Writing Focus: Tense

Picking a tense is one of the first things you must do when writing a story, and it becomes a vital part of the story itself. Not only is picking a tense important, but sticking to the same tense through a story is key to making it a successful work.

What is Tense?

Tense is a term that is used to refer time in a particular story. In laments terms, it's whether you're writing the story as if it happened in the past, is currently happening, or will happen in the future. Those three uses are known as past, present and future tense, and are the three tenses you must choose from when writing your story.

Past tense is exactly what it sounds like: a tense that refers to things that have already happened. Stories that are written in this tense will use verbs like loved, ran and shopped.

Present tense refers to things that are currently happening. A story written in present tense will use verbs like love, running and shopping.

Future tense is used to describe a story that will happen in the future and is the least commonly used. These stories will often include the linking verb "will" and "going to".


When choosing a tense for your story, think about how you would like the story to be told and what will have the most impact on the reader. Past tense is statistically the most common, as that is how most people speak in their everyday life. When telling a story to your friends, you will tell it as it happened, not as if it is currently happening, so a story written in past tense will connect to readers in that way. Present tense is a great tense to use if your story contains a lot of action that you would like the reader to go along with as if they were in the moment. Future tense is great for stories with lots of ambiguity, but they can be the most difficult to tell.


If you're looking to improve this aspect of your writing, check out some of our prompts that put focus on tense.

To work on past tense, write the story of your last moment alive as if it has already happened.

To work on present tense, write a story about the most memorable moment from childhood as if you were in that moment currently.

To work on future tense, create a future tragedy and write a story that is a warning to those who will suffer from it.

Picking a tense is a vital part of storytelling and it is not something that should be taken lightly. When picking a tense, focus on what message you would like to give to your readers and make sure to stick to that tense throughout the duration of your story.

Special thanks to dougie poynter; and psychotic secrets; for editing!

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