I'm writing a story in the past tense, third person, deep POV. Similar to the first person, that implies that some of the narration can be read as the character's thoughts. Here are two trite examples:
Direct thought, e.g. these are the actual words he heard in his mind:
He stared at the foreclosure notice in his hand. They can't do this, he thought.
Free indirect thought, e.g. this is his thought, or the gist of it, or a paraphrasing, etc.:
He stared at the foreclosure notice in his hand. They can't do this.
In both cases, the sentence is in past tense but the thought is in present tense. This mimicks dialogue. I prefer to use the latter form, because it doesn't require a filter word, and is emotionally much closer to the character.
But... I have sent a couple of short stories to beta readers, and they've been pulling out the red markers about my tense switches.
Here are a few lines they had singled out. I'm going to tackle them in the order of my escalating confusion.
The force with which she slammed the door made the windows rattle. Gosh, that woman has a temper.
The slamming of the door is an action, and is relayed in past tense. The comment about her temper is a thought, and is in present tense. To me, that seems correct.
she’d been nagging him about the damned cupboard door that won’t stay shut.
The nagging is an action that happened in the past. The door that won't stay shut is a fact that is still true during the scene being narrated. It's not the same as the example above, but the POV character knows the door won't stay shut, even if he doesn't think The door won't stay shut. Changing it to say the door wouldn't stay shut, leaves it open for interpretation whether the door still had that problem at the time of the narration.
The final example, from another story in past tense, third-person.
Death, it seems, fears no man.
This one breaks my brain. To the character it seemed at the time, so that's an action in the past. My mistake, I get it. But Death not fearing man is surely a universal truth, unbound by time. Arrrrgh!
Please help me out. In which of these instances should I use present tense, and in which mustn't I? And why? What's the rule?