Pluperfect Tense

  • Print

*

Vision 77

 

Pluperfect Tense

By

Connie Cockrell

Copyright © 2014, Connie Cockrell, All Rights Reserved

 

 

I had never heard of the pluperfect tense until I sent my most recent manuscript, First Encounters, in to an editing service for a sample edit. Let me back up. An editing service was recommended to me and I wanted to give them a try. So I sent them the first chapter of my first novella in my new series, The Brown Rain Series.

They sent it back with the expected corrections to punctuation, some suggestions for clumsy sentences, other corrections, and this section on my lack of use of the pluperfect tense. My first reaction was, "Huh?" Here's the original paragraph from the book.

At first she didn't believe it. Malcolm didn't either when she told him about the sightings. "Can't be," he said. "You were just four. The rain killed just about everything it touched when it came. That's why there are so few of us left. How can animals have lived all these years out there in the poison?"

 

The corrections came with this explanation. "Pluperfect tense is required here for correctness, since you are narrating the past tense of Kyra’s thinking back here to her conversation with Malcolm inside the past tense used to tell the main narrative. Past within past = pluperfect tense."

The corrections are as follows:

At first she didn't believe it. Malcolm didn't [hadn't] either when she['d] told him about the sightings. "Can't be," he['d] said. "You were just four. The rain killed just about everything it touched when it came. That's why there are so few of us left. How can animals have lived all these years out there in the poison?"

You can see I had the original paragraph in past tense but the editor correctly pointed out I was trying to write a past tense within a past tense. It's a little confusing but once I started looking for it, it was easy to spot.

Another paragraph shows a further example. My original sentence, a follow on to the above paragraph, reads:

She shrugged. She didn’t' have any answer but she knew there were things out there and that they'd be hungry.

Here are the corrections:

She [had] [merely] shrugged. She didn’t have any answer but she knew there were things out there and that they'd be hungry.

Now I know. When I'm having my character think back in time to previous conversations or thoughts, already in third person past tense, I need to use the pluperfect tense.

The editorial service I used is Silver Jay Media, recommended by Holly Lisle on her How to Think Sideways site. I was pleased enough with the sample edit to send them the whole manuscript. They returned it quickly, with exactly the editing services I had asked for, and for a reasonable rate. I will certainly use their services again.

 

Links Used in this article:

http://silverjaymedia.com/

https://howtothinksideways.com/login/

 

Book Mentioned in this article:

First Encounter, Connie Cockrell, 2nd Wind Press, eISBN 10-1501042769