Shifting Time Frames

Addressing “time frames” in a narrative. This is closely related to the tense of verbs. As I understand it, the tense of a verb can affect the timeframe of the story, which is pretty straight forward. What’s interesting and sort of unexpected, is that the different forms of a tense are basically interchangeable. The example on page 38 shows several different kinds of past tense; simple, perfect, and progressive. They all fit together because they are all past tense, meaning that they happened before right this second.

I had never really thought about verbs that way before this reading. Say, for example, I wanted to talk about going fishing with my husband. I could say something like,

“We walked down to the creek with our rods and bait. We were fishing for maybe fifteen minutes before either one of us got a bite, and neither of us caught anything larger than a sunny the size of a cigarette pack. Still, it was a wonderful afternoon.”Fountain-Pen-Writing

Clearly, this didn’t happen right now, this very moment. But at some point in the past, even the very recent past. The verbs walked, were fishing, caught, and was are all different kinds of past tense. But they work together because they are in the same time frame, the same general day or moment. I can see, too, where someone that is just trying to get their ideas out on paper could shift timeframes without even realizing it. Sometimes, we just have to read what we write aloud and see if it makes sense to the ear, because our internal hearing tends to overlook our most obvious mistakes.

— Sarah Ockershausen Delp

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