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The Time Tenses of language literature

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by jireh the provider, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. jireh the provider

    jireh the provider Video Game Designer

    I bet all of us know these three phrases as a writer/s.

    Past Tense - events that happened before or already done before.

    Present Tense - events that are happening right now

    Future tense - evens that are about/yet to happen. Sometimes predicted

    These three are different tenses that we always refer to keep our chapters and novels manageable. But these three tenses can also be divided to subgroups (whatever language you are using). Whether we often say these sub phrases or not, if you devote enough time to writing, you could already use all basic kinds and their sub group kinds of tenses.

    Past Progressive Tense - something done before whether it is done or not on that previous moment

    Present Progressive Tense - the happenings as of the moment of the "now"

    Future Progressive Tense - something planned / scheduled that has yet to be done

    Past Perfect - an act that cannot be redone. "What's done is done."

    Present Perfect - something you are doing is done now.

    Future Perfect - an event your are planning to get it done on that future day

    And of course we got the Conditional Tenses. Ones that involves the word "Maybe", Au-dino (I dunno / I don't know), and probably alongside the word "IF" and "ELSE" for most cases.

    Conditional Simple - an event that will probably be done or not

    Conditional Progressive - concentrates more on the progress of the action.

    Conditional Perfect- the event that must be done on that specified time

    Conditional Perfect Progressive - you concentrate on the progress

    So now we go to some questions:

    a. What are the key elements an author must keep in mind on using these tenses as they write their stories?
    b. If you are combining two scenes in different timelines of any chapter, how should you tackle the two or more different tenses (examples would be a present tense on the first and last scene with past tenses on the middle chapter scenes)?
    c. What are/is your most preferred / frequently used tense in writing your stories?
    d. Are there any other questions and steps missed within this thread?

    I finally got my first review of my original story! Skiyomi's reference to my Tense construction (which is vague and somewhat disorganized) gave me this idea for this thread. So at least here's another sentence guide. Sut Tzu IS RIGHT!
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2012
  2. bobandbill

    bobandbill Winning Smile Staff Member Super Mod

    I removed the link you had at the top of the post to a youtube MD music remix as it had very little to do with the topic and so seemed more like advertising to me, or at least an unnecessary thing to have in your post.
  3. jireh the provider

    jireh the provider Video Game Designer

    yeah alright sure. But lets go back in topic.

    How do you manage your usage of the tenses listed on the first post as a writer?
  4. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    I'd hate to be blunt, but for the most part, this is something that comes with practice. Native speakers and writers of English can at least keep the basic tenses straight so long as they proofread carefully and remember which tense they started using at the beginning of the story. (Complicated tenses take a bit more practice, especially given the fact that not all school systems seem to teach them. That's why aspiring writers should always try to read about grammar beyond the classroom in order to cover a lot of the things that not every teacher addresses. Or they could just do their best during the proofreading stages and listen carefully when a reviewer brings up something they didn't know. That's how I learned about pluperfect tense ages and ages ago.) People new to English might need a beta reader to help straighten things out because the language treats tenses differently than pretty much every other language out there. English is a complicated mistress, really, so it takes practice, paying attention to what you're being taught, and care to get everything down.

    But the main thing to keep in mind is read your work before you post it. That should at least root out the basic problems, like use of a present-tense verb in a past-tense scene. The rest should come by asking yourself, "When does this sentence take place?" For example, if you wanted to use pluperfect tense (otherwise known as past perfect), your question would be, "Has this scene already happened, and if so, is this sentence that I'm writing right now referring to an event that occurred before this scene began?" In other words, you'll have to keep a timeline in mind at all times. Imagine that you've placed a finger somewhere on that timeline, and that's your main tense for the story or scene. What tense each sentence has to be in depends on whether or not the events you're describing in it take place before, after, or concurrently (at the same time with) where you placed your finger.

    For question B, though, things get a bit more complicated. Generally, you'll want to use only one tense throughout a story unless the story in question absolutely cannot be told any other way. Most fics actually can be told in one tense, so if you're thinking about bringing in a scene that has future tense or present tense, ask yourself if the scene still makes sense if you replace every verb with a past tense one (assuming you're writing in the past tense as an example). If the answer is yes, then you should probably consider keeping everything in the past, rather than switch tenses for no apparent reason. This goes especially if you're not actually going to be telling a sizable portion of the story in whichever tense you were trying to use. Moreover, you never want to switch tenses mid-scene.

    There is, of course, perspective to consider. If you have a scene being told by a character, a journal entry, or something else that is definitely not like the other scenes you're writing for some very good reasons, then sure, you could consider using an alternate tense, but the main rule to keep in mind there is that you'll need to know exactly when to do it. Sandwiching a present tense scene between two past tense ones, for example, tends to be jarring to a reader, so unless that's the point that you're trying to make (as in, you want your story to feel jarring and disorienting), you'll need to be careful about where you place the scene with a different tense. Moreover, it would be a good idea to be consistent about that too. If you're going to bring in a journal entry for one chapter, consider bringing journal entries for multiple chapters, and be sure to tell us something in those entries we wouldn't have gotten in the main story, just so it doesn't look like you switched tenses to tell us something that you could have just integrated into the rest of your work.

    I'm hoping some of this makes sense. I just woke up, so I'm not sure if much of this is getting across. But yeah, it's pretty much, "Proofread, get a beta, be consistent, and don't switch tenses unless you have to (and even then, be careful where you do it)."
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  5. jireh the provider

    jireh the provider Video Game Designer

    Nice point, i got one review fom My PMD story saying that my tenses are a bit jarring. So much for that. That means MORE editing on my story novel. Hurrah. I just wonder how long it will take me to get it done though? who knows?
  6. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    If you're having that much trouble, you could always get a beta reader.

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