Writing Prompt #17 Past or Present Tense

Past tenseRecently Jodi Janz asked us whether or not it’s wrong to write in present tense rather than past tense. You can see our full answers in the comments on our Thank You Giveaway post, but part of our advice was to think through your reasons for wanting to write in present tense. If you’re not sure what tense and person will work best for your story, it’s a great idea to experiment. Switching things around is also a great way to fix a problem scene.

Today’s prompt is to take a scene that isn’t working in your current WIP and switch it around. If it’s in past tense, try writing it as present tense. If it’s in third person, try writing it in first person. Sometimes by trying something different, you’re able to see the problem and how to fix it.

Post a portion of your scene (before and after version) here or leave us a link to your website. We read every one.

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2 comments on “Writing Prompt #17 Past or Present Tense

  1. Thanks for this prompt. I did this recently with a picture book manuscript. I won’t share any of that here. Bad rhyme, etc. that needs to be worked on still. I’m trying to avoid the “crimes of rhyme” jail.

  2. THEN
    “Penelope Jane, you come down here right now!”
    “Coming, Mom,” P.J. called. I wonder what I did wrong this time.
    “Didn’t I tell you to clean up this mess? There’s powder everywhere. Our company will be arriving soon.”
    P.J. looked around. “Oh, Mom! It’s not that bad. I’m not finished studying dactyloscopy.”
    “Penelope…”
    “Mom, call me P.J. Please.”
    “Maybe, if you clean up this mess, I’ll consider it.” The faintest grin started to creep across her face. “And what, may I ask, is dactyloscopy?”
    “Don’t you remember…”
    “Penelope…”
    P.J. sighed—loudly.
    “I’m studying fingerprints, Mom. I’m not making the mess. It wasn’t me who put my hands all over the mirror and the end tables and the piano…”
    Her mother raised an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips.
    “OK. OK. I’ll run upstairs and grab my tape. Maybe I can clean up and keep the fingerprints.”
    “Just hurry up. You know how picky your aunt is about a tidy house,” her mom said as she headed for the kitchen.

    NOW
    “Penelope Jane…”
    Uh, oh! Mom’s using her you’re-two-minutes-from-being-grounded voice.
    “On my way.”
    I took the stairs two at a time.
    “There’s white powder everywhere.” She raised her eyebrows and swept her arm to indicate the living room across the hall.
    “M-o-o-o-m…I can’t clean it up yet. I’m not finished studying dactyloscopy.”
    She lowered her head and glared at me over the top of her glasses.
    “Penelope…”
    I sighed. “P.J., Mom…Please call me P.J. Besides, it wasn’t me who made the mess. I didn’t put my greasy hands all over the mirror and the end tables and the piano…”
    “P-e-e-j-a-y…”
    My head fell forward and I sighed again. “Yes, Mom.”
    She put her hands on her hips and began to tap her foot.
    “Can I at least run upstairs and get the tape? I don’t want to lose all those great fingerprints.”
    “Just hurry up. You know how picky your aunt is about a neat house.”
    This time I took the stairs three at a time.

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