Monday, July 27, 2015

Tense Change Challenge #3

TITLE: ISLAND SHADOWS
GENRE: YA Contemporary

With the aid of a local boy, sixteen-year-old Tess finally trespasses onto a private river island to explore an abandoned castle that has inspired her love of architecture since childhood. Unfortunately, the castle isn't how she imagined it.

FIRST PERSON PAST (original):

We mounted the castle steps, two at a time, careful to avoid crumbling patches of stone. A giant wooden door swollen with age stuck on its frame, but after a few shoulder jabs, Ryan pushed it ajar. We passed through an entry hall and arrived in the center of a vast great room. Digging through Ryan’s backpack for a flashlight, I panned the light. The room was empty except for a skeleton of a grand staircase dominating the center. A feeling like disappointment knocked around inside my chest. I ignored it. The bones of the castle were strong, even if nothing else was.

My gaze drifted upward where four levels of balconies towered above us. In the center of the ceiling, a few hundred feet up, shards of light slipped past a dusty stained glass dome. Pointing the glow from the flashlight upward, I shrieked when something warm flapped against my ear. My hands shot to my face and the flashlight clattered to the marble floor. “It’s a bat—just a bat,” he said, his hands brushing the tops of my shoulders. “You spooked it.”

I slumped down on a giant marble step, trying to slow my pulse. Something was off. I started to think about the stories Tommy, Ashlyn and Katie had shared around the bonfire, wondering if they were true. Then I told myself to stop; those stories were ridiculous. Ryan scooped up the batteries and the flashlight and sat down beside me, beginning to reassemble the pieces.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT:

We mount the castle steps two at a time, careful to avoid crumbling patches of stone. A giant wooden door, swollen with age, sticks on its frame, but after a few shoulder jabs, Ryan pushes it ajar. We pass through an entry hall and arrive in the center of a vast great room.

Digging through Ryan’s backpack for a flashlight, I pan the light. The room is empty except for a skeleton of a grand staircase dominating the center. A feeling like disappointment knocks around inside my chest. I ignore it. The bones of the castle are strong, even if nothing else is.

My gaze drifts upward, where four levels of balconies tower above us. In the center of the ceiling, a few hundred feet up, shards of light slip past a dusty, stained-glass dome. Pointing the glow from the flashlight upward, I shriek when something warm flaps against my ear. My hands shoot to my face and the flashlight clatters to the marble floor.

“It’s a bat—just a bat,” Ryan says, his hands brushing the tops of my shoulders. “You spooked it.”

I slump down on a giant marble step, trying to slow my pulse. Something is off. I start to think about the stories Tommy, Ashlyn, and Katie shared around the bonfire, wondering if they were true. Then I tell myself to stop; those stories are ridiculous.

Ryan scoops up the batteries and the flashlight and sits down beside me, beginning to reassemble the pieces.

11 comments:

  1. Both are good and well-written. I was drawn in to the original entry and the tense change too. This is a close call because I think either one would work but my preference is for first person, present.

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    1. Thank you for reading and for the feedback!

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  2. Very tough call. The story works either way. At first, I was so impressed by how smooth the original, past tense excerpt read that I didn't expect the present tense to be as good. I think it is. That may not help if you're undecided. :-/ Good luck!

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  3. I think both were good, but I'm going to side with present

    I like the immediacy of it, discovering this castle at the same time she does, though I think if you change it to present, you should focus a bit more on her experiences rather than summary of what's happening. Example:

    "Pointing the glow from the flashlight upward, I shriek when something warm flaps against my ear. My hands shoot to my face and the flashlight clatters to the marble floor."

    I think it'll add to the immediacy if she feels the bat first and then reacts.

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    1. Great suggestion. Thanks for reading!

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  4. I agree with the other comments. Both work great, but I prefer the present tense version because it keeps me in the action along with the characters, not just as an observer. I also agree with hlbrixey, action then reaction seems more natural.

    I know this isn't a critique, but this is good so I thought I'd suggest maybe adding other sensory details. How did it smell, musty, moldy, rank, or like something crawled inside and died? Was it cold inside, a coldness that seeped into her bones? Any noises, wind blowing through rafters? Just food for thought to heighten the MC's experience.

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  5. I agree with the other comments. Both work great, but I prefer the present tense version because it keeps me in the action along with the characters, not just as an observer. I also agree with hlbrixey, action then reaction seems more natural.

    I know this isn't a critique, but this is good so I thought I'd suggest maybe adding other sensory details. How did it smell, musty, moldy, rank, or like something crawled inside and died? Was it cold inside, a coldness that seeped into her bones? Any noises, wind blowing through rafters? Just food for thought to heighten the MC's experience.

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    1. The wind is blowing a few para.'s ahead of this sample, lol. But I love the suggestions, thank you!

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  6. Both versions work well in this case. But if I had to choose, I would go with past tense. I've come across a lot of agents that cringe when they see samples in present tense. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you for the feedback!

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