How to Use Past Tense, Present Tense, and Future Tense in Novel Writing

Updated on November 15, 2017

Past, Present, Future Tense are Important!

One of the easy ways to tell beginner writing is that the story bounces from past tense through present tense and future tense at random. Unskilled writers who don't keep a consistent tense can confuse readers about what happened when. More than that, it's easy to drift into the passive voice and bore them in the middle of the most exciting scenes.

Yet the best way to generate the rough draft of a novel is to freewrite. Just get it down any old way and worry about whether its prose is good long after the fact, when you edit. The trick is to edit it. So don't worry about tense until you reach the editing stage. Either that, or settle on past tense and stick to it.

Past tense is the storytelling tense. This stuff happened, the narrator knows how it turned out, you read along until you find out how it turned out too. This is great. Past tense -- normal past tense, not deep past tense, is invisible.

First, let's look at what these tenses are.

Past Tense:

Michael opened the basement door. Two glowing red eyes looked up at him out of the darkness. He jumped. He fell down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, meowed plaintively and washed his face. Her pale blue eyes still glowed red in the reflected light from upstairs.

That's all in past tense. It's invisible. No one thinks about that. Past tense is the most effective tense for any kind of storytelling because it's taken for granted.

Yet in this article, I sometimes lapse into present tense when I'm talking about something that's the same in the past, will still be true in the future and is definitely true now.

"Past tense is invisible" is present tense. It has its place in declarations of fact because they'll always be true, so they're true now. The statement carries a little more impact in present tense. This entire paragraph is in present tense.

You are with me in the moment as I write it. So present tense can be used in dialogue effectively and in some types of statements you can use it in the same sentence with past tense -- implying something that's continuously true and still true.

It doesn't work nearly as well in that sample though.

Present Tense:

iMichael opens the basement door. Two glowing red eyes look up at him out of the darkness. He jumps. He falls down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, meows plaintively and washes his face. Her pale blue eyes still glow red in the reflected light from upstairs.

Awkward -- unless you're writing this as a plot synopsis for submitting a novel. A Presentation Synopsis should be written in third person, present tense. That's just what the industry considers standard. It can sound informal like someone telling a story. Put quotes around the sample Present Tense paragraph and it just sounds like someone's voice. It doesn't work in descriptive prose because it's too informal and distracting.

There are exceptions. You can set general past tense and refer to some element in the sentence as being present (including timeless) or future tense. Let's look at that third tense now, before we get into the really tricky stuff -- tenses for time travelers.

Future Tense:

Michael will open the basement door. Two glowing red eyes are going to look up at him out of the darkness. He'll jump. He'll fall down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, is going to meow plaintively and wash his face. Her pale blue eyes will still glow red in the reflected light from upstairs.

Awkward, to say the least... until you do this to it.

"I locked his cat in the basement! Michael will open the basement door. Two glowing red eyes are going to look up at him out of the darkness. He'll jump. He'll fall down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, is going to meow and wash his face. Her pale blue eyes'll still glow red in the light from upstairs. I'm going to laugh so hard when he screams at that goofy cat of his. They'll both be scared out of their wits." Greg laughed, rubbing his hands. "I bet he thinks it's the Devil kissing him."

I just went back to past tense in the dialogue tag. It doesn't matter what tense you use in dialogue. Let that be dictated by the character's voice. Now, I trimmed the descriptions in the dialogue version because Greg could care less that it's reflected light.and his voice was a lot more casual.

Future tense is effective when you're describing plans. If you want the planner to sound more decisive, use "I-statements" like Greg did at the start. People who claim responsibility for their plans aren't afraid to carry them out or see what happens.

Where passive voice can drift in, weakening prose, is when past tense leans toward the deep past with a lot of qualifiers.

Michael had opened the basement door. Two glowing red eyes then looked up at him out of the darkness. He had to jump. He had fallen down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, has meow plaintively and then washed his face. Her pale blue eyes had still glowed red in the reflected light from upstairs.

Clunky, slow, irrelevant with all those extra words thrown in, 'had' and 'has' and 'has been' and so forth. Try to chop out any words that do not add to the meaning of the sentence. Use contractions sometimes. Even in descriptive prose, contractions can work better than always spelling out 'it is."

For the best copy editing pass, try reading your novel out loud. Every time you stumble for breath, think about breaking that sentence. Every time you say it simpler than you wrote it, jot down the simpler version. Despite the beauty of some poetic descriptions, the key to real poetry is economy.

If you cram a lot of description into a very few words, that concentrated meaning is genuine poetry. If you just put in extra words, then it sounds pompous and slow. That may fit certain characters. All of these rules go out the window when you're doing dialogue. Write dialogue the way the character would say it, but try not to use dialect spelling if you can avoid it.

Word choice is a much better way to get dialogue to have an accent. So is word order.

So here's the kicker:

Tenses for Time Travelers

Absolutely, without fail, use past tense for the actual narration. Jumbled tenses can confuse a reader when characters are going back in time to affect the action in Chapter 2 and become the mysterious stranger who shoved the envelope in the mailbox or sent the Patronus across the lake to chase off the Dementors.

In writing time travel, point of view really matters. Try to keep events chronological according to the point of view character who's traveling. If more than one person is traveling, follow the point of view character's timeline within the scene. If you have to refer to time relative to someone else's travels, be very clear about it.

You don't have to become cumbersome with the 'had been' stuff but it helps to use 'then" and establish relative time between events on the narrator's timeline.

James traveled into the past. Visiting Chapter 2 for the second time, he put the envelope into the mailbox so that when his earlier self looked, the envelope would be there.

Now this does close a loop. It works very well for time travel. "Earlier self" is a construction that most readers have no trouble with, or 'younger self." They've seen way too many movies and TV shows, heard too many concise versions of how time travel works to be surprised or confused that time travel exists in your story. So you can chop it down to something tight and still get the idea across. Just be sure to mention it and when necessary, give relative chronology by a personal timeline -- narrator or speaker.

It helps to have a narrator who knows everything that happened along the various timelines, so the reader doesn't get too confused. It's vital that you, the author, don't get confused. Try writing synopsis sentences and create a timeline for each of the characters to check continuity. Try to keep the number of travels relatively few so that things don't get too snarled up.

And stick to past tense except in dialogue. These are people who did time travel. They know what they did first and what they did later. James found the envelope in the mailbox. He acted on it, found out how to time travel and went back in time to put the envelope in the mailbox. Now he can do time travel whenever he wants, as long as he listens to the advice of his older self so that he doesn't do something really stupid.

It's important to pay attention to tense in time travel stories more than any others, because it's way too easy to get confused about what happened when. If you keep the plot of the story feeling linear, the reader's happy and can follow the changes. Using a single close third person or first person point of view throughout the novel will make time travel work a lot easier for readers -- and for your keeping track of what happened when.

Charts can help too.

Enjoy! See you in November for NaNoWriMo!

Animal Viewpoints

Bison, Derwent tinted charcoal pencil on paper, by Robert A. Sloan .
Bison, Derwent tinted charcoal pencil on paper, by Robert A. Sloan .

Epilog: Animal Viewpoints, A Special Case

I finished this Hub, confident that I'd covered how to use each of these tenses. Certain that present tense wasn't used in novelwriting often enough to matter.

It can work. It can work extremely well. A few days later, I picked up one of my all-time favorite novels, Raptor Red by paleontologist Robert Bakker.

This nature novel is fantastic. It's tightly plotted, full of action, intense and powerful. Every one of the animal characters is complex and interesting. Bakker faced the unique challenge of a nature writer who's not using human characters. You have no dialogue.

Not in human terms, anyway. Dialogue consists of head bobs, vocalizations, gestures, attempts to express meaning in ways that aren't human. I've always been fond of the subgenre of nature novels written from the animal's point of view, often without any human characters involved. Books that describe the life of a peregrine falcon, a wolf or even a goldfish from its own perspective are fascinating to me. I like animals, love nature and groove on natural history, this is a natural personal interest of mine.

So Bakker's book grabbed me on several areas of interest. I laughed out loud, because it is also my favorite-ever romance novel. Romance is not my genre, but there I was reading about a plucky heroine navigating her way through complex family relationships, widowed, then after meeting a couple of decidedly unpleasant possibilities connecting with an interesting young male for a stormy relationship that ultimately culminated in mating head-bobs after a dramatic climax involving bad guys... Raptor Red juxtaposes genres.

The ten-year-old in me who still doesn't like books with more kissing than swordfights and gets creeped out by romantic conflict loved every minute of it. The secret to reaching outside a book's natural audience is to mix genres. My ten year old inner child grooved on dinosaurs far more than he hated kissing or domestic arguments. Not to mention, the things the pack argued about all made sense in terms of their immediate survival.

About halfway through, I realized the entire book was in Third Person Omniscient, Present Tense. I thought a lot about how and why Robert Bakker got away with it so invisibly. Normally I might notice tense in a novel, especially on a reread, even see why an author chose the tense he or she did. "Ah. Michener uses 3d Person Omniscient because he needs to write about events spanning centuries, individual characters don't hang on through the book, families do and consequences of what characters a century ago did affect people they'd never have known or cared about."

3d Person Omniscient fits the big picture. The godlike point of view that shows every creature's thoughts and reactions in right if you want an intimate view of Alaska or Hawaii. It's a panoramic style. Robert Bakker was looking back from our time and writing in English about creatures we know only from millions of years old bones. He very neatly tied their lives to some specific fossils found by specific fossil hunters in the very pleasant prologue and epilogue about paleontology, museum curating and movie-making.

Human interest was there all along. We were invited along on the dig, invited to share the imagination of a paleontologist who handles real dinosaur finds and sometimes gets to name them. It's one level of thrill and one way to stage the reader into a world so different from ours yet true and genuinely ancestral that we need the door opened. The flavor didn't change once he left the human characters for the Cretaceous animal characters.

But the tense did. In relating his own experiences, Bakker used first person, past tense anecdotes. A man simply telling a true story about something cool that he was involved in. He mentioned people he knew and their achievements with honest praise, didn't blow his role in it out of proportion and set himself up as narrator. Normal past-tense variation, first person, we know this part isn't the fiction. But the author's voice is very close to the fiction and he's established his credentials for writing this.

The whole prologue about how Utahraptor was discovered is set in italics. It's only a few pages of introduction. It serves to hook the reader. Any reader grabbing a dinosaur book is probably fascinated by paleontologists too, so it's a good hook. One that offers the tantalizing, real hope that amateur fossil hunters and rock hounds do make important discoveries sometimes. So it validates the core reader's hobby in a big way, thanking every volunteer who helps make these discoveries happen and bring the bones to the public in museums.

He switches to 3d Person Omniscient, Present Tense right before the opening chapter, in the last paragraph of the italicized section. So as we read his anecdotes, we can hear Bakker's voice start to tell the story, right before he's absent from it. This is a beautiful transition:

"We can learn from Utahraptor's story. Hers was a beautifully alert and sentient species. By looking through her eyes, we can see the evolutionary forces that were changing the natural world during the Early Cretaceous. Our own human ancestors were being created by the invisible hand of natural selection, as were the beginnings of the other animals and plants that enjoy supremacy in today's world. Utahraptor's story is part of our story.

"The story begins with an invasion, an ambush, and a death."

Then Bakker breaks with a bar, stays on the same page.

"The time is a hundred and twenty million years ago. On the flat, featureless floodplains that were central Utah, an evolutionary event is about to occur that will shock the ecological community of dinosaurs. The event is the arrival of a new superpredator."

The narrator has started to tell the story. What-when-where. The next page starts the chapter describing the animal. Notice the shift of tense and how smooth it is. I quoted from the point he shifted tense. Italics are his. They're part of the transition. We are still, on this page, imagining sitting in a Wyoming museum curator's office full of fossils and interesting bits and bobs listening to the bearded scientific rock-hound talk about his passion.

On the next page, italics disappear and everything is 3d Person Omniscient, present tense. He shifted before he focused attention on the title character, to make it easier. This also made it harder for me to figure out why he used that crazy tense in the first place.

Animals don't think the way humans do. Animals live in the moment. They don't get as lost in abstractions as human beings do, our species apparently holds an extreme among all the social predators in the world. We're the ones that can get more upset over something that happened in a story than what's going on right in front of our noses while reading it, who might let dinner burn while reading about Raptor Red being so hungry she has to scavenge rotting dead fish from creeks.

Throughout the story, Bakker reasonably describes the type of mentality Utahraptors might have, that of "giant, ground-running eagles." It's alien though. Birds and Utahraptors mate for life in "Darwinian monogamy" and human beings mate for life when they decide to, many cheat on it after doing so in ways a biologically monogamous creature couldn't conceive. Bakker draws on the similarities and commonalities between us and these social hunters to keep sympathy, while also standing back to remind us who we are and show them as part of our ancestry, distant cousins in the lineage of humanity.

Our real ancestors were little furry bug-boppers and he didn't hesitate to devote two chapters to the supreme bug-bopper, a heroic little animal that faced terrible odds several times and by coincidence, saved the protagonist's life. The story sweeps through the big picture of the Early Cretaceous, often wandering away from the main characters to look at other creatures in their points of view too, a crocodile, an herbivorous dinosaur, a pterosaur. None of these creatures are anthropomorphized.

To connect the story to the present day, Bakker does mention onstage that the bug-bopper is the ancestor of whales, giraffes, Democratic senators." That connection weaves throughout as it does in Michener's historical novels. Very often while describing the geological history of Hawaii or Poland, Michener will shift back to the present and mention what the feature looks like in the present day. He'll talk about an old building at the time of its construction and casually mention where it is in the present.

That's the power of third person omniscient -- you can do that. Narrator commentary is allowed, easy, it doesn't disrupt the flow of the story. It's not God's point of view exactly, it's history's point of view, the narrator is educated enough to articulate everything that went on.

I've often been tempted to use third person omniscient in a fat fantasy novel with a generational sweep, apply Michener's technique to my own favorite genre. I can see now that present tense has one powerful specific use too -- an animal's point of view. I've got a few planned novels using animals as protagonists. Writing this Hub and rereading Raptor Red, I might study these examples more closely for how to keep a human audience engaged with a nonverbal, nonhuman protagonist.

A good author will use the tenses that fit the part of the story being told. The story comes before anything else. If it breaks the rules and works better, chances are sometime much later on you'll understand why it worked better and that it's a legitimate exception. Rules are proven by their exceptions. So try this for a fun exercise -- use first person to write a scene from an animal's point of view, in third person omniscient. You might even get a novel seed.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Rebecca 14 months ago

        This really help me as a first time writer. Thank you so much!

      • profile image

        gepeTooRs 2 years ago

        Nice weblog right here! Additionally your site lots up very fast! What host are you the use of? Can I get your associate hyperlink in your host? I desire my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

      • jenslibra profile image

        Jennifer Vasquez 4 years ago from Long Beach, CA

        Your hub cleared up many questions I have about the proper tense to use when writing. Although I love to read, I never took notice of which tense authors use and now I realize it's mainly past tense. I've done some creative writing and the question of tense always confused me. Your insight, though, into when to use present tense was interesting because I hadn't considered animals as main characters in a story. Thanks for sharing this info.

      • lex123 profile image

        lex123 4 years ago

        Very useful. I found it very helpful for the writers and I tweeted it to my followers. Thanks for writing this.

      • profile image

        ROBIN 4 years ago

        does not means Tense?????

      • profile image

        varshini 5 years ago

        it's not help full at all...........

      • profile image

        Partsmooste 5 years ago

        When i helpful to receive on top of lifestyle nevertheless recently I have piled up a new resistance.

      • profile image

        Trent Anderson 5 years ago

        I'm writing a novel in future tense. People keep telling me that I can't do it, but I'm determined to make it good and finish it. Here's the way I see it, going to see Transformers in the cinema is a fantastic experience for the audience, so why can't a novel be a fantastic experience for the reader? Books have become so stale nowadays, especially for me and how I write them. It takes time for anyone to get used to any tense, maybe breaking the rules a bit will help loosen up the whole industry.

      • profile image

        harshini 5 years ago

        it was nice but can u just help me in writing a story using alll the three tenses

      • profile image

        Erma Siteman 5 years ago

        My plot is about a daughter writing about her Mother, by me. I call it third person, But don't know how to use past, present, and future in the story?

      • profile image

        luci2also 6 years ago

        I found this to be quite helpful.

        Though in the following I couldn't help notice it seems we go from past to future to past to present.

        I know its acceptable for dialogue to go present tense now and then so its not a deal breaker it just threw me off.


        "I locked his cat in the basement! Michael will open the basement door. Two glowing red eyes are going to look up at him out of the darkness. He'll jump. He'll fall down the stairs. Becka, his Siamese cat, is going to meow and wash his face. Her pale blue eyes'll still glow red in the light from upstairs. I'm going to laugh so hard when he screams at that goofy cat of his. They'll both be scared out of their wits." Greg laughed, rubbing his hands. "I bet he thinks it's the Devil kissing him."


      • profile image

        Name 6 years ago

        This makes me tense!! kkkkk

      • profile image

        eva 6 years ago

        is there someone who can help me? i must write a story in which will be used past perfect, present perfect and future perfect. I must have 10 sentences

      • profile image

        grace 6 years ago

        present and past narration is like a story

      • profile image

        jehangir jan s 6 years ago

        invisible mean which thing or data we can not see..

      • profile image

        ahmed 6 years ago

        what is past tense of invisible

      • profile image

        john 6 years ago

        what is mean


      • profile image

        john 6 years ago

        what is mean


      • profile image

        briana potier 6 years ago

        this is stupid

      • WillSteinmetz profile image

        WillSteinmetz 6 years ago

        Interesting hub. Those points are very important in all types of writings. Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image

        kaye 6 years ago


      • profile image

        Yakir 6 years ago

        Thank you from another lonely skipper on the erratic seas of novel writing. Exactly the bit of advice that I needed.

      • profile image

        Cat 6 years ago

        I found your points about time travelers, POV, and tense interesting. Seems like Audrey Niffenegger had read your post and did everything the opposite way in 'The Time Traveler's Wife' :-)

        Of course, the use of present tense 1st person POV in present tense is very challenging, and only a few writers can pull it off well. When they do, the result is magical.

      • profile image

        Jade 7 years ago

        Hi, I am writing my very first novel, but I am having some problems with tenses. I am writing the story in first person past tense, and it flows great until I get to a major descriptive scene. I have been using past tense when describing what my character has seen or where she was

        or the first meeting of another character and their appearance or behavior exc. But I feel like it loses the flow it once had when I describe in past tense, I feel like it sounds funny. For an example when I describe appearances in past tense, I feel like that is saying that that person doesn't look that way anymore. Is this normal because of this being my first novel or am I using

        the wrong tense when describing someone or thing? Or am I just being over sensitive with flow because I'm sum what of a perfectionist? Thanks for the help in advance.

      • profile image

        zaina mlok 7 years ago


        Ang BOBO talaga 100000000000000000000000000000 votes!!!!!!!!!


      • profile image

        KLeichester 7 years ago

        Cool tips, thanks for posting this hub.

      • profile image

        Aims 7 years ago

        This totally helps me ,! ;) i just wrote it down so i can recall it . THANK YOU so much for this technique/idea :) GOD BLESS:)

      • profile image

        ivan  7 years ago

        wla man koy masabtan

      • profile image

        rio 7 years ago


        .your hub was good..

        .good job

        .and good info

      • Aussieteacher profile image

        Di 8 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

        Good hub. Great informtion.

      • Lane Diamond profile image

        Dave Lane 8 years ago from Butler, Wisconsin

        I think present tense often works well for a first-person narrative, and rarely in a third-person narrative. When we see the story directly through the senses of the narrator, present tense may lend more urgency to it. It can often enable the reader to "live" the story even as the character-narrator does.

        HOWEVER, the trick is to SHOW rather than TELL, which becomes much more difficult in a first-person, present tense narrative. As you said in your response to Jayanth, silent monologue is a critical tool in overcoming this obstacle.

        All in all, excellent piece. Thanks.

      • swefelix profile image

        swefelix 8 years ago from Duke University

        I couldn't agree less with your claims that past tense is invisible (it screams out at me in your example) and present tense is awkward (to me it makes the passage exciting, mysterious, and upbeat). Past tense is often boring, while present tense makes you feel like you are living the plot concurrently.

        It's all opinions anyway, so what does it matter...

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Thanks abcd1111 -- good writing! I'm glad this was useful. I don't worry as much about tense in the rough draft though, it's more important to get the story down and have something to edit than to try to get every sentence perfect before you continue.

      • abcd1111 profile image

        abcd1111 8 years ago from Glen Ellyn, IL (Chicago suburb)

        Need all the help I can get. I'm often unsure of which tense works for my story telling or how to mix tenses.

        I've bookmarked this baby. Thanks!

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Judith, I'm so happy you found it useful! I'm glad I wrote it -- during November there may be a lot of writers having trouble with this very subject.

      • profile image

        judith  8 years ago

        Thanks, that's so useful, much appreciated

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        You can add your characters thoughts in italics, a monologue interspersed with the descriptions. _I'm just sitting here waiting. Why doesn't he call?_ I look at my watch _It's been forty five seconds. I have no patience at all. I keep looking at my watch. I want to get this over with. Call, already!_ I get up for coffee, pour a cup, stir it, look at my watch. _Well, now I know it takes thirty nine seconds to pour a cup of coffee. Why doesn't he call?_

        That sort of thing. It breaks up the continual stream of description with something at least resembling dialogue and is useful for showing emotion. You can also condense the time by inserting some boredom-activity that takes time.

        I'm bored. I decide to sketch a rabbit on my notepad. It comes out well. It's been ten minutes now and she hasn't called. I wonder what happened to her?

      • profile image

        Jayanth 8 years ago

        I am writing a novel, first person present tense.

        The protagonist is waiting eagerly for a call. How do I put that in...

        I looked at my watch for the tenth time in the last five minutes.


        I look at my watch for the tenth time in five minutes.

        Thanks in advance

      • profile image

        Dorian Gray 8 years ago

        Thanks Robert!

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Okay... the past tense reads better, no question about it -- unless this story is being told in dialogue. This is because to put the description in present tense "He meets this girl..." is a conversational grammar. Not the same as written English. If your narrator is telling the story aloud then it's the voice of your narrator.

        Written and spoken English are different that way. The main time to use that present-tense description is in writing up the synopsis of a novel so that an editor can judge the plot, because they're used to that as a style.

        It would also be less formal. Not "While sitting on a bench" it would be "While he's sitting on this bench, a girl walking by reminds Harry of his first date twenty years ago, when he first moved to this town. He remembers her face as if he'd just seen her minutes ago."

        That's conversational. The version in present tense was an eerie combination of the loose conversational voice and the formal written voice, that's why it didn't work. So swing one way or the other with it.

        Also read the passage aloud for long sentences. If you run out of breath while reading it aloud, break the sentence. I'm not kidding. It is VERY easy to get in the rhythm of breaking sentences when you breathe.

        Once your fingers get faster than your mouth, that can result in ultra-long typed sentences. I fall prey to that all the time. I fix it in the edits.

        Really don't worry about it during Nanowrimo. Get the story down. Get the story polished into a good one after you reach your length goal and finish the novel.

      • profile image

        Dorian Gray 8 years ago

        Troubled with narrator’s tenses!

        Hello, I hope all is well with you all.

        Robert, thank you for both of your articles regarding narrators and the tenses

        My confusion:

        My narrator is a third person, godlike, omniscient.

        Obviously, the story has already taken place, so everything should be in the past.

        However, I have noticed that occasionally my narrator, who is also a former ESL student, much like the author, gets confused with his tenses. At least, I think that my narrator is confused; however, my narrator disagrees with me. So we would like you or other readers of your blog to mediate, if you will, please.

        For example (to make it easy, I will keep the sentences as simple and boring as possible):

        When the narrator is telling us about what Harry is thinking, feeling or remembering while sitting on a park bench, a few years ago, should it be phrased like this:

        While sitting on a bench, a girl walking by reminds Harry of his first date, twenty years ago, when he first moved to this town, he remembers her face as if he had seen her just a few moments ago.


        Should it be phrased like this:

        As he sat on a bench, a girl walking by reminded Harry of his first date, twenty years ago, when he first moved to this town, he remembered her face as if he had seen her just a few moments ago.

        I think the reason I am confused is because when my narrator is telling/recalling an event, even though that ‘event’ has already taken place, but my narrator is trying to transport the readers to that event when it was happening (in real time, while he was sitting at the bench), hence the use of present tense.

        Are there any rules regarding tense usage in this type of situations? Are there any no-nos to avoid when dealing with tenses in relations to the narrator’s POV, especially when narrator is telling the reader about a character’s innermost thinking/memories, etc?

        I thank you in advance for your comments and help in this regard.



      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Glad I could help! Enjoy it -- that sounds like a very interesting story!

      • profile image

        Suz 8 years ago

        That's such a great way of explaining how to transition, thank you!

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        I think doing it at a chapter break would be great and I think that the difference between someone "living in the now" and someone with a normal state of mind could easily be highlighted with that effect.

        Go for it. Finish the story. I couldn't judge whether this special effect is a success or not till it was done -- it sounds as if it'll work. Just be really careful about everything else in the editing and the pacing of the transition though.

        Special effects in writing are like special effects in anything -- stunts take careful planning and practice. This is a stunt. One that could be spectacular. You've got one of the ways it can be used for a powerful effect. Just handle the transition well and you'll do fine -- and doing it at a chapter break is a good solid way of transitioning.

        It SHOWS your character in close third is now in a normal state of mind. Which is a conflict resolved, so the plot has to be rolling along its new direction pretty fast at that point not to seem over.

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        Suz 8 years ago

        I'm writing a story in the present tense and I've reached the end of a chapter where my main character suddenly gets her memory back. I want to begin the next chapter by writing in the past tense, to show important scenes that happened to my character in her past. Is this advisable to do, or will it confuse the reader?

      • robertsloan2 profile image

        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Glad you liked it! I had trouble with this for a while as I was learning, so hope it helps everyone who wants to be able to control tense.

      • GeneralHowitzer profile image

        Gener Geminiano 8 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

        Thanks for sharing just bookmarked this to widen my arsenal..

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        robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

        Thank you!

      • dcrisan profile image

        dcrisan 8 years ago from Maryland

        Enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks

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        Hxprof 8 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

        Thanks for this information.