Tension Choosing Tenses

I learned something interesting while writing a flash fiction story yesterday. The story involved an office worker’s connection to her deceased dog. She says, “I miss him. His name is Velvet.” I spent a good amount of time deciding which tense to use. Should it be “was” or “is”?
If someone asks you what the name of your deceased dog is, you probably say his name was Big, or his name was Spotty. This is how I would put it if a hypothetical person asked me that.
Not so with humans. Over the years Bob and I have lost all of our parents in the same month, June, although in varying different years. Thoughts of them are especially in the forefront of our minds, as we reflect on each one’s anniversary day of their passing. When someone asks me about them, I invariably respond: My dad died; his name is Joe. My mom passed on; her name is Helen. Bob’s mom died; her name is Sarah. His dad died; his name is Meyer.
When referring to deceased people, I feel the present tense is the appropriate choice to use for their names. This seems to sound right because my connection to them carries forward into the present despite their having passed away. When I say their names are Joe, Helen, Meyer and Sarah, it reflects how I perceive them–as if they were still actually with me because in a very large sense, they are, surely in my heart and mind. And further, unconsciously I give credence to the notion that they still exist on some plane spiritually even after their deaths.
Not so with pets– though I’ve loved them with a tender heart when they were with me, my life has moved on without them, and thus I refer to them and their names in the past tense.
So my character in the short flash fiction piece presented a problem to me. Tilda is grouchy and sullen and clings to the memory of her dog in a human way because she basically has no one else in her life. Though deceased, he is still with her and the reverie she felt with him as her companion, is brought to life when she connects to a dog who resembles him. Hence it made sense for me to write, “I miss him. His name is Velvet.” I don’t know if readers will pick up on this nuance. But I surely hope that they do.

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