Author Topic: Tenses  (Read 6652 times)


  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 76
    • View Profile
    • White Cat
« on: July 14, 2010, 07:15:50 AM »
How do you prefer tenses when used in visual novels? Past or present tense?

I notice how past tense is often used in general storytelling, but that present tense is used in most visual novels. I guess this has something to do with how the story is told in 1st person and that it tries to immerse the player in the story.

Although I previously used to use past tense as well, I also remember a teacher saying how present tense could be more powerful in certain kind of stories, and urged us to do that – I also remember ignoring him/her completely of course :P But that aside…

What do you like best when reading a vn? What sounds more effective/natural?

Recently after moving into vn-writing/translating territory I have gotten used to writing in present tense, but some recent discussion with someone else has made me wonder what is really best...


  • of Lux Visual Novels
  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 54
    • View Profile
    • Lux Visual Novels Blog
    • Email
Re: Tenses
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2010, 05:42:36 PM »
Personally I sort of prefer past tense. I find it more pleasing aesthetically and easier to write: I tend to see the stories from the perspective of the end anyway (what made the end what it is, as opposed to what will happen after the beginning). I also have a weak spot for the foreshadowing and reflecting that can be done from the past tense.

Even so, I can see why many write in the present tense. Most visual novels have choices, it can be seen as kind of a contradiction if the story is in past tense and yet can be affected by the player. Another advantage of the present tense is that it can make some scenes more powerful, e.g. erotic scenes, which are an important part to many in lots of VNs.
A piece of eternal wisdom: "Viking-chan isn't a viking-chan without her beard!"
Click here for the Lux Visual Novels blog!


  • Member
  • Posts: 25
    • View Profile
    • Moonlight Bomber's Chronicles Mk. II
Re: Tenses
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2010, 10:18:04 PM »
It all depends on the content of the visual novel. If it's a lighthearted one, I prefer the past tense so that readers will be granted a sense of nostalgia if ever some of the events happen in their real lives. If it's action-packed, I use the present tense so that the reader can become part of the action, like he was controlling the main character if it were an actual game.


  • Guest
Re: Tenses
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2010, 05:01:55 AM »
As a traditional text-only writer, I prefer to use the third-person past tense or first-person past tense.

As a reader, I think that the first-person present tense actually suits visual novels in general the most. Of course, this also depends on the type of story, but for the average bishoujo adventure game, the use of the present tense really helps in this so-called "immersion" in the experience that many people seem to value. Myself, quite less than others, I'd assume.

Over-all, I think that any tense or any style of writing can work as long as the story requires it and there is a sense of consistency to the style. For example, I find the sudden jumps between third-person present tense from an ominiscient perspective and back to the main character's perspective told from the persent tense quite jarring in games like Sharin no Kuni, but I find that it makes perfect sense in other games like Ever17 where:

Spoiler for Hiden:
You're looking at the game from the perspective of a 4D being.

The shifting perspective jumping from the POV of the different individuals in Swan Song's story is also quite effective in helping the reader paint a mental picture of the true extent of the calamity and how it brings out the ugly side of human nature as time passes.


  • Member
  • Posts: 107
    • View Profile
Re: Tenses
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2010, 05:58:53 AM »
I find it more pleasing aesthetically
Sounds strange that a tense could be "aesthetical", but actually, I couldn't have put it better myself. I was going to say past tense is "gentleman storytelling". The author communicates with the reader in a simple, but distanced way - telling him a story of someone else (past tense + third person). I call it gentleman also because it's like giving a woman flowers. It's the oldest thing in the universe and yes you can be more creative and engaging with expressing your love, but in most cases and situations, flowers are indeed the best way to show it no matter how "standard" giving flowers seems. Equally, past tense is in most cases the best way to present / tell your story, because if you have something to say/express to someone else, people simply communicate and receive information this way best. It might be that third person is "just" a tradition that developed in the past when people were telling stories, and so influenced storytelling in general, but again, I feel like it's similar to the flowers - it may be the "default" thing to do, but it doesn't feel wrong, in fact it does feel really nice pretty much every time.


  • Member
  • Posts: 22
  • Suiheisen
    • View Profile
    • sakevisual
    • Email
Re: Tenses
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2010, 04:54:02 AM »
These days, I prefer present tense. I think it gives the reader a feeling of experiencing things with the protagonist rather than hearing the story told to them after the fact. When I first started writing VNs, it was a pain in the blassreiter to write in present tense, though. I spent many an hour going back over my text to fix all my tenses. D:

In general though, I really prefer writing and reading past tense. There's something about it that makes it feel less awkward.


  • Member
  • Posts: 2
  • Creator of Kinetic Novels
    • View Profile
    • Darker than You Know
    • Email
Re: Tenses
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2010, 05:24:21 PM »
Visual novels can use past or present tense easily.

Being a Kinetic novel creator/reader I prefer past tense. Sometimes it's awkward to have present tense tag along wherever you go when something clearly happened in the past. Also, for my personal project, "Darker than You Know" the time is not set--you don't know when it takes place, thus past tense gives the illusion of this having taken place anywhere, any time.