Tag Archives: grammar

Tense Issues

I try not to bitch too much on here. I would rather keep things positive, but I do want this blog to be helpful. I don’t write a lot about politics, religion or deeply controversial issues, because I don’t really care to argue with walls. I read a great deal of indie work. I only put books on my blog that I feel I can recommend. I’m fairly liberal about what I enjoy. There have been many books in this past year of having been introduced to indie writers that have impressed me greatly.

Sometimes I have been impressed with the stories, but technicalities have resulted in me feeling that I could not recommend the books to others. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy them, but the errors were so severe that I did not feel comfortable passing it along to you as example of something that I would encourage you to read. There are issues, usually with the writing, that have caused me to hesitate or put them aside without recommendation. Remember, word-of-mouth is your greatest marketing tool.

Excessive typos, misspellings, and the obvious misuse of words; like they’re, their, and there, and your and you’re, could of, and would of drive me nuts, but I can tolerate some of that. There are other things that are more subtle, yet most annoying.

Tense issues: These seem to be the most difficult for writers to wrap their heads around. Primarily, books are written in past or present tense. If you start in past, you should stay in past. If you start in present, you should stay in present. It spins my mind around to keep switching between the two.

Examples:

A)

Dusk on the bay is a most beautiful time. Boats are bringing in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights come on one by one. There is movement in the water, but the air is still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps are the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village has roughly three dozen homes and one store. There is a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leapt from the boat as the captain idled to the dock. Frisk ran up the pier to greet me. He knew I would be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I waited for him every evening. The captain was getting old and his wife had died five years earlier. He walked like he was dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain was finished with his chores he always met me in the diner for dinner. We shared a meal and a few stories and then he walked me home.

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B)

Dusk on the bay was a most beautiful time. Boats brought in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights came on one by one. There was movement in the water, but the air was still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps were the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village had roughly three dozen homes and one store. There was a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leaps from the boat as the captain idles to the dock. Frisk runs up the pier to greet me. He knows I will be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I wait for him every evening. The captain is getting old and his wife died five years ago. He walks like he’s dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain finishes with his chores he always meets me in the diner for dinner. We share a meal and a few stories and then he walks me home.

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C)

Dusk on the bay is a most beautiful time. Boats are bringing in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights come on one by one. There is movement in the water, but the air is still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps are the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village has roughly three dozen homes and one store. There is a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leaps from the boat as the captain idles to the dock. Frisk runs up the pier to greet me. He knows I will be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I wait for him every evening. The captain is getting old and his wife died five years ago. He walks like he’s dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain finishes with his chores he always meets me in the diner for dinner. We share a meal and a few stories and then he walks me home.

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D)

Dusk on the bay was a most beautiful time. Boats brought in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights came on one by one. There was movement in the water, but the air was still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps were the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village had roughly three dozen homes and one store. There was a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leapt from the boat as the captain idled to the dock. Frisk ran up the pier to greet me. He knew I would be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I waited for him every evening. The captain was getting old and his wife had died five years earlier. He walked like he was dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain was finished with his chores he always met me in the diner for dinner. We shared a meal and a few stories and then he walked me home.

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Past is fine. Present is fine. Mixing the two is not fine. This is why we have beta readers and editors.

This is NOT a style thing people, it is a grammar thing.

These examples are of different paragraphs, but I have seen writers mix the two tenses in the same paragraph or even the same sentence. You can be in present tense and have something happen in the past that the narrator tells about, but as a general writing rule, be careful with that. Yanking me around from past to present without a story about time travel is a sure fire way for me to put your book aside.

Most indie reads are wonderful, fresh, creative stories. But writing does have some basic rules.

Another issue I have is head-hopping from person to person, but that’s a subject for another day.

Do you understand tense differences?

Which reads more smoothly to you? A) and B), or C) and D)?

Does changing tense bother you when you read?