Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about how to write Point of View (POV), and how to choose your story’s tense for best effect.
The writer has a few options when it comes to choosing tense (which is your verb tense), and some of those meld better than others with certain POV lenses. As with POV, the tense you choose will make all the difference to the look and feel of your story.
What are your Tense and POV Choices?
The writer can choose between past, present, and future tenses. Each of these can be paired with 1st person/2nd person/and 3rd person close/distant POVs.
Commonly, 1st person POV works best with present tense.
3rd person tends to lend itself best to past tense but will also work with present tense.
The least used POV and tense are 2nd person and future tense. And if combined, these would make for the most awkward writing and reading, unless done excellently and with purpose. Because of this, I would advise against using 2nd person and future tense. Unless you have a compelling reason for doing so.
Writers such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz have used Future Tense sparingly for purposes of foreshadowing. Here, you might write something like, “Emily couldn’t make sense of what she saw. She doesn’t understand yet, but she will. Emily will regret not taking more notice. In ignorance of what was to come, she blinked and continued washing the dishes. If only she’d taken a second glance.” As you can see, the narrative is primarily written in Past Tense with a brief leap into Future Tense for foreshadowing a thing that hasn’t happened yet. This is a great tool for building tension and suspense.
There are no set rules or edicts, and the writer has the freedom to choose what works best for the story.
Tense works much the same as POV in that it can create immediacy and intimacy (Present Tense) or more distance (Past Tense). As we saw with POV choice, your decision will come down to what feels right for you and your story as you write it.
What do I mean by Verb Tense?
Present Tense would bring you current verbs such as “I jump”, First Person. “She jumps”, and “They jump”, Third Person. And “You jump”, Second Person.
Past Tense would bring you past verbs such as “I jumped”, First Person. “She jumped”, and “They jumped”, Third Person. And “You jumped”, Second Person.
Future Tense would bring you future verbs such as “I will jump”, First Person. “She will jump”, and “They will jump”, Third Person. And “you will jump”, Second Person.
Some Examples of Books Using the Various Tenses:
Present Tense can be found in books such as The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games.
Past Tense can be found in books such as The Maze Runner and Fahrenheit 451.
When I Googled books that use Future Tense, I found that the prose is generally Present Tense that jumps, at times, into Future Tense. Personally, I’ve never read a book written exclusively in Future Tense. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve come across a wholly Future-Tense book.
In Summary: You can mix and match Verb Tenses with Point of View lenses to achieve the best look and feel and style for your story. First Person POV goes well with Present Tense, and Third Person Close/Distant goes well with Past Tense. Future Tense is best avoided, or used sparingly, no matter which POV you pair it with. Remember: You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well.
That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Wednesday 16th March, when we’ll summarise the POV post series to give you a quick and easy recap of all the points covered 🙂
Part 1, Overview, can be found HERE.
Part 2, First Person, can be found HERE.
Part 3, Second Person, can be found HERE.
Part 4, Third Person Limited, can be found HERE.
Part 5, Third Person Distant, can be found HERE.
Part 6, Common Pitfalls of POV, can be found HERE.
Part 7, How to Choose POV, can be found HERE.
Part 8, Choosing POV, can be found HERE.
POV 9, The Unreliable Narrator and POV, can be found HERE.
©2022 Harmony Kent