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Past Tense vs. Present Tense: Choosing The Right Narrative Style

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  • image July 11, 2023
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  • image 7 min read


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Have you ever wondered about the way to tell a story? Well, you’re in for a treat because today, these book publishers new york
 will be taking you to dive into a topic that might help you unleash your storytelling prowess – the choice between Past vs. Present Tense. It might sound like a big deal, but don’t worry; we’ll break it down for you in a way that’s as easy as pie!

When we talk about storytelling, we’re talking about how we share events or actions that happened. And guess what? The tense you pick can change the vibe of your tale! So let’s get started and see the deal with Past vs. Present Tense.

1. Past Tense: Reliving the Adventure

So, first things first, let’s talk about the past tense. 

Picture this: you’re sitting around a campfire, and your grandpa tells you about his childhood adventures. What do you notice? He’s using the past tense, right? He’s saying things like, “I climbed the tallest tree,” or “I met a mischievous squirrel.”

Past vs. Present Tense is like taking a trip back in time. It’s all about recounting stuff that’s already gone down. Using the past tense gives readers a sense of history, like peeking into something already wrapped up.

But why might you want to use Past vs. Present Tense? Well, it’s great for storytelling when you want to build up some suspense.

Imagine a mystery novel where the detective uncovers clues step by step – past tense can create that feeling of a puzzle being solved. It’s also awesome for reflecting on the past, sharing memories, or describing a sequence of events.

Past Tense vs Present Tense Choosing

2. Present Tense: The Action Unfolds

Now, let’s talk about the present tense. Think about watching a movie. You’re right there, at the moment, experiencing everything as it’s happening. Present tense does the same thing for your writing! When you use the present tense, you make your readers feel right in the middle of the action.

Imagine you’re writing a story about a brave astronaut exploring a new planet. With present tense, you’d say things like, “She walks across the alien terrain” or “She discovers a hidden cave.” It’s like you’re holding your readers’ hands and leading them through the adventure step by step.

The present tense is super cool when you want to create a sense of immediacy and excitement. It’s like your readers are right there, heart pounding, as the story unfolds. This tense is often used in action-packed scenes or to draw your readers into the story’s emotions.

3. Choosing the Right One between Past vs. Present Tense:

Let’s dive into the juicy stuff – how to pick the right tense for your story. Think of it as choosing the perfect flavor for your ice cream cone. You want your readers to taste the right emotions, and that’s where Past vs. Present Tense comes into play

Imagine you’re telling a story about a mysterious treasure hunt. If you want your readers to feel like they’re unraveling a puzzle alongside your characters, past tense is your go-to. It’s like saying, “They followed the ancient map” or “He solved the riddle.” Past tense adds a dash of nostalgia like your story is a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered.

But suppose you’re spinning a tale about a high-speed chase through a bustling city. You want your readers to feel the rush, the excitement like they’re sprinting alongside your characters. That’s where the present tense shines. 

You’d say things like, “She dashes through the crowded streets” or “The sirens wail in the distance.” Present tense drops your readers smack in the middle of the action, making them feel the adrenaline like it’s their own.

Here’s the secret sauce – you can mix and match these tenses for a flavor explosion! Start with past tense to set the stage and introduce your characters, then switch to present tense when things kick into high gear. 

Remember, it’s not about right or wrong – it’s all about the vibes you want to dish out. Past vs. Present Tense is like cozying up with a favorite book, while present tense is like strapping on a jetpack and soaring into the unknown. 

So, go on and play around with these tenses, blend them like a master chef, and serve up a story that’s uniquely yours. 

4. Practice Makes Perfect: Try Past vs. Present Tense Yourself

Think of this as your storytelling playground – a place to experiment, play, and see what tickles your imagination.

Grab your trusty notebook and a pen, and fire up your computer if you’re feeling techy. Here’s the fun part: write a short story or paragraph using past and present tenses. Let your imagination run wild, and those words dance across the page.

Picture this:

 You’re writing about a curious explorer venturing into a hidden cave. You start with past tense to describe how they discovered the cave entrance, setting the mood with a sense of history. 

Then, as they enter the cave and the thrill of discovery kicks in, you seamlessly switch to the present tense. Suddenly, your readers are beside the explorer, feeling the cave walls’ dampness and hearing their footsteps’ echoes.

But wait, don’t stop there! Flip it around – begin with present tense as your characters delve into the cave’s mysteries, and then switch to past tense when they emerge, reflecting on the adventure they’ve just had. It’s like being a director of your movie, changing the camera angles to capture different perspectives.

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Remember, there’s no magic formula here, no secret code to crack. It’s all about what resonates with you, what makes your story come alive in a way that feels right. Don’t be shy to play with the tenses, switch things up, and see which fits like a glove.

And guess what? You’re not just flexing your storytelling muscles but also sharpening your writing skills. The more you play with these tenses, the more you’ll understand their power and how to wield them to create your desired impact.

Essential Elements and Detailed Insights

Aspect Past Tense Present Tense
Primary Use Recounting events that have already happened Describing events as they happen
Example “I climbed the tallest tree” “She walks across the alien terrain”
Emotional Effect Gives a sense of history and nostalgia Creates immediacy and excitement
Ideal for Building suspense, reflecting on past, describing a sequence Action-packed scenes, drawing readers into story’s emotions
Narrative Style Like a trip back in time, puzzle being solved Readers feel in the middle of the action
Storytelling Impact Adds a dash of nostalgia, like uncovering a hidden gem Makes readers feel the adrenaline and rush
Mixing Tenses Set the stage, then switch to present for high gear Start with action, then reflect in past tense


So, there you have it, young storytellers – the lowdown on Past vs. Present Tense. Remember, past tense is like reminiscing with your grandpa, while present tense is like jumping into action. Past vs. Present Tense is all about the vibes you want to share with your readers.

Feel free to mix and match, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it! Writing is like your adventure, and choosing between tenses is just another tool in your storytelling toolbox. 

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