Usage and Grammar
Q. I am editing a novel that is written in the past tense, and a past perfect question has begun to haunt me. When speaking of events that took place in the more remote past, does every verb need to be conjugated in past perfect, or only the first? For example, would one write,
David had invited me to Los Angeles. “It will be fun,” he had said.
David invited me to Los Angeles. “It will be fun,” he said.
A. Such a quick switch isn’t perfectly smooth in this case, but you’ve got the right idea—it becomes annoying to keep reading “had.” Aim for subtlety when you segue into the simple past. Usually it will feel right at some point after a couple of sentences. You might manage it here by the time you get to the third sentence:
David had invited me to Los Angeles. “It will be fun,” he had said. But it wasn’t fun—it was a nightmare of sweltering smog and sleeplessness.