1. TaylorDuke
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    TaylorDuke New Member

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    Having trouble with tense (HELP Please and thx)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TaylorDuke, Jun 12, 2011.

    Hey guys! I'm new, my name is Taylor and I am attempting to write my first novel. So I'm writing in 3rd person and I'm realizing that I am having trouble with staying in past tense. Here is my opening paragraph:

    Jens Bentley stared into his reflection. His pale blue eyes seeing double. Not looking at himself, but into himself. It was something he found himself doing a lot more frequently these days. He believed this was the best way to stay truthful with yourself when contemplating serious questions. "If you can look yourself in the mirror, and still tell a lie, you are no more a man, than an apple is an orange", he always says.


    Is the fact that I have "not looking at himself, but into himself" make it present tense, and conflicting with rest? Should there be no -ing on anything? I'm so confused. Thanks
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You need to understand the difference between narrative tense and grammatical tense. There is some discussion of it in What's Your Point (of View)?.

    The sentences you are concerned about (actually sentence fragments), can work in a past tense narrative. You can have a mix of verb tenses in your narrative, as long as your principle action verbs are in the tense category of the narrative (past or present tense).

    By the way, the comma at the end of a dialogue fragment belongs inside the quotes.
     
  3. TaylorDuke
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    TaylorDuke New Member

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    That makes sense.

    Thank you!
     
  4. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    "His pale blue eyes seeing double. Not looking at himself, but into himself."

    What you're dealing with here is called verb elision. Well, at least partial elision. You maintain the the present/continuous participle whilst omitting the main verb, which is self-evident.
     
  5. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    For additional help:
    This is a list of how both grammatical tense and aspect work. The aspect is in italics, and the defining properties are underlined in each phrase. If you need help understanding this, just reply to this comment.

    Past tense - He walked
    Present tense - he walks
    Past progressive - He was walking
    Past perfective - He had walked
    Present progressive - He is walking
    Present perfective - I have walked
     
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  6. TaylorDuke
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    TaylorDuke New Member

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    This all helps so much...I now understand it, and feel 100x better about the progress of my novel. I thought I was going to have to start over.

    Thank you so much everyone!

    P.s. Declan, Fight Club is my 2nd favorite movie all time next to Into the Wild. Love the avatar! "We've all been raised on television to believe one day we'd be millionares and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off." Tyler Durden forever!
     
  7. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Hey Taylor,
    I'm new in writing too and past and present tense is my struggle too . My first beta reader had not explained to me properly and was yelled at for not getting it. I think I'm slowly understanding it. Good luck with your story.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the fact that you are writing in fragments makes it harder for you to work out what is happening with the tense, because the words that indicate tense are missing. Putting them back in we get:
    Jens Bentley stared into his reflection. His pale blue eyes were seeing double. He was New Member Quick StartNew Member Quick Start
    New Member Quick Start
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I think if you just change "seeing" to "saw" and "says" to "said", then it is fixed.

    ^ P.S. and the "He was".
    |
     
  10. garnerdavis
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    garnerdavis Member

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    I agree about the "says" to "said," but does he really need to change "seeing" to saw? I don't know the proper term for it, but I thought that sentence conveyed a present view of a past action, thereby justifying "seeing."
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You forgot past perfect continuous (or past perfective progressive as I suppose you'd call it?)

    "He had been walking."
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Care to give a few examples? I think I might be too harsh on myself concerning tense, sometimes bending myself over backwards in order to maintain them, while keeping the sentence from turning into a tongue-twister.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Look in my blog entry What's Your Point (of View)?
     
  14. Night Slayer
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    Night Slayer New Member

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    Tense is a problem for me too. Apparently I switch from non-narrative to narrative in my third person work, but I have no idea what denotes narrative/ non-narrative tense and so can't fix my problem. Can someone please help me?

    I see Cogito that you cover it in your blog and will read it when I get time, hopefully it will help.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Narrative" and "non-narrative" are not tenses. I'd guess that what is happening is that you are switching POV between the narrator and a character, and their different time frames are reflected in a change of tense. Could you give a short example? Probably worth making it a new thread.
     

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