Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Editing Frenzy: Prompt sixteen: tenses

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Hello and welcome to a new editing frenzy post. I hope you didn't miss it too much last week. 
Today's topic is tense. And I can't believe that we didn't talk about it earlier. Anyway, let get started. 

Rule number 1: Don't mix tenses. 
You can choose to write in two tenses either present or past. If you write in past tense however the dialogues are going to be in present tense anyway. As usual dialogues are a bit different so I'll leave the tenses in the dialogue problem for a later prompt.

Past tense are: Past (preterit), 
                       Pluperfect (to have in past tense + past participle (-ed form)), 
                       Past continuous (to be in past tense + gerund (ing form))
                       Pluperfect continuous (to have in past tense + been + gerund)

The past is used to describe the immediate action and the pluperfect is used for background story, flash backs and when something happened before the current action.

To express a sense of future action in past tense you can use the conditional either in present or past tense. (would)
Present tense are: Present
                              Perfect (to have in present tense + past participle)
                              Present and perfect continuous.
                  Of course the future is expressed by the future tense. (will)

It is a common rule not to mix tenses so you have to choose which group of tense you want to write in and verify that you are not jumping to something else. It's really easy to jump tense at time and very natural so it require some concentration to notice.

Rule number 2: You can mix tenses if you want.

Yeah, I know that breaks rule number 1 and some people consider it bad writing.
I don't really have a rule for that. But I would say that you can have a past narrative and still use the present in specific cases some of which are:
  1) If what the narrator said is still true in the present.
  2) If you are talking about something like a general truth.

At the moment, I'm working on Harajuku Kiss and I'm trying to have a superposition of two narrators. One in past tense and the other in present tense. While the first narrator relate the story that actually happened to her, her future self reflect on the action and events. And of course the general truth are in present tense. 
Out of 10 reviews of the introductory 5000 words. Only two people complained that I was mixing tenses and one of them gave an example of a sentence where I was mixing tenses while all the tenses there were plain and simple past tense. I guess it depends on the people and if they are able to relate to the story or not. I think I would just go with my feelings.

In doubt, don't mix, but if you feel comfortable, go for it, just make sure it's consistent. 

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1 comment:

  1. Tenses can drive you crazy, they are so easy to mix up. Nice to connect and follow through a to z http://aimingforapublishingdeal.blogspot.co.uk/