0

When attempting to write a story, I get a little jumbled up, especially on tenses and the correct usage. In particular, I get confused over the usage of seemingly past tense (words ending in -ed) and words ending in -ing used in the same sentence. For example:

Standing up straight, John relaxed tense muscles. Much like Sylar, he had been alarmed when first the beast appeared over the mountain’s crest. Slowly, it had trekked down the snow-laden landscape towards the two, pausing only when it was fifty or so feet away. There it perched itself upon its throne of snow and ice, staring with piercing eyes at the two humans who had intruded into its domain.

My beginning sentence starts in the present, but quickly slips to what the main character had seen just moments prior. I utilize what I believe is past-present (had trekked), then present (pausing). If someone could correct my sentences and explain why that would be much appreciated.

  • All your -ing forms (standing, pausing, staring) are tenseless present participles, not tensed finite verbs; the time reference of the clauses they head is inferred from the time reference of the finite clauses to which they are attached. The had VERBed constructions are past perfects, indicating that the event designated by the trailing past participles (been, trekked, intruded) occurred before the past time you are talking about with relaxed, perched). – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 18 '17 at 21:12
-1

UNLESS you have edited the quoted paragraph in the original question to reflect the corrections suggested by the kind members, THE ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH IS PERFECTLY FINE FOR A NOVEL OR SHORT STORY! Don't worry about shifting to the 'had' form for once in a while, because it is always done by creative writers.

As long as you don't make glaring grammatical errors, there is a great deal of linguistic leeway available in writing fiction. Since I couldn't detect grammatical errors in the original paragraph in question, the detailed corrections so kindly and rigorously suggested appear optional.

Perfect grammar in terms of tenses is not really expected in creative writing, but internal consistency of tenses is certainly mandatory. DON'T BE SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT YOUR WRITING -- YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE! (Not to boast, but reading literary fiction is my long-time speciality, so I ought to know)

|improve this answer|||||
-2

Your assessment of the problem is mistaken.

Verbs beginning with "have" (had trekked) are called "perfect", and should be used when the action is complete.

The way your paragraph is written, it implies that all the movements of the beast had been completed before John stood up. Is this what you meant? John is stretching and relaxed, now, after the animal had approached him?

Off topic, but:

John relaxed tense muscles

Are these John's tense muscles, or does he just have this effect on the muscles of onlookers? If the former, say so.

Slowly, it had trekked down the snow-laden landscape

  1. That adverb should be next to the verb it modifies. There are situations where you want to begin with an adverb -- typically, when the adverb logically describes the entire sentence, "Miraculously, I found my wallet exactly where I dropped it in the milling crowd" -- but this is not one of them.
  2. "Trekking" is taking a long journey, not necessarily slowly and not necessarily by foot. Consider "plod", "shuffled", "ambled" -- whatever near-synonym for "walked slowly" that best describes the motion of the animal as you see it.
  3. "Laden" means "carrying". A branch might be snow-laden; the bed of a snow-plow might be snow-laden; the edge of a cliff might be snow-laden. A landscape is merely "snowy".

There it perched itself upon its throne of snow and ice, staring with piercing eyes at the two humans who had intruded into its domain.

This is a mixed metaphor: perching means to sit or stand in the manner of a bird; a throne is the seat of a king. Together they just don't work. Pick one. The domain is the realm of a king, so if you keep "throne", you can keep domain, but if you go with "perch" you have to find a word to suggest the area a particular bird considers is own territory.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Thanks for the responses. This is a paragraph in the middle of the story, and it was meant to describe what John had just seen the wolf do, so John was relaxing his tense muscles, and I was trying to portray what the wolf had just done prior to him relaxing. – Sasukekorlo Apr 19 '17 at 9:12
  • I also appreciate the suggestions for word changes. I'll look into what words I can change out to make the story make more sense in its description and actions. – Sasukekorlo Apr 19 '17 at 9:13
  • I made the following changes. Please let me know if it still is wrong or makes little sense. – Sasukekorlo Apr 19 '17 at 9:37
  • Standing up straight, John relaxed tense muscles. Much like Sylar, he had been alarmed when first the beast appeared over the mountain’s crest. Just moments ago, it had slowly descended the snow-filled landscape towards the two, pausing only when it was fifty or so feet away. There it settled itself upon its throne of snow and ice, staring with piercing eyes at the two humans who had intruded into its domain. – Sasukekorlo Apr 19 '17 at 9:38
  • Did you see how little you have changed from the original paragraph! That means the original paragraph is ALREADY FINE. – English Student Apr 19 '17 at 12:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.