Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Get Tense

Happy Hump-Day, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you all had a lovely first day back at work yesterday. I know I did. Chapter five of Coralie rolled off my fingers; and I plan chapter six today. You all know what that means, right? All five of the introductory Mystic books should be out by the end of October! I plan to release them in an anthology for Thanksgiving (but you never know with NaNoWriMo right around the corner). Then, my NaNo novel, Markaza, the final installation of the series, should hit the shelves by April (or May), 2014. It's almost time to do battle with that baddie in Central Park! But, today, we're talking about tenses. Since we already went over POV, this is the next most important thing you need to consider before you begin writing your novel. Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

There are three basic tenses. They are:

Let's begin with the first: Past Tense
Past tense is something that happened before the commencement of the telling. Most fiction is set in past tense. Why? Because you're usually telling the story of a journey that occurred; not something that will happen or that you expect to take place. This probably stems from the ancient bards, who told tales as though they were the history of a people. It was entertaining to do so because folks believed what the narrator was saying could be true.

***Something to watch out for: Jumping into present tense now and then outside dialogue. Sometimes, dialogue will throw you off because it's in present tense, even though he/she said comes before it. I find the most tense errors after passages of dialogue.

Second on the list: Present Tense
Present tense is in the here and now. This one is difficult to pull off because we're so used to reading and telling in past tense, we tend to get confused as we write and jump back and forth without realizing it. It takes a highly skilled editor to tend to a novel in present tense. If you decide to write in present tense, it's usually a good idea not to use an imperative mood (where the narrator is speaking to the reader). It can be done though.

***I know of a serial story that's all about the narrator telling the reader what they're doing in the moment. It goes into what they see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. Unusual, but done in serial form for a reason: It's hard to read. Most instructional books are in present tense and all cookbooks are done in the imperative. Reading someone's inner-monologue is also a reason to use imperative. But that can only hold a reader for so long.

Third, we have: Future Tense
Future tense is telling the reader what will happen in the story (or, in the reader's life). You kind of get the idea of a fortune teller type scenario. Probably best left to short stories where you want to engage the reader for a few minutes of their time and possibly make them think about what could happen and/or their own humanity.

***Note: This is different than someone having a vision of the future in a novel. Those visions are still set in past tense if that's where the story is.

I hope this helps you understand the difference between the tenses and gives you some ideas about how you might do things a little differently than the Joe next door. Just remember, you're writing so people can read what you've written. KISS 'em!

What stories have you read that were unusually told? What did you like/not like about them?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


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