Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 4 months ago

Tips on keeping your story written in past tense or present tense?

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  • Anonymous
    4 months ago

    I think that the present tense makes things more "tense", and it's a good choice when the story has something to do with time, deadlines, etc. I recently read a short story by Chekhov that was about a guy who leaves a train during a stop, to go to the station's bar, and maybe has a few too many. Then he goes back into the train, and he meets an acquaintance, and tells him about his recent marriage. The whole story, you have a feeling that the guy may have caught the wrong train, and if he has done so, every minute that passes makes him be further from his destination (and from his wife, waiting for him in the right train). So it is a very good choice that the story is told in present tense.

    Another thing to notice is that, although the descriptions are in present tense, the characters speak in past tense, as we would in real life: "I just went down to the bar to have a brandy", he says, looking at the floor, etc...

    (The story is called "A happy man" in case you want to check it out.)

  • 4 months ago

    Just make sure all the suffixes are the same (e.g for past tense- she walk-ed, danc-ed, it end-ed).

  • 4 months ago

    Every story has a "now," the passage of time as the story takes place, right? The author chooses whether to tell the story as it unfolds in past or present tense. (Most choose past, the events already having happened and the outcome complete.)

    When you're the story teller, you'll find lots of places where you have to fill in background for what's happening in the story's now to make sense. It needs to be one verb tense further back; if your story is present tense, it happened in past tense, and if your story's in past tense already, it becomes past perfect.

    But here's the kicker. You don't do the whole fill-in-the-background scene or explanation in the further-back tense. Instead, you transition into it with the farther-back verb, tell it in the same tense as your story's now, then transition back. Example, made up on the spot:

    ...and she knew she was overreacting. Anger didn't help. Jeff was being Jeff, as usual: selfish, unthinking, entitled to get what he wanted entirely because he wanted it. That's who her husband was, at his core.[<--all past tense verbs]

    When they'd first started seeing each other [<--past perfect, "they'd"] he considered [<--past tense-->] her wants along with his, but those days ended within the first year. She wished they hadn't hurried into marriage. She wished a lot of things.

    Now [<--transition word, making sure the reader is brought into the story's now] she'd tested [<--the last use of the past perfect verb tense, because we're coming back to past tense] positive on all three pregnancy kits. Jeff wasn't going to know. [<--and we're back to the story's now, in past tense-->] Her upcoming trip to see her sister in Albany included a medical appointment.

  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    4 months ago

    For fluent speakers of any language, maintaining consistency with tense is a skill that's naturally acquired. The entire point behind utilising different verb tenses is that it enables us to be very specific when it comes to talking about when something occurred or will occur. Normally, there are two options for telling a story - the Simple Past Tense and the Simple Present Tense, but of course, no matter which you choose there will be times when you'll need to employ other verb tenses as well. Maintaining consistency with tense ought to be easy for anyone who's familiar with the language, but it's really choosing which tense might be appropriate for telling the story that can be tricky. For example, many amateur authors like to experiment with delivering a story in the present tense, or to blend both the present and the past tense together in the same way that they prefer to tell stories in the first-person, but will occasionally blend a first-person narrative voice with a third-person narrative voice in the same piece of writing.

    Present tense writing gives a piece a sense of immediacy. It can be exciting because the reader feels as though he or she is actually in the moment, right there with the characters. But it's not really a natural way to tell a story because the reader isn't there, and because authors frequently need to mention things that happened at some point in the past and things that haven't happened yet, it can quickly get confusing for the reader if the time-frame for what the author considers the present in the story is "now, right this minute." It can be limiting and it can be confusing.

    Take a look at how a few well-known pieces would work if they were switched from past tense to present tense.

    "It's a bright cold day in April and the clocks are striking thirteen."

    "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I bear as best I can, but now he ventures upon insult and I vow revenge."

    "It's the best of times, it's the worst of times, it's the age of wisdom, it's the age of foolishness..."

    It's natural for people to want to tell stories in the past tense because it's easier for us to digest them that way.

    My advice would be to focus on maintaining consistency in the past tense. You can do that by checking to see that all of your main verbs are in the past tense. (Not all verbs because in English we don't conjugate each and every verb in a sentence no matter which tense we're using.)

    "She wanted to go." (Main verb is past tense, secondary verb stays in the present <infinitive>)

    When crafting dialogue sometimes the speakers use the present tense in direct speech, but the author might employ the past tense in reported speech.

    "She('d) said she wanted to go" or "She said 'I want to go'."

    When writing, it's perfectly acceptable to use whichever tense feels more natural because you can always go through it later and fix any errors, but beware that in English, switching from the present to the past or vice versa involves more than just changing a bit of syntax here and there. In some instances, it might entail restructuring whole sentences or paragraphs, so it's definitely best to try to remain consistent as you go.

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  • 4 months ago

    When you read do you know whether what you're reading is speaking of the past, present or future tense?

  • Jerome
    Lv 6
    4 months ago

    Switch often strategically from third to first person storytelling.

    • Jerome
      Lv 6
      4 months agoReport

      Ah yes.

      Not YOUR STORY nor the author.

      My story aka his story. And I write it any way I want.

  • 4 months ago

    Pay attention to the words you use. Also, reread things to make sure you're staying true to the tense.

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