Obstacle #13: Tense(s)

I would copy a friend and spell out TGIF in Japanese, but– I don’t think anyone would get it. Instead, hooray Friday!

Thank goodness it’s the weekend, and at the same time… AAH! Yesterday was my junior high school’s sports day (体育祭), and it had been my first whole day out in the sun in a while (long winters are long). Of course I burned a little… oops.

Anyway, I was completely taken ‘by surprise’ for this week’s post because Friday kind of did creep up on me, so I asked a friend for inspiration, and– I got it! So here you have today’s topic: tenses.

How many times as writers (and students) do we get told “here you’re using the present, so why is this in past tense?” Probably a lot. Definitely too often. We’re probably just writing the way we speak – I don’t know how we speak, but it is all over the place, isn’t it? Sometimes a sentence just sounds good in one specific tense and if you have to change it– well, it doesn’t sound as good anymore. I know for a fact that’s not just me, my friend said the same thing. (Gasp, we’re really all humans!?)

Point is, you can’t just go making a mixed salad of tenses, unfortunately. Maybe one day we’ll recognize all tenses have a right to interact as they damn well please, but until then, we’re stuck with some rules. Or are rules here to be bended at will? I’m just rambling, don’t mind me.

So, my fellow writers, how do we fix this?

  • Pick one tense, and only one! I know it’s hard, and believe me I hate it as much as you (if not more), but for continuity’s sake… it’s needed. Are there ways to get around it? Probably. The first one that comes to mind would be to assign it as “making a statement” for style, or something. If I ever get there, I’ll let you know if/how it pans out.
  • Edit, revise and edit again.
  • Spam your (consenting) friends! Send out one draft, or more if you want their input on a certain tense before you decide, or let them confuse you all over again and agonize for days on end.
  • Read it. Oh you did? Again!

These are by no means meant for any order, you can spam your friends before picking a tense, and read and edit as you will. It’s your story, if you want to live on the edge, no one can stop you (except maybe that annoying inner voice).

Things don’t always turn out perfect, so don’t expect to fish the moon out of a lake and you’ll be just fine. Just know that tenses do that to writers, and be on the lookout. A warned writer is a… warned… writer? No pun here, move along~

P.S: I’m not sure what happened to this post, it kind of just flew out of my fingers or typed itself, but I like it!

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