Blackmoor's use of tenses

Quite an interesting argument gone on in Fiction Desk over Edward Hogan's use of the present tense in his award-winning novel Blackmoor.

The blogger there has issues with writers using the present tense, saying they often utilise it in long sentences. Hogan, however, redeems himself somewhat by not doing that, but he loses it with bits of his prose when he exhorts the reader to look at something, using words like 'Look' and 'Behold'.

Hogan defends back with:
'The instructions to ‘look’, ’see’, and, ok, ‘behold’, had several functions. There was a certain amount of restrained imploring in this storytelling voice on behalf of the residents of areas which had (and continue to be) ignored. Secondly, I was trying to describe an entire village, so these ‘establishing shots’ helped. I read Under Milk Wood, etc, and tried to use the change in style to distance the voice from any of the characters, behind whom I had been closely focalised pages before. It does tend to split readers.'

On my part I have issues with writers writing about the past of the past, using the past perfect had. The amateurs invariably fall into the trap of continuing using had when telling the reader of some event that happened in the past of the story's current past, when they could have just abandoned it altogether once they have established the fact that that bit is in the past of this past.

Another method is not even using had at all, if the writer knows exactly when this past has occurred. For example, instead of "She had been to see the show before, actually. Now she was seeing it again.", you can write "She went to see the show last Thursday, actually. Now ...".

Using "went" is perfectly grammatically. I actually learnt that from a grammar text in school.


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