1

I am writing a story. In my story, I'm writing the prologue using the present tense, due to wanting the reader to be closer to the protagonist and experience his story in real time. I am also narrating the story from the first person singular point of view.

During the prologue, a character dies. Let's just call him Bob.

Now Bob did some actions before he died.

Should I say (after he dies)

Bob has set up this contraption.

Or

Bob had set up this contraption.

(As he dies/immediately after he dies)

Bob has successfully carried out his mission.

Bob had successfully carried out his mission.

Edit:
To give context, Bob's mission was a suicide mission. As I watch the explosion, do I say: "Bob had successfully carried out his mission" OR "Bob has successfully carried out his mission"?

1

3 Answers 3

1

Draw a timeline for yourself. For each action of Bob's that you describe in your text, put it somewhere in the timeline.

Example of correct tenses:

Bob sets up the machine. He guesses at the settings. He flips the switch and awaits the results anxiously. Success! Bob has accomplished his mission.

(New paragraph) Everyone is shocked and devastated when Bob drops dead of a heart attack. But it is some consolation to know that he accomplished his mission before his untimely death. The group leader organizes a memorial service. At the service, many people speak fondly of Bob. For example, his office mate recalls his first day on the job, when Bob gave him a personalized coffee mug as a welcome gift.

It might be easier to start out writing your prologue in the past tense, and then sort of translate it to the present tense.

2
  • To give context, Bob's mission was a suicide mission. As I watch the explosion, do I say: "Bob had successfully carried out his mission" OR "Bob has successfully carried out his mission"?
    – Tobi Alafin
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:46
  • @TobiAlafin - "Has." I will bold that word in my example, to make it clearer. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 17:24
0

When it comes to choose between the past perfect or the present perfect tense it is all about when the action is placed in the timeline so if you wanted to say that he had accomplished some kind of action before he died, you can say it using the past perfect tense if the main narration develops in the past simple else you can´t use the past perfect to describe an action accomplished between the past and the present, then you use the present perfect tense.

0

Those who believe in the soul or the idea of a person persisting on after death might have no problem with Bob inheriting the present with us. Some might regard this as a mistake. I don't think that there' any problem with it if it's useful. One might say that the mission had succeeded without referring to Bob. Understatement tend to be best for tragedy.

E.g. Mission success. Not a good way to go, but there are worse.

Really the trouble is in shifting out of the past to the present. I would suggest employing section breaks for any shift in temporal perceptive.

You must log in to answer this question.