Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PAST TENSE ENVIRONMENT

I presently sit tapping THIS keyboard. The keyboard HERE.
I sat tapping my keyboard. That keyboard THERE.

I have a prejudice that drives my critique-ees nuts. But I am adamant about it. It isn't enough to get your verbs and nouns synced up. The environment you paint must match the tense. If the narrator is talking about the past, why should she be using words like NOW, THIS, and HERE? It is technically THEN, THAT, THERE.

I very well understand the argument that THIS sounds closer. But you chose to use past tense. There are pros and cons of each tense. You can't arbitrarily decide to live with those you like. Past tense weakens the immediacy. The words used in past tense is what does that. It isn't just the WAS versus IS. SHOUTED versus SHOUT.

If you want immediacy, to have the reader in the scene, choose present tense. Otherwise any educated reader (say an agent or editor) will recognize you don't understand your tenses. Mix them at your own peril.

Write Every Day!
Regards,
Mac
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