third person present tense

by Jim Utley
(Braintree Ma)

Question: ...certain chapters in my novel, the flashbacks are written in present tense (I know I know ) and my question is when writing a sentence in the present, sometimes , in order to show how the character arrived at the moment, a little past tense setting is required. I guess I want to know is there other techniques for communicating the the past albeit briefly while writing in present tense?


For a scene or a chapter, to be in present tense, it is not necessary for every verb to be in present tense. What is necessary is for the reader to understand that, from the perspective of the narrator, the events of the scene are unfolding in present time.

If it is necessary for the narrator to fill the reader in on something that happened before that scene, that bit of narration can and probably should be in past tense.

I will say, however, that you might find it easier to write your flashbacks in past tense, if only because they are flashbacks. Your narrator is describing events which, from his/her perspective, have already concluded. If anything, it would make more sense for the present narrative to be in present tense rather than flashbacks.

However, the important thing is that you tell your story in a way that is clear to the reader. Your narrative mode should help with that, not hinder it.

I understand the desire to make the flashbacks more vivid by using present tense, as though the narrator is perhaps in a trance and has lost connection to the present. But then you had better make sure you give your reader enough clues so they understand what is happening.

Best of luck.

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