Recently, two different editors tried to convince me that English has words other than verbs that have tense. Um...no. Who the hell told you that and WHY ARE YOU PRETENDING TO KNOW ENGLISH WELL ENOUGH TO BE AN EDITOR??
Like...don't you need qualifications to be an editor? I guess in the world of indie publishing, the answer to that question is "no."
So here's an English lesson:
The Fallacy of “Present Tense Words”
1. In third person limited, the narrator is invisible, so if an "editor" tries to tell you that "present tense words" indicate the narrator is in a certain time/location, they're wrong.
2. now, tonight, today, tomorrow, yesterday, last night, etc.
These words do not have tense. They are specific time markers. The difference between these words/phrases and the ones you suggest as replacements is not one of tense but of specificity. This morning specifies the morning of the day we are describing, differentiating it from any other morning. “The following day” in past tense narration can either mean “the day we are describing the events of” aka “today” OR “the day after the day we are describing the events of” aka “tomorrow.” Today and tomorrow are precise. “The following day” is only clear from context. It isn’t any more or less “present tense” than today or tomorrow because only verbs have tense. It is considerably less precise, though.
If you replace a specific word with a vague one, you are almost certainly doing the story an injustice.
3. these, those, this, that, here, and there are’t even related to time, so it’s doubly baffling to me how they could possibly be “present/past tense words.”
This and that are singular. This indicates something physically nearby. It may also refer to something symbolically or emotionally “close.” That can refer to something “over there” or to something that is not as symbolically or emotionally “close” as this is. These and those are plurals of this and that (demonstrative pronouns.) This and that are also used to specify particular things--that chair over any other chair, this trip out of all the trips the ship and crew have taken so far.
Here and there are location words, also used to indicate proximity, with here meaning closer and there meaning more distant. Here isn’t a “place where the narrator is” except maybe in first person narration where I can tell you things that happened here over the past five years. (but even in that instance, “here” can mean “in this trailer” or “in the trailer park” or “in the village of Port Bruce” or “Malahide county” and all be accurate without implying I never leave my trailer. “here” is relative.) Which leads us to...
4. Continuous past. Phrases like “this morning” in general hold the implication that although it’s a past event, it happened in the same day we are talking about, “today.” Neither word is “present tense” because, say it with me now, only verbs have tense, but they imply a continuous existence for a past event.
In a story, we pretend with the reader that the story world is as real—and continuous—as the real world. The vineyard existed before Chapter One and continues to exist after the end and we create this illusion of continuous existence using those so-called “present tense words.” We ground the story with specific time markers and location words.
Seriously—pick up a novel from the past five years from one of the Big 5. You will see all manner of “present tense words” in past tense narration. “Present tense words” aren’t a thing.