Creative Writing Tutorials

The narrative tense or narrative time determines the grammatical tense of the story; whether in the past, present, or future.

Related Articles: Point of View, Voice

Which tense to choose?[]

Compared to novels, it's more common for short stories to be written in present tense.

Future tense should rarely be used, maybe being saved for just a few paragraphs here or there.


Ultimately, you should choose whatever comes naturally to you, and try to be consistent. Experiment, combining different tenses with different points of view and voices.


Past tense[]

The most common in literature and story-telling; the events of the plot occurred sometime before the current moment or the time at which the narrative was constructed or expressed to an audience.


  • John sat at the table.
  • I wondered where Catherine was.
  • They were going home.
  • They had found their way and were ready to celebrate.

Present tense[]

The events of the plot occur or are occurring now—at the current moment—in real-time.


  • teachers teach good values
  • I am gonna go home
  • I wonder where Catherine is.
  • They go home.
  • They find their way and are ready to celebrate.

Future tense[]

Extremely rare in literature; the events of the plot will occur soon or eventually; often, these upcoming events are described in a way that makes it seem like the narrators uncannily know (or believe they know) the future. Some future-tense stories have a prophetic feel. wring service


  • John will sit at the table.
  • I will wonder where Catherine is (will go?).
  • They will be going home.
  • They will find their way and will be ready to celebrate.