chapter of my first person book, I have a thing which is like a twister had blown through the living room and I've had two people go like, But it's not a literal twister, right? You should say they'd like it to a straight line through.

And I was like, No, I hear your commentary that I should do that. But anybody who reads an urban fantasy should know that twister hasn't literally blowing through the living room. It is like and putting in the like already weakens the sentence like here putting it in like weakens the sentence. If you now add an almost on top of that, you have a doubly weak.

sentence. 100% same thing with the just that's why I said I agree with you on the just I just want to focus in on the the almost.

You can.

Leave the just if you're married to it but the almost has to go.

So here's the thing let's talk about two things. First of all, you're always going to have what I call word Nazis. So that whole what's like a twister? Yeah, shut up. Word Nazi. I don't care about you. Same thing. I like one of the first people I ever got in a fight with in a writers group. And this is probably 30 years ago, but I had written something like Fire danced over the Blade as he withdrew it from his scabbard.

And this one woman from the crowd was like, Fire can't actually dance. And I'm like, I will never listen to you again no matter what you say. She might as well never open your mouth again, like, because you're an idiot. So that's that's the first thing. I hate word Nazis can't.

Because it's.

Creative writing. We're supposed to be painting pictures. We're not supposed to be being just literal telling them what's happening. We want to evoke emotion and fire dancing up a blade evoke something that, you know, fire burned along the blade like it doesn't evoke anything. Sure, it shows me that there's fire on the blade, but it doesn't it there's no motion to it.

There's no there's no magic to it. So that's one thing. And then the second thing to be even more rude and crude, I still am of the opinion that if I wrote a twister, tore through the living, you know, had a twister, had torn through the living room or whatever, however you worded it, and the reader doesn't realize that I'm making a simile, then that reader is not smart enough to read me.

And I just don't want them as a reader like, just just, just go find someone else to read. So and yes, I started this whole thing with I don't want to exclude readers for, you know, dumb reasons, but they're not going to be able to follow that. And we follow a ton of stuff that I do. So if they can't follow the fact that there wasn't an actual twister in this room, it's just, you know, messy.

So but yeah.

So so almost weakens the weakens the sentence started well I have a problem with started and then people go yes but they didn't finish unlike they put an ing verb they that also indicates an ongoing action.

Yeah. But you do.

Not need to say started in order to explain to me that he didn't finish. Okay, your verb choice can show me that like.

Yeah, yeah. I'm almost I'm.

Almost never has a place in.


I'm I'm less hyper you know hyper sensitive to the started as long as the action is interrupted so I don't mind a Drake started to turn but Marie grabbed his elbow like I don't mind something like that because then you're showing and then start. But you're right, I could also write it as an ing verb turning. Marie You know, Marie grab.

You just have to really.

Grab Drake's elbow as he turned right or Marie grabbed it, Drake's elbow preventing him from turning.

Right or, you know, you don't need definitely.

Flip the sentence around. Yeah, but it also depends on what you're doing. If if Marie is the main focus, then yes, I'm 100% right that way. But if Drake is the focus and him starting to turn, then I'm going to want that first. So it really also depends on the situation, what you're trying to accomplish. You know, all of those things.

So yeah, I think I think that's the most interesting thing for people should be to, to listen to how in-depth we start talking about this one stupid little wait a minute. Like they're just turning like, how are you talking about this? It's because it's not important. It's about what we want the reader to consume and how we want the reader to see that.

And really, like, started. I can tolerate if it is really, really important, but think twice, think three times before you include started. And as for almost, almost always cut it.

Yeah I'm not.

Going to say absolutely always got but almost always.

There is.

99% of.

The time.

There is in creative writing that is always done a certain way. Every rule can be broken. I even rules that I'm like you. I mean.

Look, I have a I have a story.

Published in first person Present tense. And like, we we've literally just pooped all over this P.O.V.

I will die on the multi P.O.V. first person. I will die of that.

Well, that's the thing.

The story is very simplistic. It starts and it ends. It is one P.O.V.. But the biggest reason why I chose it is it was a story that I wrote for Sony, and it's a creature called a kobolt. And the best way to describe these creatures is they're like a three year old hooked on crack. They don't remember what happened 2 seconds ago, and they have no idea what they're going to do 2 seconds from now.

So if the character lives 100% in the moment and nothing else. And so the story just screamed to be written in first person present the hardest part of that story is the P.O.V. character dies at the end. It was very hard to write the ending of that.

I think for me, with this, with this voice especially, I would really recommend switching to past tense because this voice is very noir. I mean, it is very, you know.


So just this just as time stretched on forever, the city loomed on the horizon. The bright lights welcomed me home vice infest the districts and sickly smells bright dancing on the evening air I drove into It's more every bit as rugged and dangerous as the Badlands. It is noir and noir is inevitably in past tense.

It's much.

Much more accepted in past tense. And also that would be a tense shift too, because it'd be I drive. That's the other thing that's just that's weird to say I drive into. It's more there's just some present tense verbs that are just weird.

The imagery is noir and that is always past tense. It's like that is this story is fighting, it's tense it's fighting its tense in the first two paragraphs. Yeah, because of the imagery it's using.

100%. So there's one other problem that I have with that sentence.


But before I get into that, I don't want to forget that was another thing that was brought up. So when I was talking to this girl in the writers room that brought that first person present tense peace this week, she said, Well, actually I had originally written it in past tense, and then I was with some readers and they actually said to try it in present tense because it will make my voice better.

And I was like, okay, tense has nothing to do with your voice. Tense, does not change your voice. And then I reread her piece and past tense, and it was the same because he had this beautiful character voice. It was that was her strength is she had this amazing character.


For the piece. And so I read it without change anything. I just, you know, shifted it to present tense as I read. And it's the same snarky character, like it's the exact same character. It do not fall into the trap of the lie. That present tense has a different voice than past tense. They have the exact same voice, period.

That does not change anything, so don't do that. So here's the problem that I have with that sentence. I don't understand how stretching time has anything to do with looming cities. I can't paint that picture in my head. How are those connected in any way?

So I get what he's painting. So the road is stretch and stretches and stretches and then four in the distance the city appears. It's like the road looms on forever. Until it does. Until the city interrupts.

And maybe because I read it more like a drowning rat. I ate my meal with gusto. It's like what.

In the.

And it's so.

It's a how.

I would how I would put this is the time stretched on forever punctuate that by the city because that's what you're saying right The city looms out at the end of it.

Right? Yeah. It's a weird it's a weird I don't my mind can't paint that picture.

Infinity interrupted by the looming city.

Yeah, something like that. Now I can start to see what you're saying, but it definitely my brain just doesn't have a the way it was written, my brain couldn't paint what we were trying to. I couldn't relate. Time to the city popping up visually.


Because you can't see time.

Then I think that we've. We've been an hour, haven't we?

I don't know. I don't. I didn't look at the clock, but I think so.

Maybe it's a so most of what's wrong here is it's run on sentences.


Yeah. So we've hammered on the first we've hammered on the present tense. And that is because the story's heart is fighting tense. And that is abundantly clear in the second paragraph.


Which has been written almost in past tense entirely.

Yeah. Right.

And it's because the imagery is noir and noir leans into past tense, not present.

When the story is forcing the writer to break the tense that they've chosen, then maybe that is a good sign that you're in the wrong tense if you're not really breaking your own rule because it's better the broken way than maybe the choice is actually the broken way. And allow the story to be what the story wants to be.

See that The thing the thing about Noir's imagery is some of noir's imagery. Imagery is almost always written in passive voice. And now I know everybody says write an active voice. And most of the time that's true. But noir lends itself to some passive imagery.

Think one of.

The strengths of what? But you cannot do passive voice in present tense. At least.

I like. And as much as you.

Do it and make it sound good.

You know.

You can't say the city purchase like a toad about to spring. It doesn't sound it doesn't sound right.

Actually, that was pretty good though, to hate it when you're trying to come up with a bad example off your tongue and you can't do it.

It still sounds like, okay, so the alternative, the city perched like a toad about to spring.


No immediate immediately. Better for noir.

Yeah, I agree.

Yeah. So I, I really think that if you're going to do a noir ish type of feel to your first person, you should be hitting past tense. And that's why if you look at like Hunger Games and so on and the great first person presentations, books that have come out like their imagery is not often war imagery. So that's one thing.

The other thing is run on sentences are not your friend.

Now they're going to weaken the story.


They're always weak in your story.

They make it mushy because the audience is just they're trying to swallow too many flavors at one time.

Blurs together. So I think those are your two big takeaways from this.

Yep. This piece.

Which probably keep this and maybe do a part two of this and go a little deeper.

Yeah, we can do that.

No guarantee to the audience. But there is we didn't get very far.

We didn't get very far, but we did spend a lot of time bitching about first person.

Well, first person, present tense.

Well, we, you, you spend a lot.

You don't.

Like it as much as I don't.

Like it.

I don't like it. I don't like it. But I can normally move on like.

Yeah, yeah. It's just Yeah.

It is what it is.

It is but it's a, it's a, it's not a good choice. It's like I don't feel that first person present tense adds anything to anybody's life. I think that The Hunger Games would have been as compelling written in third person.

Yeah. The funny thing is with Hunger Games, if you actually look at it from a writing standpoint, just the craft of writing, it's actually pretty weakly written. It's got a lot of tells, it's got a lot of run on sentences, it's got a lot of because for present tense also kind of forces you to make odd decisions So while it's great characters great world great story which is really all the end user cares about, if it was written better, it would have just taken it, you know, one more notch up.

I have a friend who says to me that the reason why she devoured Hunger Games and why, for example, she doesn't read brandon sanderson right? Because this this was the discussion we were having. Brandon Sanderson versus Hunger Games. Right. And she said that Hunger Games, every chapter ends with Katniss in a tree right? Every chapter ends with a dire situation.

Every chapter pulls you into the next situation. There's a hook at the end of every chapter, and that is not true of fantasy. And the other thing is, with Hunger Games, you are very invested in Katniss, the character from the opening sentence. You are in Katniss the character?


And I think that those two, though, that is what makes Hunger Games great. It is not its present tense. It's not even the first person, though. I think that the first person was done fairly well.


Obviously actually her first her first person present tense is when I told people to go look at if you want see an example of flawless. She does not make any mistakes with her first person present tense again she does make mistakes on the craft writing its tally. It's you know, kind of passive and it's an action adventure story.

So had she written it better, I mean, so she would have made, you know, $50 million instead of $45 million or something.


But she's obviously she did. But she told the story very well. She told a very compelling story and a very compelling story can carry can carry you through a lot, especially you understand tension, which she does understand, introduces tension from the first sentence. You have tension with the waking up of like it's tribute day. There is immediate tension and it goes through the tension ratchets through the entire book.

Katniss ends in a tree, every single chapter. And that's what. Carries you

Yeah. On a percent. Which is why, you know, that's something I strive for always. It's to make sure that every chapter ends in that hook that makes you go, I have to read the next chapter.

I have to.

I don't care if I have to get up in the morning, go to work, and it's 2:00 in the morning. I still have to read the next chapter. So I do try to push myself with that.

It is. And I mean, sometimes it doesn't have to be as direct as like Katniss in a tree. It can just be like, I'm really invested in this character and I want to know what happens next. You know, not not everything has to be in a tree. Obviously. We write very big books. A reader called Sustain, you know, 200,000 words, the way they can sustain 80,000 words.

It's the reality, right?


Yeah, 100%. But I mean, epic fantasy is epic fantasy. But it is a slower pace you know. But that's the nature of the game because because you you're telling a broader story. It's impossible to world build the kind of epic scope at a breakneck speed. The whole I mean like there's limits. Yeah, but but yeah but regardless like investing the reader in the character and giving them a reason to flip the page will get you through a lot.

It will gloss over a lot of problems.

Yeah. Yep, yep.

All of that is 100% accurate.

And I think that that is a good place in which to end this episode by.

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