Are -ing words really that bad? Leah McClellan A reader sent in a question that goes like this: Have you wondered about it? We use words that end in -ing all the time.
One common error that I find when critiquing manuscripts is the problem of verbs leaping from the past to the present. Maintain verb tense consistency unless the timing of an action demands a change.
Past Tense and Present Tense Consider the following sentences: She threw the book across the room and screamed at the top of her lungs. She threw the book across the room and screams at the top of her lungs. The incorrectly written sentence above switches from past tense threw to present tense screams.
Readers get confused when writers jump from past tense to present tense within the same sentence. If the action took place in the past, both verbs must reflect this.
When Timing of an Action Demands a Tense Change There are instances when the timing of an action demands a change in tense.
When he plays his violin tonight, everyone is amazed. When he plays his violin tonight, everyone will be amazed. When Sandy drinks milk products, she gets indigestion. The sentence above means that Sandy sometimes drinks milk products.
The action is habitual present.
Since the second action happens when the first one does, the second verb gets remains in the present tense. Consider the following sentence: The boy threw egg at her car, after she had washed and waxed it earlier in the week.
Paragraph written in present tense: Mary visits the zoo with her class. She gets lost and begins to cry. A clown carrying balloons walks by, but he pays no attention to her.
However, her teacher usually conducts a roll call on the bus. All of the actions in the paragraph above take place in the present, except for this sentence: The sentence above shows what will happen in the future depending on whether Mary finds her class.
The timing of the action demands a change in tense. Paragraph rewritten in past tense: Mary visited the zoo with her class. She got lost and began to cry. A clown carrying balloons walked by, but he paid no attention to her. However, her teacher usually conducted a roll call on the bus.Are -ing words really that bad?
So, I have been told not to use ing words in fiction writing because it is not the right tense.
Why?” Ask yourself, honestly, whether the abundance of progressive tense verbs would be frowned upon by modern conventions. If the answer is yes, which it will be if you are in touch with modern conventions. Dec 10, · Either of those sentences is fine. The main lexical verb in the sentence is 'said', which is past tense.
Whether you use 'as he stepped ' or 'stepping ', the verb 'to step' is an auxiliary verb in both cases, so the main verb implies the tense of the sentence. Return to Crafting Fabulous Fiction · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version July 5, Verbs, more than any other part of speech, give your story the drama of action.
Without verbs your sentences are just a bunch of words -- a descriptive poem, at best -- a still life. When the literary historians of the year write about the fiction of our time, I believe they will consider our use of the present tense to be its most distinctive—and, perhaps, problematic—feature.
Tips for using verbs in fiction. Verbs are the power behind fiction. Use tips to help you choose the right verbs for the moment and the scene and the story. We use passive construction less in fiction than in other writing styles, but it’s not unheard of. Thank you for reading The Editor's Blog, an Internet resource for fiction writers.
This is wrong because the verbs do not consistently use the same tense, even though it is clear (from context) that Sarah’s run is a continuous action in a single scene. Ursula K. Le Guin offers excellent advice on mixing past and present in her writing manual, Steering the Craft.