Something has occurred to me. I often read books these days that are in straight past tense... okay, no problem, eh? But there is something that has jarred me a number of times recently. I think writers are afraid of Past Perfect, the tense.'
What is Past perfect?
This is the form of a verb that includes HAD before the verb's 'ed' form. (and I think that is the problem (I am thinking, this is the problem?)... in avoiding PASSIVE voice, we mistakenly also avoid PAST perfect.)
But past perfect is a past past... a different animal altogether... it tells us what HAD happened before the activities we are now giving in past tense.
Lets say the Cabana Boys are coming to take care of my sore back...
Knowing they are on their way, I do some things to prepare, yeah?
And I want to start telling you this story at the ACTION, yeah?
But some of that scenery matters, yeah?
I don't give you a long, drawn-out intro BEFORE they arrive... I give you the PAST PERFECT description after they've arrived!
“I had begun the pudding preparation in case we decided to wrestle.”
“I had called the house elves so somebody was there to wait on us.”
“I had showered, though it was not necessary to have stripped, being naked already.”
See, if I said “I prepared the pudding” it gives the mistaken impression I did it RECENTLY, rather than before the action started.
Lucius danced. (pretty clear)
Lucius was dancing. (means the same thing, but passive and usually avoided in our writing, though I'd argue it still may be better if it is about the SCENE instead of the action--but that is my opinion--until I have some clout, I will keep quiet on the matter.)
Lucius had danced. (PAST Perfect—this doesn't mean he same thing AT ALL does it?... it either establishes that Lucius has a HABIT of dancing established long ago (something I can confirm), or perhaps that he had danced before we arrived, but now was peeling grapes for us (also true)...)
[and if it were Lucius talking he would say "I have danced" to tell us his history... Present perfect.]
If past perfect is the appropriate tense, it SHOULD be used! So don't be afraid of Past perfect! It's your friend, and the PERFECT scene setter!
In Other News
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is CLOSED! Now... the waiting... and the anxiety... and the tickle torture...
I am at the quarter mark of infusing the BIG changes from this round. It is going really slowly, or so it seems... I can do about three chapters a night which means eight more days. THEN I plan to send it to a last reader and read for a SMOOTHING round myself. In GOOD news... I did an agent search today crossing suspense, YA and then typed in 'family suspense.' My REASON is that I am marketing this as family suspense (not a technical category) but I figured an agent who covered ALL the angles would best know how to angle this and would give me the best advice if I need to change it. My search (which seemed to turn up 'family saga' in addition to suspense and YA, but that's okay—as a trilogy, it sort of is a saga)
Anyway, I turned up 24 agents that covered all three genres and one of them... IS MY AGENT! I wasn't sure how much YA she'd done... so she will get first rights of refusal, though I think this list of 24 is a pretty good starting place for queries... Though I DO need to get with the program for my pitch... my last round of trying to write it was sort of ugly.
So HWMNBMOTI had a hissy fit on Saturday morning... see... there is this desk we got from a neighbor that I insisted we move into the basement, but had not used to because frankly... I wasn't sure how to get it back together. After a lot of shouting, and someone (who might have been me) hitting somebody with a broom, he finally helped me actually put the darned thing together. I proceeded to move furniture and then put my stuff... IN ITS SPOT... A little weird to have things put away and easy to find. I'm far more used to stacks and chaos.
(and there was much rejoicing)
Images 1 and 3 created by Joris Ammerlaan the FABULOUS.
Image 2 found by google imaging 'Cabana Boy'