I am writing my first book, which I am very passionate about, but there are small details in the art of writing that have me second guessing myself, and then comes the confusion.

I am writing in deep third person, and I have been told that when writing in third person POV, it is best to write in past tense. Now, whether or not this is true, I'm unsure. A lot of readers are not fond of books being written in present tense, apparently. What are some thoughts and opinions on this?

In regards to writing in past tense, I am struggling to wrap my head around describing a characters appearance and characteristics. For example, if I am describing a character that is kind and beautiful, and gives the best hugs, would I describe it as:

  1. She was a beautiful woman with a kind, gentle soul. She gave the best hugs.


  1. She is a beautiful woman with a kind, gentle soul. She gives the best hugs.

Very bland examples, but I just want some guidance on this. Because even if the narrator is speaking in past tense, the qualities of the character were present, and may still be present at the time the narrator shares the story.

All help is appreciated :)


1 Answer 1


This is kind of a broad question, so I'll just focus specifically on the part where you asked for advice about tense matching and writing tenses in descriptions.

When you are writing in a specific tense - whether that be past, present or future - all of your writing should be in the same tense, with few exceptions. This is to avoid any confusion or frustration on the part of the reader, as it comes across as very jarring and uncomfortable if you jump from past to present and back without a strong story reason to do so.

Therefore, in your example, you would go with Option 1:

She was a beautiful woman with a kind, gentle soul. She gave the best hugs.

That being said, there are a few exceptions where you can write a present tense sentence in a past tense novel, such as when you're writing a character's inner monologue:

She is a beautiful woman with a kind, gentle soul, Li thought to herself. And she gives the best hugs.

Or perhaps you're writing a flashback sequence, or a scene out of a character's memory, in which case you could jump to present tense specifically for that part of the story and then come back when the flashback ends.

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