A participle is a form of verb that is used in a sentence to modify a noun and/or verb. You may or may not have given much thought to participles. In every day speech, participles let our listeners know the time frame in what we say.
“I went to the store.”
“She goes to the store.”
“They are going to the store.”
Just by the verb tense, you can assume what has been done, what is being done, and what will be done. This is what humans categorize, covet, and cope with–time.
I am not about to give you a lecture on English grammar, but the verb tense is very important to the structure of your story. Participles will determine what is transpiring and give a time frame for your readers.
Past Tense: Past tense is just what it sounds like–everything in the story has happened in the past. It is history. Most stories, books, magazine columns, newspaper articles, and biographies are written in past tense for very good reason. The events being recorded have already happened and are finished.
E.g. John Doe was a curator at the Museum of Natural Art. He was in charge of bookkeeping and purchasing items for the collection. Often he traveled far distances to acquire items that could not be shipped by air mail. John Doe enjoyed the challenge of digging up old artifacts.
Present Tense: Present tense is a verb form of current action. For example, the critically acclaimed book series Hunger Games was written in first person, present tense. Often times books in first person are written in present tense to give a feel for events happening now, as in right now. First person can be written either in present tense or past tense, but do not feel restricted to present tense just because you want to write in first person.
E.g. 1. I am a curator at the Museum of Natural Art. I am in charge of bookkeeping and purchasing items for the collection. Often I travel far distances to acquire items that cannot be shipped by air mail. I enjoy the challenge of digging up old artifacts.
E.g. 2. I was a curator at the Museum of Natural Art. I was in charge of bookkeeping and purchasing items for the collection. Often I travelled far distances to acquire items that could not be shipped by air mail. I enjoyed the challenge of digging up old artifacts.
As you can see, both are acceptable forms of writing. Admittedly, present tense can be more difficult to write, because you might be more accustomed to thinking, speaking, and writing in past tense. If you choose to use present tense, keep in mind the verb changes, but don’t get frustrated with your writing if it proves difficult. You can always go back and edit those verbs later.
Future Tense: Future tense is rarely used, except in rare instances of narration. It describes an event about to transpire that has not happened yet, and is looked forward to–in the future.
E.g. John Doe will be a curator at the Museum of Natural Art. He will be in charge of bookkeeping and purchasing items for the collection. He will travel far distances to acquire items that cannot be shipped by air mail. He will enjoy (we hope) the challenge of digging up old artifacts.
Future tense can be used when characters are planning a battle strategy or other event to be held in the near future. You can write your whole book in future tense, it is possible…If you like that sort of challenge. But you may find it too wordy with all the extra verbs, and confusing to boot. Your editor might not appreciate it, but then again, this is your story. And who knows, you might be the new JK Rowling. So push the boundaries and be who you want to be.
That’s all for today, friends. Have a pleasant Easter and Passover week.