Here’s the fifth part of the outline for the Writers Workshop we recently did on Points of View and Tense. I separated the entire outline into separate blog posts for ease of use and navigation.
For the previous parts of this outline, click on these links:
WRITERS WORKSHOP: First Person Point of View (1st POV)
WRITERS WORKSHOP: 3rd Person Point of View (3rd POV) Limited/Multi
WRITERS WORKSHOP: 3rd Person Omniscient (Part 1)
WRITERS WORKSHOP: Omniscient POV (Part 2)
The Different Types of Tenses, and Pros and Cons for each
- Future Tense: In the narration, using verbs to show something will happen in the future. (He will wake up tomorrow hungry and cold, wondering why he’s naked and waking up in an alley.)
- Usually used in short stories because it’s difficult to maintain, and it’s difficult for a reader to maintain connection to the story.
- Pros: Strange and rare.
- Can be a dealbreaker for long books.
- Readers might not be able to overcome the obstacle of “strangeness” to connect with the story.
- Present Tense: In the narration, using verbs to show that something is currently happening. (He wakes up hungry and cold, wondering why he’s naked and waking up in an alley.)
- Usually used in short stories and literary novels, rather than genre novels. More often found in YA and NA books.
- Timelessness and Perpetuity: Has a feeling of timelessness or perpetuity. What’s happening to the Narrator isn’t constrained in the past. Or, what’s happening now will always happen. (The Namesake: father-son relationships, Assimilation. The Other Boleyn Girl: What’s old is new again, women’s plight in the world, helplessness and strength.)
- Can be easier to write for some writers.
- Gives a modern feeling to the story.
- Creates a sense of immediacy. What the narrator is describing is happening right now.
- Might be good for a particular story or character. It can function as an aspect of the story, rather than merely a method of delivery.
- Often paired with 1st Person POV.
- Can be a dealbreaker for some readers (especially older readers).
- Might be difficult for some writers.
- Restricts the Narrator’s knowledge to the present (harder to create suspense/tension ie “If I’d known then what I know now, I could’ve saved everyone.” or “Little did I know how that passing insult would ruin my life.”
- You need more finesse working in flashbacks and backstory because tense changes can jar a reader out of the story.
- Past Tense:
- Used in the majority of stories, novels, genres, and categories. The focus is more on “the story” rather than on “the writing”. The story ➢ The writing.
- Transparent: So prevalent, it’s invisible. It’s easier for readers to get immersed in a story because the “tool” of Past Tense isn’t an obstacle to “get used to”.
- Time Manipulation: Allows more flexibility in the manipulation of time. Flashbacks and backstory are easier to integrate (but can also be used too much).
- Tone for Epics and Sagas: Can support the right tones and themes for epics or sagas, including time manipulation, dramatic irony (in 3rd Multi or 3rd Omni), because it can cover huge swatches of time.
- Might be the best choice for certain stories or certain characters (becomes part of the characterization or a quality of the story, rather than just a method of delivery.)
- Older readers, or readers who read a lot of older books or a lot of Fantasy, seem to prefer this tense.
- Old-fashioned. Some readers/writers consider it old-fashioned.
- Difficult for some writers: Some writers have a hard time maintaining it for the whole story.
Coming soon, Part 6: Putting it all together.
Other Writing Articles:
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