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  1. #11
    scribbler2
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    While I agree you have to keep some "hads" - I liked Pamela's example, "He had not intended to live his life that way," I try to eliminate most of them in my writing. To me it sounds weak and passive.

    For example, I would reword Goliardy's example to read, "After spending the night chained up in a toilet with a map of Moro for bedding and a menagerie of rats and mosquitoes for company, Adie - blah blah blah." To me, this sounds stronger and about to launch the reader into the action immediately.



  2. #12
    Lindi Hobbs
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    I think that's good writing sense. If you can cut the "had" without altering the meaning of the sentence, then do so, but don't sacrifice content just to overstress a goal in form. That's alls I was hoping for, LoL! I think I like this place ;o) ~ Lindi

    PS: I've been writing all day after having a block shut me down. I was just so depressed thinking I was being asked to write in a way I couldn't stand, but youze guys make sense. It's nice to be creating again.

  3. #13
    Goliardys
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    While I agree you have to keep some "hads" - I liked Pamela's example, "He had not intended to live his life that way," I try to eliminate most of them in my writing. To me it sounds weak and passive.

    <For example, I would reword Goliardy's example to read, "After spending the night chained up in a toilet with a map of Moro for bedding and a menagerie of rats and mosquitoes for company, Adie - blah blah blah." To me, this sounds stronger and about to launch the reader into the action immediately.>

    I don't blame you for making that improvement, given the lack of context, but I needed to start the sentence with Adie's name because the end of the previous section featured a different point-of-view character. There is some more introductory material to come which tells of Adie's experience the previous night, so the action isn't launced immediately after this sentence.

    Eliminating "hads" after a piece is written is a cosmetic exercise, in my opinion. If there are too many "hads", the structure of the piece needs looking at. The way I see it, perfects and pluperfects are only interchangeable in relatively unsubtle writing. Usually the replacement of a pluperfect by a perfect has a flattening effect on the prose - though many people are deaf to this, so perhaps it doesn't matter.

    Goliardys.

  4. #14
    Goliardys
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    Sorry, the quote didn't come out properly on my last post. There's definitely a paste-gremlin on this site.

    Goliardys.

  5. #15
    Lindi Hobbs
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    Well, my intstructor isn't as bad as I was thinking. She pretty much said the same thing. Here's her response:

    quote:

    1. keep the scene as active as possible. In the present, writing in simple past tense.

    2. keep internal monologue from dealing with the past too often.

    but, the general rule of thumb is.

    Read Barron's grammar example.

    In their example you only use past perfect tense (had been) if you need to set time back farther than that time set when you started the paragraph.

    If you are talking about the past then do what Mark Twain did. He wrote a the few introductory scene setting lines in past perfect, then when his essays went into 'thought' he wrote them in simple past tense, as internal monologue.

    end quote.

    This is such a relief for me. I can write my book now. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my little brain. Hugs ~ Lindi

  6. #16
    Bob Kellogg
    Guest

    Re: The Death of Past Perfect?

    Another variation on your instructor's rule I like, Lindi, is this.

    If you're writing a paragraph that takes place earlier than the past action you're describing (I'm assuming your story is being written in past tense), only use "hads" where they're actually needed to indicate specific time periods. Once you've set the time, simple past will carry the meaning.

    for example, I'd change your sample paragraph to:

    "Morgan's first name, weakened from disuse, had long ago fallen off, and he never bothered to retrieve it. He was simply Morgan. Except for two semesters at a state university, he had lived all his life in Hayden, Illinois. The year was 1999, and Morgan worked as a garbageman for almost a quarter of a century. It was not how he had planned to spend his life. Originally he thought of the job as something to tide him over until the real terms of his future revealed themselves."

    The only reason I eliminated the "hads" was to make the writing smoother. We tend to stumble over them when they're not necessary.

    Look at the paragraph. "He never bothered to retrieve it" works because you set the time period with the first sentence. Same for "Morgan worked" and "he thought of the job."

    Since you used the words "long ago," I'd even eliminate the first "had." As in:

    "Morgan's first name, weakened from disuse, fell off long ago..." The meaning would stay the same and more underbrush cleared.

    Where you use time specifics like "quarter of a century" and "Originally," the pluperfect isn't ever needed.

    Bob K.

  7. #17
    mike fulton
    Guest

    Past Perfect Tense Lives!

    I realize that this thread is quite old, but I need to ask if anyone actually knows what the past perfect tense conveys?

    The present perfect and the past perfect tenses are not a substitute for the simple past tense; in English it conveys the idea that one action was 'perfected'or completed before another action was completed (even if that other action is only implied).

    Example (the most obvious):

    John had already taken his vitamins when his grandmother attempted to ram another dose of Centrum down his throat.

    The thought of granny dumping had occurred to John before the Centrum incident (occurred), but he always dismissed it as cruel, if not impractical.

    The blasting caps had worked effectively in the past; today, however, they failed to ignite when Granny started her car.

    John has worked in many capacities through the years. His present job as a license plate maker for the state will be an impressive entry on his resume.

    The past perfect tense is useful when it is used properly. I don't know what kind of teacher dispenses the advice to edit out past perfect tenses, but I suspect it's the same kind who tells students never to begins a sentence with 'because.'

    John Irving employs the past perfect tense extensively and effectively.

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