Eroica’s Erotica, Episode 1: Past and Present Tense in Dialogue
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Even if you’re telling a story in past tense, use present tense in dialogue and internal dialogue. Here’s an example:
Eroica thumbed through the pages, looking for the passage that always got her off. “Here it is!” she said.
So, the page-thumbing, the getting off, and the speaking all happen in the past tense, but Eroica speaks in present tense. You wouldn’t write:
“Here it was!” she said.
Below, after she finds her favorite dirty passage, Eroica tells us—past tense—I found it!
“I found it!” she said with a sly smile.
Or if the narrator is narrating, rather than speaking, use past tense:
There it was—the naughty passage Eroica had promised to share with me that night we both confessed our lust for erotica.
But if the character is thinking to herself or exclaiming to somebody else, use present tense:
I hope she reads it aloud to me, I thought to myself.
“Should I read it out loud?” she asked.
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