I just started a book by a prolific author whom I admire greatly (as a person) and before the first chapter is finished I realised it’s going to be a DNF (Did Not Finish).
The plot might be engaging, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten far enough in. What’s putting me off is the *over-the-top descriptive flowery language and the …ing verbs in past tense. This is a massive pet peeve of mine, and recently I’ve become stunned how many writers use …ing verbs in past tense writing.
For those who are unsure, this is an example of …ing verb usage in past tense writing;
Sally sat on the horse, tugging her blonde hair, and watched Jim.
The …ing verb is tugging.
Why does it irritate me? Because it rips me (the reader) from past tense (Sally SAT on the horse), into present tense (TUGGING her blonde hair), then dumps me back in past (and WATCHED Jim).
Now the thing is, …ing verbs in past tense are not wrong… technically. Writers can use them. But they really shouldn’t! It’s a juxtaposition that jogs the reader from a comfortable flow and reminds them they are reading, not living, the story.
They are also not necessary. There are plenty of ways the writer can get around using …ing verbs in a past tense narrative. Take the example above. I could say;
Sally sat on the horse and watched Jim. She sighed and tugged her blonde hair.
Sally sat on the horse and tugged her blonde hair. She only had eyes for Jim.
All it takes is a bit of reworking and I’ve kept the tense firmly in the past. I’ve also conveyed a little more about the emotion of the scene with a few choice words.
Here’s a great article on …ing verbs that looks into their good, bad and ugly sides, and is well worth a read.
Writers everywhere, please be careful when using …ing verbs!
*more on the overuse of descriptive language in another rant 😁