Third Person POV Past Tense

by Tracee

Hey Glen,

One more quick question about 3rd person POV past tense. When describing the action, I know that everything is past tense. However, I'm getting a little mixed up on what happens when describing a person. For example if I'm introducing new character, Rita Henry sauntered into the library and blended into the crowd undetected. She WAS an exquisite woman with a long, lean body; she had the agility of a cat. Or is it She IS an exquisite woman...? Is it Rita IS Jonathan's cousin on his father's side? Or Rita WAS Jonathan's cousin...?

Suddenly I felt unsure about this.


Answer: "Was" is correct. Just remember that the narrator is telling events that, to him/her/it, have already happened. You're describing how the person looked/was at the time the story took place.

From the narrator's perspective, the story could easily have taken place centuries ago.

Even if you are using a character narrator, that person would still be telling events that have happened, therefore you use past tense.

Comments for Third Person POV Past Tense

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Feb 01, 2013
not sure about this explanation
by: Anonymous

Hi, my two cents here-- i not sure what this question is asking nor do i understand the answer fully. If she is the main character, and its a third person narration, are you allowed to describe the characters physical traits if its 3rd person from the characters POV? maybe ive got this question all wrong...

Feb 01, 2013
Response to Anonymous
by: Glen

The question was about tense more than point of view.

I'm assuming here that the main character is supposed to be someone who is watching Rita Henry arrive, not Rita herself.

You are correct that main characters seldom can look at each other objectively unless perhaps in a mirror or photograph (and these are rather overused devices).

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