Here are some tips for using the tenses in a novel:. When you start drafting a novel or a scene, think about the merits of each tense. The present tense, for example, has the virtue of:. Sometimes authors are especially creative in combining tense and POV. You run your usual route to the store, but as you round the corner you come upon a disturbing sight. When you attempt to return it, you get sent on a wild goose chase after the book you want.
In a thriller novel, for example, you can write tense scenes in first person for a sense of present danger:. A muffled shot. He sits up in bed, tensed and listening. Because stories show us chains and sequences of events, often we need to jump back and forth between earlier and present scenes and times. The fragmented break in continuity makes it hard to place actions in relation to each other.
Sarah runs her usual route to the store.
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As she turned the corner, she came upon a disturbing scene. Ursula K. Le Guin offers excellent advice on mixing past and present in her writing manual, Steering the Craft :. In short, make sure there are clear breaks between entire sections set in different narrative references.
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Le Guin raises a good point about writing tenses. Le Guin describes the downside of telling a story almost exclusively in present tense:. The wealth and complexity of our verb forms is part of the color of the language. Using only one tense is like having a whole set of oil paints and using only pink. That morning, she had run her usual route to the store. As she turned the corner, she had come upon a disturbing scene. Now, safely home, she decided to lie down, all the while trying to get that scene out of her mind.
Verb tenses in academic writing
Mixing the tenses can help to show the cause and effect of interlocking events. It gives it an irrevocable quality, the quality of a haunting, living-on-in-memory event. The different moods are useful because they can show possibilities and scenarios that might have happened, or might still happen, under different circumstances.
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Here are examples for correct uses for each of the tenses in active voice :. Present tense: If she runs to the store… Past tense: If she ran to the store… Future tense: If she should run to the store… Present perfect tense: If she has run to the store… Past perfect tense: If she had run to the store… Future perfect tense: If she should have run to the store….
Think of this mood as setting up a possibility. Present tense: She may run to the store. Present perfect tense: She may have run to the store. Past perfect: She might have run to the store. Why don't we give you complete access!
Using the Present Tense with Works; or, Othello Still Exists | The MLA Style Center
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