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Common Errors Made By Beginning Writers

Tense change -- Changing from past tense to present tense and from present tense to past tense. When you write, decide whether you want the story in the present tense or in the past tense. Then write in only one of these tenses. Don't change tense unless you have to (for example, if you write in the present tense and have to show something that happened in the character's past, you can change to the past.) 

Past tense example: 
Anne went to the closet by the door to get her jacket. She grabbed her jacket and ran out the house. Outside, the weather was cold. Wind was blowing, though not fast. It was late autumn. The whole ground was full of crunchy brown leaves. Most of the trees were bare, except for a few conifers.
Bob's house was at the corner of the street, not too far from Anne's. There were only a few homes in between. Anne ran to Bob's house and as she turned the corner, she bumped into someone. It was Bob.
"Hey, what's the hurry, Anne Marie?" he said.
"Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And she ran ahead of him to his house. She opened the door and walked in.
"Oh, hello Anne Marie," Bob's mother said, "what brings you here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Bob," Anne said as Bob walked in.
"Okay, you two go along," Bob's mother replied.
Anne and Bob went to Bob's room. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Bob asked.
"Umů" was all Anne said. She didn't know what she wanted to talk about. "Punishment," she finally said, "what would be a severe punishment."
"Oh, there are lots of severe punishments. Who do you want to punish?"
"I don't want to punish anyone. It's me who's going to get punished."

Present tense example:
Anne goes to the closet by the door to get her jacket. She grabs her jacket and runs out the house. Outside, the weather is cold. Wind is blowing, though not fast. It is late autumn. The whole ground is full of crunchy brown leaves. Most of the trees are bare, except for a few conifers.
Bob's house is at the corner of the street, not too far from Anne's. There are only a few homes in between. Anne runs to Bob's house and as she turns the corner, she bumps into someone. It is Bob.
"Hey, what's the hurry, Anne Marie?" he says.
"Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And she runs ahead of him to his house. She opens the door and walks in.
"Oh, hello Anne Marie," Bob's mother says, "what brings you here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Bob," Anne says as Bob walks in.
"Okay, you two go along," Bob's mother replies.
Anne and Bob go to Bob's room. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Bob asks.
"Umů" is all Anne says. She doesn't know what she wanted to talk about. "Punishment," she finally says, "what would be a severe punishment."
"Oh, there are lots of severe punishments. Who do you want to punish?"
"I don't want to punish anyone. It's me who's going to get punished."

Present tense example with past tense flashback: Mary remembers the day she left home. Her mother was very angry that day. She yelled for hours before finally telling Mary to get out the house. 
Mary wishes she had never made friends with June and Sherla. Because of them she got caught trying to steal a gold ring which made her mother so angry she kicked her out of the house.

As you can see in the above examples, only the narration has been changed to present or past. The dialogue remains the same. So if you have a story in the past tense, you can have dialogue in the present tense (example: "I want to go home," Jenny said.) And if you have a story in the present tense, you can have dialogue in the past. (Example: "I didn't do it," he screams. " I didn't kill him.")

POV change
Changing the POV (point of view) from first person point of view to third (or second) person point of view and vice versa. When you write, decide which POV you want the story to be in. Then write the whole story in that POV. Don't shift in the middle. If you do decide later that you want the whole story in a different POV, change the POV in the whole story and then read it several times to make sure you didn't miss anything.

Example of story in first person POV:
I went to the closet by the door to get my jacket. I grabbed my jacket and ran out the house. Outside, the weather was cold. Wind was blowing, though not fast. It was late autumn. The whole ground was full of crunchy brown leaves. Most of the trees were bare, except for a few conifers.
Bob's house was at the corner of the street, not too far from mine. There were only a few homes in between. I ran to Bob's house and as I turned the corner, I bumped into someone. It was Bob.
"Hey, what's the hurry, Anne Marie?" he said.
"Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And I ran ahead of him to his house. I opened the door and walked in.
"Oh, hello Anne Marie," Bob's mother said, "what brings you here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Bob," I said as Bob walked in.
"Okay, you two go along," Bob's mother replied.
Bob and I went to Bob's room. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Bob asked.
"Umů" was all I could say. I didn't know what I wanted to talk about. "Punishment," I finally said, "what would be a severe punishment."
"Oh, there are lots of severe punishments. Who do you want to punish?"
"I don't want to punish anyone. It's me who's going to get punished."


Example of story in second person POV
You went to the closet by the door to get your jacket. you grabbed your jacket and ran out the house. Outside, the weather was cold. Wind was blowing, though not fast. It was late autumn. The whole ground was full of crunchy brown leaves. Most of the trees were bare, except for a few conifers.
Bob's house was at the corner of the street, not too far from yourse. There were only a few homes in between. You ran to Bob's house and as you turned the corner, you bumped into someone. It was Bob.
"Hey, what's the hurry, Anne Marie?" he said.
"Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And you ran ahead of him to his house. You opened the door and walked in.
"Oh, hello Anne Marie," Bob's mother said, "what brings you here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Bob," you said as Bob walked in.
"Okay, you two go along," Bob's mother replied.
You and Bob went to Bob's room. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Bob asked.
"Umů" was all you could say. You didn't know what you wanted to talk about. "Punishment," you finally said, "what would be a severe punishment."
"Oh, there are lots of severe punishments. Who do you want to punish?"
"I don't want to punish anyone. It's me who's going to get punished."


Example of story in third person POV: 
Anne went to the closet by the door to get her jacket. She grabbed her jacket and ran out the house. Outside, the weather was cold. Wind was blowing, though not fast. It was late autumn. The whole ground was full of crunchy brown leaves. Most of the trees were bare, except for a few conifers.
Bob's house was at the corner of the street, not too far from Anne's. There were only a few homes in between. Anne ran to Bob's house and as she turned the corner, she bumped into someone. It was Bob.
"Hey, what's the hurry, Anne Marie?" he said.
"Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And she ran ahead of him to his house. She opened the door and walked in.
"Oh, hello Anne Marie," Bob's mother said, "what brings you here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Bob," Anne said as Bob walked in.
"Okay, you two go along," Bob's mother replied.
Anne and Bob went to Bob's room. "So, what did you want to talk about?" Bob asked.
"Umů" was all Anne said. She didn't know what she wanted to talk about. "Punishment," she finally said, "what would be a severe punishment."
"Oh, there are lots of severe punishments. Who do you want to punish?"
"I don't want to punish anyone. It's me who's going to get punished."

Again as you can see in the above examples, only the narration has been changed. The dialogue is the same.

Head hopping, Another type of POV change:
When you write, decide who will tell the story. (Whose eyes we will see the story from). And stay in that person's heads. Even if you write the story from several people's view, don't change POV from one character to another in scenes. Changing POV from one character to another in one scene in called head-hopping POV which confuses the reader. Let us see each scene through only one person's eyes.

How can you tell if you're head-hopping or not? First decide whose scene it is. If the scene is from Anne's point of view, write only what Anne can see, think, feel etc. Don't write what Bob sees, hears, thinks, feels, etc. (After you write the scene, you can ask yourself the questions: Whose thoughts are these? Who saw this? Who heard this? Who felt this? etc. If the scene is written from Anne's POV and you have written There must be something very important on Anne's mind, Bob thought, you have shifted POV from Anne to Bob. If you wrote, "Bob, I wanted to talk to you. Let's go to your place." And she ran ahead of him to his house. She opened the door and walked in. Bob looked around, then ran to his house. You have again shifted POV from Anne to Bob unless you write something to show that Anne saw Bob do this, for example, Anne stopped in the doorway, turned around and waited for Bob. Bob looked around, then ran to his house. (This shows that Anne saw Bob look around and then run toward the house.)

ę Copyright Kokab Rahman. May not be reproduced without permission of the author. For permission, email Kokab Rahman at kkb378@yahoo.com. Include information about where and why you would like to reproduce the article.