1. Manu Joseph
    Offline

    Manu Joseph Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2014
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1

    Grammar Tense Question- General Truths

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Manu Joseph, May 23, 2014.

    Hi Guys,

    I'm writing my first novel and I have a question regarding the tense. The novel is in Third Person POV and in past tense. But occasionally when I'm making a general statement, I slip into present tense. For eg.

    Nasir sat in the chair in his room, shifting uncomfortably. Hotel chairs are never comfortable. He got up and laid down on the bed.

    or

    Travelling from city to city haven’t given him time to sit down and make sense of the evidence he had. Whenever he starts to think, his mind always hones in on Amrita’s and Teresa’s murder-the two outliers.
    Is this OK, or do I need to change?
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I think you should change it. While switching like that isn't inherently wrong, it isn't effective here. In the first example, saying that hotel chairs aren't comfortable adds no new information; the previous sentence already makes that clear. In the second example, it's all present tense, though "haven't" should be changed to "hasn't" because "traveling" is singular. The past tense would be "hadn't."
     
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Dialogue and thought can be in present tense when you are narrating in past tense, but it makes little sense to just switch into present tense for no reason.
     
  4. Manu Joseph
    Offline

    Manu Joseph Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2014
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1
    In the first case my intention was to space out the prose since this comes after quite a bit of high intensity scenes. And the sentence 'Hotels chairs..." is more of a monologue.. his thought.. and thank you for pointing out the haven't.. i'll make that change..
    What if we are narrating some general truths, like the sun rises in the east?

    And in this example, "Whenever he starts to think, his mind always hones in on Amrita’s and Teresa’s murder-the two outliers. " I get it.. I should change it to past tense.. Just take a look at the prose below

    There was something darkly beautiful about the concept of death in Zoroastrianism. They hold the elements of earth-air, water, earth, and fire- sacred and do not want to pollute any of them with their dead. That ruled out cremating, burial at sea, or a grave. In one final act of charity, they left their dead in the sun so that they could be eaten by birds, mostly vultures. There was equality in their death; every division of class and wealth disappears. They were all laid side by side in a solid granite tower, consisting of concentric slabs surround a central pit. It’s almost poetic how man dissolves and becomes a part of the universe again after death.
    The sentences that are in bold work better in present tense. At least I feel so. What do you guys think?
     
  5. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    It was a general truth for all concerned, the Sun rose in the east.

    It was a general truth for all concerned, the Sun rises in the east.

    You might get away with that latter sentence.

    "Nasir sat in the chair in his room, shifting uncomfortably. Hotel chairs are never comfortable. He got up and laid down on the bed."
    I would still use "were never comfortable" there. I see no purpose in using "are". The reader might not notice, but is there a point?

    "Travelling [sic] from city to city haven’t given him time to sit down and make sense of the evidence he had. Whenever he starts to think, his mind always hones in on Amrita’s and Teresa’s murder-the two outliers."
    Here your tense shifting is just awkward. It's better not to shift for no reason. Certainly the above sentences are not examples of general truths:

    Traveling from city to city hasn't given ... Whenever he started to think, his mind always honed in ...
     
  6. Manu Joseph
    Offline

    Manu Joseph Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2014
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1
    I get your point..I did choose a bad example to get my point across.. hehe.. I'm with you, the tense change is awkward there.. Can you take a look at one of my replies(just above your reply).. I have posted a better example there..
     

Share This Page