1. yagr
    Offline

    yagr Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2012
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    166
    Location:
    West Coast

    First person present/past

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by yagr, Sep 3, 2014.

    My WIP is a YA fantasy told first person by my MC. I just got through reading the responses to another thread (Tense shifting) and think we have a similar issue but am still confused and so I'm beginning my own thread on the subject.

    My MC is telling the story from the back end. He goes on a journey and returns to tell the story. I don't have a copy on me, but I'm pretty sure Riordan does this with his Percy Jackson novels. I know, maybe I should go get one, eh? Maybe. On the other hand, it's 10:26pm, I'm fifty miles from the nearest bookstore and six time zones from the nearest open library. Love you guys...

    The problem is, there are things the MC is telling in real time - and other things he is remembering about the trip. It's just the way I'd imagine him speaking though. For instance, the story begins like so:

    Okay, lots of past tense here. A smattering of present tense as well. Yet, I don't know how to fix it - or even if it's broken. I start with, "It was..." past tense. In line three, "She's my home. At least she's my..." present tense. Starting paragraph two,

    Back to present tense. Or did I never leave present tense and I'm worrying about the wrong stuff?
     
  2. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    It makes perfect sense. Anadia came to my side. Then I got the paradoxical feeling of being home and being lost. Now she is by my side. Now I am wondering how she got here. Now I am on a mission and I am being chased.

    Verb tense has a purpose. You can guarantee that you fulfill that purpose if you know when each verb takes place. If you mention something that once happened, then mention the current state of affairs, then mention something else that once happened, then mention something else about the current state of affairs, then the way to do that is by using the past tense, then the present tense, then the past tense, then the present tense.

    Let meaning, not consistency, determine your choice of tense. It is perfectly fine to use different tenses in the same paragraph, even in the same sentence, if you are referring to several different points in time. That is why verbs have tense.

    The only thing I would change is "I had experienced some pretty odd feelings lately" to either "I had experienced some pretty odd feelings by then" or "I have experienced some pretty odd feelings lately."
     
    yagr likes this.
  3. yagr
    Offline

    yagr Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2012
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    166
    Location:
    West Coast
    Oh heck, thank you! I feel much more confident going forward.
     

Share This Page