What are your thoughts about using now in the past tense?

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Post by Guest »

For example, my character was startled and barely moving for a moment, and I’d like to move the scene forward by saying, “He backed away more quickly now, tripping over the leg of the table in his haste.”


Post by Neilikka »

This is known as "free indirect style" and is something a lot of authors use. I use it only if it reads better than any alternative (including completely rephrasing so such a construct isn't needed) because I don't like things that don't make logical sense, but there's nothing wrong with it from a convention pov.

Post by Kelly »

Great if this is the second or third (etc) time he has backed away

Post by Dominick »

I mean hey if you wanna use it like that go for it.

Post by Maria »

"He jolts back but trips, his ankle hooks on the coffee table's leg. He claws for purchase on glossy magazines, bruising up his arms."

Post by Rebekah »

I love it. If you say something like, he backed away slowly (something else happens) he backed away further, more quickly now. It can work.

Post by Sheila »

Now is used correctly in the context you quote. It presupposes a situation where the the action happened more slowy. It's always good style use single-syllable words when the action hots up. You can't be held accountable for over-use by other writers.

Post by Amy »

I think it works fine, but the sentence reads the same without it. I guess it depends on how long he spent backing away prior to that.

Post by Marcia »

I rec deleting the entire phrase since the action shows what the phrase tells: He backed away, tripping over…

Post by John »

It’s redundant (we know it is “now”), but I think there are times where it amplifies a sense of urgency or immediacy.

Post by Poppy »

Yes, it's OK! I'm a firm believer in using words like "last night" and "tomorrow" in past tense narrative as well, though people have told me it should be "the previous night" / "the follow day." It's just something that's unique to fiction.

Post by Soraya »

In personaly think it is useless in this sentence tbh
"He backed up quickly, tripping over the leg of the table in his haste" is really just good like that

Post by Elizabeth »

Now is a word similar to “this,” “these,” “today,” etc. that implies present tense, so you shouldn’t use it in past tense. As an editor, I always advise my clients of this. In dialogue, it’s fine to do but not in prose. In your sentence, the “now” isn’t necessary at all because you’re saying “more quickly,” which implies a greater degree already than before.

Post by Cindi »

I think a few of the commenters didn’t understand your question. It’s probably personal preference, but I have seen “now” used in this way frequently(to cue the reader that a flashback or backward looking exposition is over and we are back in the present storytime). I’m not a pro editor or anything, but I like it, and I think it is a cue readers understand in any tense. I use it that way as well.

Post by Gabriel »

It is perfectly acceptable.

Stephen King uses it often, even in the pluperfect tense.

So do the following authors:

Cormac McCarthy

Joyce Carol Oates

Philip Roth

Vladimir Nabokov

George RR Martin

Michael Crichton

JK Rowling

And more.

The idea behind "now" is that it has to be used in relation to context (much like words in general)...

"He couldn't find any canned food in the pantry or in the kitchen. He had looked everywhere. Now, in an act of desperation, he was scouring

the bathroom cabinets, knowing the chances were slim that he'd find anything to feed them."

It's fine if used appropriately and it doesn't cause confusion.
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