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Jan's Master Class--TENSE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby grandmalovesbabies » Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:10 pm

Thanks for the stories, Jan! I now know why you are the one teaching this class. They were all remarkable. I'm going to try first person, present tense again one of these days but for now I think it would be best if I honed my skills a little more.
In the twilight of my years, may His Light shine more brightly.


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Postby srashmi » Thu May 07, 2009 3:08 am

Had to go back and look. Almost all of my entries are written in past tense, either third or first person.

I forgot I had written Diana's Dinner Dilemma in first person, present tense.

So, when I started to write Upon Mount Nebo, I thought I was stretching by writing in first person, present. Well, actually, it was a stretch since I have not written a story from the POV of a real person or of a man.

I also just realized I kind of like the title Diana's Dinner Dilemma. The alliteration fits in with the tone of the story.

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Postby glorybee » Thu May 07, 2009 2:02 pm

Seema, thanks for bringing up the issue of writing from the POV of an actual person. I really have a hard time with this--in fact, I can't think of a time when I've done it! Maybe I should attempt it some time. I'm always amazed at the people who successfully write from the POV of God or Jesus. That totally overwhelms me.

I don't have a hard time writing from a man's POV--but I also have no idea how successful I am at capturing man-ness!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Symphonic » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:39 am

glorybee wrote:Carol, I'd be very interested in reading a story written entirely in future tense...

Tell you what...give it a shot some time in the upcoming quarter. We won't know it's yours...of course we won't...

I thought about this several times during the “Opposites” quarter, I really did. But the topics didn’t seem to work for the type of future tense story I had in mind. Just wait, though...

On some Thursday morning, at 9:00 or 9:30 or 10:00, the new topic will appear and it will be the one. The one I’ve waited for since Jan first posted her inspiring lesson on verb tense... the one that was made for future tense... the catalyst for a story that could only be told in future tense... :)

Carol S.
Last edited by Symphonic on Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby glorybee » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:51 am

:P :P :P :P Carol!
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Postby swfdoc1 » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:11 pm

Re the importance of tenses: Today I read the opinion that was issued yesterday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in which that court declared Virginia’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban constitutional. Not a pleasant task given its graphic descriptions of various ways to kill babies. But there was a very interesting passage in which the court relied upon the verb tense in the statute to draw one of its major conclusions. Some of you may not want to read the passage given its topic, but if you do, it constitutes the next paragraph. If you don’t want to read this, skip down to the rest of this post for another topic. The Fourth Circuit wrote (and I added the bracketed material to make the meaning clearer since I have lifted this out of a longer discussion):

“In the Virginia Act, a partial birth infanticide is defined as a ‘deliberate act that is intended to kill a human infant who has been born alive.’ Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-71.1(B) (emphasis added). The use of the present perfect tense indicates that the live birth, as defined in subsection (C) of the Virginia Act, must have taken place prior to the ‘deliberate act’ that kills the fetus. Thus, the act that results in the demise and [the act that results in] the emergence [of the baby] to the anatomical landmark cannot be one single action. Additionally, if the doctor acts to complete delivery, § 18.2-71.1(B) shields the doctor from liability, even if the doctor’s acts ultimately kill the fetus.”

In thinking about the court’s point that the present perfect tense indicates past action, I thought I’d recommend a great resource for both those who do know verb tense names and for those who don’t—as per the prior conversation in this thread. You can go to for a great explanation of verb tenses. If look at this page (scrolling all the way to the bottom), you will see that there are graphic representations (accompanied by a textual explanation and examples) of all of the uses of the simple present tense. You will also notice illustrations of both active and passive voice, examples of proper adverb placement, and helpful links. Then if you look at the left side of the page, you will notice links for other verb tenses. One each of those pages, you will find the same materials. Thus, if you know the names of the tenses, you can look at a passage you have written, figure out the tense you used, and go to the appropriate page to see whether you wrote what you meant (i.e., whether you used your chosen tense correctly). Even if you don’t know the names of the tenses, you can quickly pop through the links on the left side of the pages until you find the one that you used and then see whether you wrote what you meant. And whichever category you are in, if you did not say what you meant, you can use the diagrams to find the one that does convey what you intended and edit your original.
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien


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