Today I read a blog post about mistakes made by indie authors. One piece of advice from the blogger was not to switch between third and second tense in the middle of a paragraph.
Think about that for a moment, friends…
In case you aren’t already aware of this fact, let me make it clear: There is no such thing as third tense; there’s no such thing as second tense, either.
There is such thing as third person, though.
Sometimes I forget that some writers (and readers) don’t know that tense and person are not the same thing. When I say I don’t care for fiction written in present tense, some people think I mean I don’t like fiction in which the story is narrated by the main character: I woke up in a strange place and wondered how I got there. What I actually mean is that I don’t like fiction written with everything happening right now: I wake up in a strange place and wonder how I got here.
See the difference?
If you don’t, you’re not alone.
(Some writers, by the way, would write the present-tense example as I wake up in a strange place and wonder how I get here. Don’t do that. Seriously. Just don’t.)
Person is I/we (first), you (second), or he/she/it/they (third). Tense is (at its very simplest — I’m just trying to show the difference between person and tense, not fully conjugate a dozen verbs) present (go/goes, do/does, say/says) or past (went, did, said). Person affects which form of a verb you should use, as does tense, but the terms are not interchangeable.