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Hi. How would the use of a present tense would be different from the use of a past tense in the underlined part?

There are hints in the story that he did things differently than (Should there be "had been" here??) done before.
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Hi Anon

You can use "are" to refer a story in a book, for example, because no matter when you read the story, it is always the same. "Are" presents a simple fact.

If you use "were" instead, you might be talking about a story that someone told you yesterday, or you might be thinking specifically about the story at the time you read it, for example.

As to your question about omitting words, what you would actually be omitting is "they had been". ("They" refers to "things".) I wouldn't omit those words.

There are hints in the story that he did things differently than they had been done before.
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Do not use parentheses in dialogues; they are reserved for stage directions.

A: I heard you read a good story yesterday.
B: How did you know? Yes, I did.
A: Do you have anything about the story you would like to discuss with us?
B: There was a character in the story that made me think seriously about myself. The book hasn't devoted many pages to the character but he has a persona that I want to imitate-- a fine character, a role model, I might add.
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Hi. Thank you. Can you tell me if the tense in the verb is correct? These are a made-up dialogue situtation. Also, would you use parentheses to add a remark that is not part of the content and that doesn't necessarily follow grammatical rules?

A: I heard you read a good story book yesterday.

B: How did you know. Yes, I did.

A: Do you have anything about the story you would like to discuss with us?

B: There was a character/person in the story that made me think about myself deeply. The book hasn't devoted many pages on the character but that person had a persona that I wanted to imitate. (A fine character, a role model, I might add.)
 Mister Micawber's reply was promoted to an answer.
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Hi. Thank you so much. I think what often happens is that I tend to put everything that concerns the facts about the story in past tenses, including the characteristics of the characters in the story. I went over the corrective work you did three times but still it is hard to comprehend the solid reason for retaining (using?) the present tenses in the two places you did. Please help.

Your corrective work on my sentence (and sentence in reference):

B: There was a character in the story that made me think seriously about myself. The book hasn't devoted many pages to the character but he has a persona that I want to imitate-- a fine character, a role model, I might add.
The presumption is that the character still has the same persona if I pick up the book and read it NOW, and also that you still want to imitate that character NOW. If those facts are not true, then use the past tense.

To know English well you should know more examples of tense . That will help you to understand the basic. Here you will get some examples of Present perfect continuous Tense Examples .

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For these, well you should know tense very well . That will help you to understand the basic. Here you will get some examples of tense with example .