WRITERS WORKSHOP: Tense in POV (Future, Present,and Past)

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

      :
 photo Timeline Future POV_zpsfrldxhof.jpg
In Future Tense, the Narrator describes things that will happen in the future.
        1. 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.)
          1. Usually used in short stories because it’s difficult to maintain, and it’s difficult for a reader to maintain connection to the story.
          2. Pros: Strange and rare.
          3. Cons
            1. Can be a dealbreaker for long books.
            2. Readers might not be able to overcome the obstacle of “strangeness” to connect with the story.

 photo Tense Present POV_zps8al32sjp.jpg
In Present Tense, the Narrator describes events as they happen, with verbs in the present tense.
        1. 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.)
          1. Usually used in short stories and literary novels, rather than genre novels. More often found in YA and NA books.
          2. Pros:
            1. 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.)
            2. Can be easier to write for some writers.
            3. Gives a modern feeling to the story.
            4. Creates a sense of immediacy. What the narrator is describing is happening right now.
            5. 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.
            6. Often paired with 1st Person POV.
          3. Cons:
            1. Can be a dealbreaker for some readers (especially older readers).
            2. Might be difficult for some writers.
            3. 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.”
            4. You need more finesse working in flashbacks and backstory because tense changes can jar a reader out of the story.

 photo Tense POV Past_zpsj0drw7ju.jpg
In Past Tense, the Narrator describes things that already happened, using verbs in the past tense.
      1. Past Tense:
        1. 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.
        2. Pros:
          1. 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”.
          2. Time Manipulation: Allows more flexibility in the manipulation of time. Flashbacks and backstory are easier to integrate (but can also be used too much).
          3. 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.
          4. 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.)
          5. Older readers, or readers who read a lot of older books or a lot of Fantasy, seem to prefer this tense.
        3. Cons:
          1. Old-fashioned. Some readers/writers consider it old-fashioned.
          2. 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:

WRITERS WORKSHOP: 3rd Person Point of View (3rd POV) Limited/Multi
WRITERS WORKSHOP: First Person Point of View (1st POV)
WRITING: Foreshadowing
WRITERS WORKSHOP: Writer’s Block & Writing Anxiety


Contact me by leaving a comment below, on Twitter (@JoanWIP), or Facebook.

Hang out in my mental playground! For cheaper than a venti latte, my highly-rated short stories are available on Amazon, Fresh Cuts: Breaking Volume and Fresh Cuts 2: Skinning Volume. #Fantasy #SciFi #Horror #Fables #Fairytales #SelfRescuingHeroines #DiverseBooks.

 Fresh Cuts 2: Skinning has been reviewed as “Smart” “Fresh” “Disturbing” and “the part of Wonderland people don’t talk about”!

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