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Nicola

Guide to POV and Tense

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Guide to POV and Tense

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Tenses 

 

Now POV discussion is complete without mentioning tenses. There are three: 

 

Past tense. The POV is told as if the story has already happened: 

 

"Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

 

This is by far the most common tense. It's what most people read, and therefore tends to be easier for writers to recreate because our brains are wired to think of and narrate stories in past tense. 

 

Present tense. This POV is told as if the story is happening as the audience reads. 

 

"Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack falls down and breaks his crown, and Jill comes tumbling after." 

 

Because this is less common, writers tend to make a lot of errors when writing in present tense because they naturally lapse back into past tense. This doesn't mean you shouldn't write present tense. It just means you need to be extra careful.

 

Future tense. Even less common than present tense, future tense tells the story as if it is yet to happen. 

 

"Jack and Jill will go up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack will fall down and break his crown, and Jill will come tumbling after.

 

 

I don't know that this is new information, but sometimes saying an old thing in a new way helps.  

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Thanks. A very helpful example of the 3 tenses.  It is easy to get mixed up as my daughter keeps telling me when she proofs my work.  This will act a good ad to remember. :)

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On 6/11/2019 at 7:51 PM, carolinamtne said:

I understand that some dialogue takes place in the future, but I sure would hate to try to write a whole story in the future.

 

Yes!

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On 6/11/2019 at 4:51 PM, carolinamtne said:

I sure would hate to try to write a whole story in the future

That sounds bonkers, actually! I can't imagine...

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"I'm going to reach for that milk in the refrigerator.  I'm going to pour it into the glass and see the refreshment dribble over the rim as I dream of my baseball team.  They are going to win the championship and I am going to be carried on their shoulders."  

That became muddled very quickly!  What is the future tense for the future?  

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19 hours ago, Nicola said:

What is the future tense for the future?

"Will" and "shall." "Going to" works fine, but it gets clumsy in a hurry. It also seems incomplete, because telling the reader what someone will do is not fixed as telling the reader what someone has done. Even "shall" (which is mandatory in legal terms) isn't guaranteed, because things happen to keep us from doing what we expect to do. ("Might" is even less definite.)

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4 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

"Will" and "shall."

"I will drown!  No one shall save me!"

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