Watch Those Tenses

Watch Those Tenses
By Janice Seagraves
 
What are tenses exactly?
.
There’s the past tense, the present tense and the future tense. There are more of course, but for this lesson I’m keeping it simple.
.
Have I lost you?
.
To put it simply: Past tense is things that have already happened. Present Tense is things happening right now. Future tense is things that haven’t happened yet.
.
Example Past Tense: Sally went to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the past tense: went
.
Example Present Tense: Sally is going to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the present tense: going
.
Example Future Tense: Sally will go the store to get some milk.
Here I used the future tense: will go.
.
What tense should you use for writing?
.
In most fictions such as romance, suspense, paranormal, fantasy etc., I suggest you use past tense as most editors (not all) will prefer it. It was explained to me this way:
“When you tell a story, you tell it like it has already happened.”
.
But there will be times when you’ll need to use another tense: when something hasn’t happened yet or when someone is doing something right this moment in your story.
***
Here’s an example from Lord of the Ring:
[Galadriel descends to a glade and fills a silver pitcher with water from a stream. She stands before an ornate stand with a shallow silver basin upon it. The Lady turns towards Frodo.]
Galadriel: “Will you look into the mirror?”
Frodo: “What will I see?”
Galadriel: [stepping up to the basin] “Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror… shows many things…”
[She begins to pour the water into the silver mirror.]
Galadriel: “…things that were… things that are… and some things…” [She empties the ewer and steps back] “that have not yet come to pass.”
***
Past tense: –ed words, had, was/were, gone, done, finished, verb forms ending in -ing.
Example: I had already studied tenses for writing.
.
Present tense: am/is/are, going, doing, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I am studying tenses for writing.
.
Future tense: will be/shall be/will have, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I will be studying tenses for writing.
.
As you can see –ing words work for all tenses, but –ing can weaken your prose, so don’t use them too often.