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Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs. : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

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Apococlock
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Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby Apococlock » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:23 am

I've got a question for you guys I can't seem to find a good answer to. Is it wrong or frowned upon to have "ing" verbs in a past tense story? Let me give you an example.

Many wore cowboy hats and leather boots as they went about their business, pulling wagons and hauling barrels with them to wherever they went.

or

He turned around to find a tiny old man smoking a fat cigar on the other side of the road. With his arms crossed, the old man leaned back on the front side of a log home, squinting hard at Sirius.

I know I've seen authors doing this in the past, but I can't tell whether it's a "do" or "don't"

Thanks in advance!

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onceuponwednesday
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby onceuponwednesday » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:03 am

Both of your sentences look fine for me. There's no do's and don'ts for this, there's just -- do switch things up and don't overuse.

Most the -ing thing has to do with 'was'.

He was walking home vs he walked home.

The dog was fetching the severed head vs the dog fetched the severed head.

And yet, even that has it's own complications.

He was walking home when he saw the dog fetch the severed head vs he walked home when he saw the dog fetch the severed head.

In the second case it's not obvious when he saw the dog fetch, was it during the walk or when he got home?

I was just thinking about you vs I just thought about you.
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James A. Ritchie
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:08 pm

Well, I'd reconstruct the second sentence because it sounds like the cigar is standing on the other side of the road, but there's nothing wrong with the way you're using ing verbs. Just be sure you stay consistent with this usage. And ignore anyone who says you should never use ing verbs in past tense fiction. People who say this do not understand tense or grammar very well at all.

Apococlock
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby Apococlock » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:55 pm

Thank you both. I was growing worried because I write that way often. I'll just be sure that the grammar is correct, and I'll rework that second example.

James Worlock
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby James Worlock » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:18 am

I'm an English teacher - using the past continuous is fine.

"They were going" "She was talking" etc - I don't see why there would be any issue with this?

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pls
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby pls » Sun Apr 17, 2016 9:47 am

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James A. Ritchie
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby James A. Ritchie » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:42 am

You can find writers and how-to books that say any use of "ing" words in past tense fiction is wrong, meaning it's poor writing. Very often, it is poor writing, but only because the writer doesn't understand what passive voice is, or doesn't understand the difference between a completed action, and an ongoing action.

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DrG2
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby DrG2 » Mon Apr 18, 2016 9:00 pm

Two ways -ing words tend to be overused is in an introductory phrase:
Walking down the street, George stopped to tie his shoe.
and appended to a dialogue tag.
"Oh my God," said Martha, clutching her breast.

The other way it gets incorrectly used is when one sentence combines continuous and simple past actions together when they could not be done simultaneously.

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HawkEliz489
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby HawkEliz489 » Sat May 14, 2016 12:00 pm

Okay, I was reading this topic and I'm kind of confused. I thought 'ing' in the past tense had to do something with yet in action scenes.
For example,
'He ran toward the door, tripping as he tried to jump over the fence.' Not very good example, but doesn't this scene indicate that the person tripped while he was in action? I mean, it's like two things are combined in one sentence, while this version, 'He ran toward the door. He tripped as he tried to jump over the fence.' this is kinda told separately.
Which is preferred?
Personally, I like both being balanced in the story, and I try to use both. (ect. 'Walked' and 'Walking'). Is it wrong though?
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pls
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Re: Past Tense Fiction and "Ing" verbs.

Postby pls » Sat May 14, 2016 2:28 pm

"Wrong" is the wrong word to use here. "Better" to use action verbs than "-ing" verbs (participles) in most cases, but remember that "-ing" verbs exist for a purpose. And you can use them in any tense.
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