We reached the place a few minutes later, which turned out to be—a record store?

The room was tiny but nice. Simple, and with the comfort and coziness of the countryside. Plus it had everything we needed: a closet, a basic table, a bathroom, and ONLY ONE BED!

The reason I did this was to give the impression that the narrator is right there experiencing the action, instead of talking about something that happened in the past (does it make sense?).

Is this allowed in fiction writing? If not, what's a better alternative?

  • 1
    Can't see why not. It's free-form...
    – user10865
    Oct 13, 2014 at 11:52
  • 1
    Unrelated piece of advise: don't use capslock for emphasis. In fact, do not rely on any typography to transport meaning (unless you happen to be Terry Pratchett).
    – Philipp
    Oct 13, 2014 at 14:27
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    That depends on the medium where your work appears (web, print, ebook, audiobook, whatever). It might not be guaranteed that details like italics, bold or font changes are available in every format, so they might get dropped. But that's a different question which should be asked separately.
    – Philipp
    Oct 13, 2014 at 15:03
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    ...and please, put spaces around your em-dashes. Often the type doesn't allow for differentiating between a hyphen and an em-dash, but the difference is that hy-phen connects – while em-dash separates.
    – SF.
    Oct 13, 2014 at 22:07
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    @AlexandroChen Then try "... but I was shocked when I noticed that the room had only one bed."
    – Philipp
    Oct 16, 2014 at 7:26

3 Answers 3


I don't see any tense changes in your examples. It all appears to be in past tense. The reason the reader has the perception of the passages happening in present tense is due to the narrator presenting their rendition of the events in the way a storyteller would.

To clarify, your examples give the impression of somebody telling a story around a campfire, where the speaker would add pauses and dramatic realizations to build up the listener's interest. The text emphasis only increases the overall of effect of "we're being physically told a story right now by someone who experienced it." Your use of caps lock and dashes and exclamation points generally amplify that effect by giving the impression of someone YELLING REALLY LOUD or... having a dramatic pause... or becoming really excited! Wow!

Anyway, that's all totally fine. Keep at it if you like it. Although, be warned about the overuse of gimmicky text effects unless if you're absolutely positive you can pull it off-- it's somewhat annoying to your average reader.

An alternative is to just tell the story entirely in present tense, as it happens. You might have to change a few things to transition the perception of events into real time.

We reach it a few minutes later. It looks like a record store from the outside.

The room is tiny but nice. Simple, and with the comfort and coziness of the countryside. Plus, it has everything we need: a closet, a basic table, a bathroom, and only one bed.

You can also do a "stream of consciousness" sort of thing, as well.

Plus, it has everything we need: closet, a basic table, a bathroom, and only one bed. Wait a sec, only one bed? That's a little odd.

I've known a few people who cannot stand present tense, but again, it's all up to personal taste and how you want to present your story.


There's nothing technically wrong with doing this, but you're right to think it sounds fishy. I'd suggest confining exclamations like these to dialog. Ultimately, though, you'll have to rely on your ear and the ears of your beta readers.


As is, there aren't any tense changes. As mentioned above, both examples are past tense, fairly common for fiction writing.

Technically, anything is allowed in fiction writing, if you can do it well. What I see you have done is make use of sentence fragments, which are not allowed in essays and formal writing but quite welcome in fiction pieces. I would recommend avoiding caps lock — it gives the impression of yelling, not just surprise or concern.

Here's an example of how I might convey the worry about only a single bed:

The room was tiny but nice. Simple, and with the comfort and coziness of the countryside. Plus it had everything we needed: a closet, a basic table, a bathroom, and... a single bed!? I glanced to see if she had noticed yet, heat rising to my cheeks. I checked the closet for extra blankets — one of us could curl up on the floor — but it was empty.

Notice how the use of ellipses slows down the train of thought as the realization happens. Then I added some action and physical reaction to ground the thoughts — these can be anything that convey how your character(s) feel about the situation without saying it directly (at least at first). People also have differing opinions on usage of exclamation points and question marks, but I find them to be milder than all caps, while still giving the feeling of shock and initial confusion.

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