Every now and then at 5a.m. (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest piece, or whatever takes my fancy. I wrote a second-person future tense story which featured some past tense so I thought I’d talk briefly (this is a ‘flash’ after all) on tenses.
Robert Sloan’s article on Hubpages* How to use Past Tense Present Tense and Future Tense in Novel Writing may be two years old but it’s a great article. It starts…
“One of the easy ways to tell beginner writing is that the story bounces from past tense through present tense and future tense at random. Unskilled writers who don’t keep a consistent tense can confuse readers about what happened when. More than that, it’s easy to drift into the passive voice and bore them in the middle of the most exciting scenes.”
He may be a little harsh on beginners’ writing, we all make tense mistakes especially when writing in the past. It’s easy enough to write about something that happened recently (I went, he shouted) but get trickier when you want to go further back… to the ‘had had / had been’s. It can get pretty tiring to read a long section in pluperfect (Wikipedia has a great explanation of this) so once you set up the section in pluperfect you can then revert back to past tense, the reader will know it’s in the past and stay with you… hopefully.
Most stories are written in the simple past tense, some in the present tense, but few in the future tense. If you’ve never written future tense before, do have a go, it can be fun.
* I’ll be talking more about Hubpages in tomorrow’s 5a.m. flash.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.