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24 votes

I thought I understood tenses

There's not an exact right or wrong here, it's a matter of stylistic choices. Your beta readers disagree with yours --that's part of why you have beta readers, but ultimately you're still the writer ...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
  • 56.5k
19 votes
Accepted

I thought I understood tenses

You do, you do understand tenses. Direct thought follows the same rules as direct speech, except that it is italicized rather than quoted. The same Wikipedia article describes both. This means it is ...
EDL's user avatar
  • 12.4k
16 votes
Accepted

"Lack of [plural]": should accompanying verb be singular or plural?

I agree, it's not the answers (plural) that "cause" has to agree with, it's "the lack of answers...". You have A LACK OF something, so the singular verb form is correct. It's not ...
user8356's user avatar
  • 1,333
15 votes
Accepted

Shifting tenses in the middle of narration

Yes, you're totally fine. If your tense shift happens between paragraphs — that is, the new tense starts a new paragraph — it should be clear what's happening. If this is a first-person narrative and ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
12 votes
Accepted

Past vs. present tense when referring to a fictional character

If the non-fiction work is an essay or similar analysis of the literary work, I would use present tense. Tom Sawyer's friendship with Huckleberry Finn represents unity between middle and lower ...
tryin's user avatar
  • 2,468
10 votes

Past vs. present tense when referring to a fictional character

The book exists in the present, so the characters do as well. The author, though, exists in the past, since he's no longer with us. Mark Twain wrote about a boy, Tom Sawyer, who has adventures ...
Cyn's user avatar
  • 32.4k
10 votes

Shifting tenses in the middle of narration

The actual switch in tense is fine. The context of one tense is simply different from the context of the other. If the bulk of a story is in the past tense, but the narrator switches to the present ...
Jason Bassford's user avatar
10 votes

"Lack of [plural]": should accompanying verb be singular or plural?

There's some ambiguity in the sentence, and this seems to be causing the grammar checker to misparse it. The intended parse is It’s not our (lack of (answers to these problems)) that causes us such ...
Barmar's user avatar
  • 371
9 votes
Accepted

Writing dialogue, present or past tense "said"

It doesn't matter how much dialogue you have. If your story (the narration) is in present tense, then all the verbs have to be in present tense. All the dialogue tags, all the narration, everything. ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
9 votes

Can I switch from past tense to present tense in an epilogue?

This kind of thing is always Your Mileage May Vary, of course, but I think if you're doing it in an epilogue (clearly labeled as such), you can probably get away with it. The main story is done, and ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
8 votes

Use of 'Now' in past tense

The trick is to keep everything in past tense except the word now. This is how it's done in published books. Ancestor by Scott Sigler: On the screen, a man crawled across the floor, leaving behind ...
Cakebox's user avatar
  • 1,192
8 votes

Varying POV and tense

It's a bit dicey. You'd have to have a good reason for it. If Preston's POV is in the present, but Paola's POV is in the past, is the story happening in Preston's time? Is Paola relating things in ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
8 votes

Shifting tenses in the middle of narration

We use tenses to establish a temporal order between statements and from there derive chronology and causality between facts. If you mess that up, no one will be able to follow the stream of events in ...
NofP's user avatar
  • 10.6k
7 votes

How to write in third person present tense without making it sound awkward?

The biggest pitfall I find with third person present tense is that it can start to sound like a movie script. Like stage directions. He goes to the fridge and opens it. It's empty. So he closes the ...
21st Century Writer's user avatar
7 votes

Should character descriptions be written in past or present tense?

Generally speaking, you should not mix tenses. If the rest of your book is in past tense, your character descriptions should also be in past tense. The fact that your novel will be part of a series ...
F1Krazy's user avatar
  • 10.8k
6 votes
Accepted

Can I change tenses in my first person YA novel?

This sounds like a good and apt use of person and tense changes–they aren't arbitrary, and they indicate either a change in POV or a change of setting/state of mind. The typical rule against tense ...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
  • 56.5k
6 votes

Is it confusing for English speakers to see mixed tenses in narration?

While I whole-heartedly agree with @Double U, I'd like to add that on the few occasions where it's ok to mix tenses, there are very specific reasons behind it. I looked at her in shock. I don't ...
SC for reinstatement of Monica's user avatar
5 votes

Present tense or Future tense (When writing articles or technical guides)

When writing a technical article, use the command voice in present tense and do not use ambiguous words like "very clean". Use a plain non-serif font for your article. Anything else looks non-...
Amadeus's user avatar
  • 102k
5 votes
Accepted

First person plural for charisma?

In a related issue, I've had run-ins with members of this group where they have criticized my communication as too abrupt, to the point they were offended a woman would talk in the manner that I ...
Ariane Kh Anderson's user avatar
5 votes

How to avoid slipping into the wrong tense?

Before you can avoid slipping into the wrong tense, ask yourself what the right tense is. Because it's not consistent for every story that is told. Jokes use present tense. A man walks into a bar... ...
Flater's user avatar
  • 3,147
5 votes
Accepted

A question about Past Participle vs Simple Past in a novel

It's been mentioned on this board before, but rules which arbitrarily declare any part of a language off-limits are ridiculous. They may be meant to give guardrails to new writers, but all they end up ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
5 votes

Are there any rules to follow about the narrator mixing past and present tense in writing?

Using present tense for some parts of a story and not for others can be very effective - especially if the narrator is writing in a style that tells a story and adds asides reflecting the narrator's ...
ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

Are characters' internal thoughts written in past or present tense?

Either can be used, as @DPT says. I heard a loud screech from beyond the gates, then silence. 'What is going on?' I thought. Here, effectively, you are presenting the thought as internal monologue....
Galastel supports GoFundMonica's user avatar

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