1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tense, nervous headache

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Aug 21, 2016.

    I can't get my head around this, and it's all because of the confusion which arises from tense - Time of Events vs When the Story is Being Told, etc.

    In this passage there's an address to the reader which I feel calls for the following line to use past perfect, but I then switch to regular past for the rest of the passage. I'll highlight the switch, just to make it clear.

    Do I even need this past perfect?

    -----------------------

    We'd been watching and tailing Hendrix for three days and had established a couple of things. One, that he banked the gym's takings on a Friday. And two, that Chet had been right about his minders never leaving his side. We could only assume he banked the money every Friday, of course, having only seen him do it the once, but our lack of funds meant lengthier surveillance wasn't an option. We had no choice but to strike the following Friday.

    At least that was the plan until a new development meant a complete rethink was needed. I'd pulled in and let a couple more cars slip in between us and Hendrix's black Merc before rejoining the flow of traffic. We followed them down a sidestreet where they stopped outside a pool hall. It was a fairly busy street, thankfully, and I tucked the car in behind a long line of parked cars some sixty yards from the building. Hendrix and his minder, both suited up, climbed from the car and strolled into the place.
     
  2. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    I don't think there is anything wrong with your use of tense, the only thing that wasn't clear was which bit is the new development. Maybe something like the below perhaps?

    "I'd pulled in and let a couple more cars slip in between us and Hendrix's black Merc before rejoining the flow of traffic when he unexpectedly turned into a sidestreet. We followed until they stopped outside a pool hall..." and so on. That way the switch from the expected routine he had been expecting to the new development is a bit clearer maybe... hopefully... perhaps.

    Of course I might have got the change in the wrong place.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see, thanks. I naively assumed it would be clear that what followed was the new development, but clearly not.

    I like your example, and the key word is clearly 'unexpectedly', as it backs up the 'new development' line.

    Thanks again.
     
  4. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    It wasn't unclear, but perhaps less clear than it could have been :)
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    In this paragraph:

    The rain was falling again as I stepped out into the street so I made for the market where I could shelter under the stalls. I found one selling books and bought three because I liked the covers. I'd probably never read them but buying paperbacks made me feel good.

    I want to say 'makes me feel good', because it's true to this day, but it clashes horribly with the past tense, 'I'd probably never read them...'
     
  6. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I think that's fine Jud, although if you're worried, you could make it 'I'd probably never read them but buying paperbacks always makes me feel good.' Fairly redundant, but the redundancy highlights that the tense is intentional which makes the reader note your intention.
     
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  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Jud,

    I disagree with your previous advice; I think the second paragraph should be ALL past simple, or ALL past perfect.

     
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  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try drafting it up toward a simple past tense, notice removal of 'it was' - which weighs heavy if repeated too often:

    We'd been watching and tailing tailed Hendrix for three days and had established a couple of two things. One, that he banked the gym's takings on a Friday. And secondly two, that Chet had been right about - his minders never left leaving his side. We could only assumed he banked the money every Friday, of course, having only seen him do it the once time, but our lack of funds meant lengthier surveillance was no't an option. [We had] no choice but to strike the following Friday.

    At least that was the plan until a new development meant a complete rethink was necessary needed. I'd pulled in and let a couple more of cars slip in between us and Hendrix's black Merc before then rejoineding the flow of traffic. We followed them down a sidestreet where they stopped outside a pool hall. It was a fairly busy street, thankfully, and I tucked the car in behind a long line of parked cars some sixty yards from the building. Hendrix and his minder, both suited up, climbed from the car, [and] strolled into the place.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
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  9. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, @Shadowfax, I think you're bang on the money with that. Reads much clearer.
     

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