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  1. #1
    paul j Guest

    Default past/present tense in storywriting

    hello there,
    ..i know there's been a lot of discussion surrounding this issue...i began writing a story, and received some criticism about past and present tense usage ....here's an example...can you please tell me what you think i'm doing wrong, here? ...any help would be greatly appreciated....paul


    We lived in a yellow house I liked to say. But it was really an apartment. We lived on the first floor- my mom, my brother and I. My mother struggled. She was able to hold a job, but it never paid well, nor was it ever very pleasant work. I suppose she made the best of it, though. I remember she always had friends coming over, and a few of them even lived with us over the years. She always needed a friend close by. I could tell things wore on my mother. There were times when she couldn’t even get up for work. She was just tired, I suppose. I hated that. And there were times she just wasn’t there, and Ronny and I found ourselves visiting her at a hospital while we lived with the neighbors for a while. But for now, things were good. Things were great. I was ten-years-old, and what could be better?
    “What are you doing?”
    “I’m getting my bike.”
    Ronny and I always kept our bikes in our room. So many bikes had been stolen in the neighborhood our mother insisted we keep them in the house. Not that anyone would really want our bikes, they were junk, really. But our bikes were our real freedom. We used them to get away, and today, all I wanted to do was go.
    “Well hurry up!”
    Ronny lay there staring at me wrapped in his blankets. All I saw was his face. He was bundled up tight because he always slept naked. He had come home early that morning around 5am.
    Ronny was four years older than me, and he worked. He had to. He really didn’t have a choice. Ever since our fathers had left so long ago, Ronny had to contribute. And although our mother wanted him to stay in school and do well, the reality was he had to work. We needed his money, nearly always desperately.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    Quote Originally Posted by paul j
    hello there,
    ..i know there's been a lot of discussion surrounding this issue...i began writing a story, and received some criticism about past and present tense usage ....here's an example...can you please tell me what you think i'm doing wrong, here? ...any help would be greatly appreciated....paul


    We lived in a yellow house I liked to say. But it was really an apartment. We lived on the first floor- my mom, my brother and I. My mother struggled. She was able to hold a job, but it never paid well, nor was it ever very pleasant work. I supposed she made the best of it, though. I remember she always had friends coming over, and a few of them even lived with us over the years. She always needed a friend close by. I could tell things wore on my mother. There were times when she couldn’t even get up for work. She was just tired, I suppose. I hated that. And there were times she just wasn’t there, and Ronny and I found ourselves visiting her at a hospital while we lived with the neighbors for a while. But for now, things were good. Things were great. I was ten-years-old, and what could be better?
    “What are you doing?”
    “I’m getting my bike.”
    Ronny and I always kept our bikes in our room. So many bikes had been stolen in the neighborhood our mother insisted we keep them in the house. Not that anyone would really want our bikes, they were junk, really. But our bikes were our real freedom. We used them to get away, and [today ( I think you have to use other key word, all I wanted to do was go.
    “Well hurry up!”
    Ronny lay past of lay (I don't remember) there staring at me wrapped in his blankets. All I saw was his face. He was bundled up tight because he always slept naked. He had come home early that morning around 5am.
    Ronny was four years older than me, and he worked. He had to. He really didn’t have a choice. Ever since our fathers had left so long ago, Ronny had to contribute. And although our mother wanted him to stay in school and do well, the reality was he had to work. We needed his money, nearly always desperately.
    Hope this helps

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    There's nothing wrong with the tenses here.

  4. #4
    distorter Guest

    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    see, that's what i thought....nothing really wrong, if anything at all!....i don't know what this person is talking about whom i showed this to....anyway, i would really love to forward someone the 9 pages i have...it consists of the first two chapters....please, any help would be greatly appreciated....a second and third opinion would serve me well before i confront this person about her understanding of past and present tense....she just might simply be jealous of my divine creativity....LOL

    paul

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    The only presewnt tenses you use are in the direct speech, which is perfectly corrrect. It's OK to use the present in past narratives anyway, to make the tale more lively.

  6. #6
    distorter Guest

    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    ....my contention, exactly, tdol! ..... where the present exists, is virtually only in direct speech....and whatever present tense does exist in the narrative is done so in a way that gives it life ....i knew i was right, as the entire story is written this way....well, the first two chapters i have written....=-) ....thanks for all your help, people! ....really much appreciated!....this has given more inspiration, truly...

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    Also, we do use the present tense in past narratives quite frequently:

    I was on my way to work and this man gets on the train...

    Some dislike this usage, but it exists. It can get sloppy when the forms are mixed. Anyway, your writing didn't do this.

  8. #8
    distorter Guest

    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    ...indeed, tdol! .....thanks, again....you've made me a happy person...upon examining what i wrote, i came to this conclusion: adult narrative (past), juvenile narrative (past) and direct speech (present-which consists of dialogue and thought) ....i think what a lot of people don't understand is the dynamic of storytelling and how consistency in tenses can sometimes flatten a story...you NEED to use past and present tenses!..you simply need to find clever and creative ways of doing so, otherwise, you marginalize yourself and narrow the scope of the story...yuck!

    paul

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    Using a range of tenses helps narrative flow and avoids monotony.

  10. #10
    distorter Guest

    Default Re: past/present tense in storywriting

    hey tdol, i've concluded that what i've done is present a story written in first person, past tense.....which can be tricky, but this is what i'm after....your thoughts?

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