As pointed out in two earlier post, deciding how to focus the Point of View, or the place from which the reader “listens in” and/or “watches” will dictate how the story is written. The last decision in what voice to use is the time—past, present, or future—marked by the verb used. However, all of these do not have a place in some languages. Focusing on English usage, here are simplified examples.
In the Past
Past tense is the most common form in story-telling. Events are depicted as occurring sometime before the current moment or the time at which the narrative is constructed or expressed to an audience. (They ran, they saw, they were.)
In the Present
Events are depicted as occurring at the current moment as if in real time. (They run, they see, they are.)
In the Future
Events occur at some time in the future, often as if the narrator has some kind of foreknowledge. Future-tense stories often have a prophetic tone and are very rare in literature. (They will.)
Any discussion of word tense can become complicated with technical aspects, an English teacher or grammarian's delight, putting most of us to sleep. These discussions on Point of View are simply food on a writer's table from which he or she will select to partake.
Seen in its entirety, the Point of View is the most important decision a writer must make before putting down the first word as it dictates how the story is told. Fortunately, this writer works in a temperate climate so that it is possible to sit in a lounger outside and mentally play with various forms, and then going to the trouble of writing some of the opening chapter using various forms of voice, place, and time. Even then, on one occasion, half way through a tale I was not at all happy with the choice, necessitating a major revision.