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Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Crono91
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Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby Crono91 » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:47 pm

When writing in past tense, is it wrong to place certain thoughts in present tense?

For instance, my character is going through a line of thought, but the line of thought is very much based in the situation, and I feel it kind of reads weird in past tense.

Once she pulled away, I felt cold. Felt scared. Not so much worried for my safety, but for hers, and not just because I didn't want her to die. I sighed. I didn't know. I guess… well, I was scared to lose her. It seemed different to me than just worrying for her life. It seemed selfish.

vs.

Once she pulled away, I felt cold. Felt scared. Not so much worried for my safety, but for hers, and not just because I don't want her to die. I sighed. I don't know. I guess… well, I was scared to lose her. It seemed different to me than just worrying for her life. It seemed selfish.

---

Writing it out and reading it back now, I kind of look at it like, "Well, yeah, duh, one is present tense and one is past tense. You have to stick with it."

But then I look at other books, and in theirs they have lines like,

"It's a four hour flight from Phoenix." Not 'it was.'
"Flying doesn't bother me." Not 'it didn't.'

I do find, however, that they're aren't present tense slips in past tense, third-person novels.

Is it that those present tense slips are poor writing, and they shouldn't have done them, or are there actual times to do it when it involves emotions or feelings?

---

EDIT: I am not talking about when authors sanction off thoughts in italics.

I don't know, I thought, perhaps it is wrong to stop him.
Be proud of your mistakes when they form from blinding passion. But now edit them.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Dec 20, 2014 5:36 pm

Your first example is correct. Dialogue isn't the same as narrative, and present tense in dialogue is the norm.

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Crono91
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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby Crono91 » Sat Dec 20, 2014 6:49 pm

Be proud of your mistakes when they form from blinding passion. But now edit them.

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DrG2
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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby DrG2 » Sat Dec 20, 2014 9:59 pm

I read them as direct thoughts, so it would still be OK to do it in present tense.

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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby MookyMcD » Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:40 pm


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mammamaia
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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby mammamaia » Sun Dec 21, 2014 11:13 am

ALL 6 e-book collections of my work are FREE...email me with "want free books" in subject line and include a message.

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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby Crono91 » Sun Dec 21, 2014 6:24 pm

Be proud of your mistakes when they form from blinding passion. But now edit them.

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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby mammamaia » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:08 pm

ALL 6 e-book collections of my work are FREE...email me with "want free books" in subject line and include a message.

FREE writing help/mentoring: http://www.saysmom.com

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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby James A. Ritchie » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:57 pm

Unless the book was self-published, I doubt you've read any mistakes. There's a lot more to past and present tense that what we're going into here. Past tense comes in many forms, and I think you need to pull out a grammar book and read up on it. It really is something that's difficult to explain in a forum post.

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Re: Past Tense--Thinking in Present Tense

Postby onceuponwednesday » Mon Dec 22, 2014 2:56 pm

The Rule of Three

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