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Suggestions for Pronoun Repitition?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Rivyenphx, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. Rivyenphx

    Rivyenphx Acolyte

    I know that this may sound pretty foolish, but I have a bit of a dilemma: in my current project, someone pointed out that I am using "he" "him" "his" often... too much according to them. But what is the remedy for that? I have seen other works (published) that use "I" in almost every sentence which seems almost the same issue. How do I work out my characters' point-of-views and/or actions if I cannot say he, she, etc... Ideas?

    Example from my work: The moonless night, brooding and thick with fog, swallowed Leiana whole as she stood before a grove of pine trees. Fear coursed through her and her hand subconsciously dropped to rest upon her mace’s hilt. She held her breath…waiting and listening. The wind washed over the treetops and prevented her from hearing anything else. Impatient, but unsure of her next step, she looked over her shoulder at the treacherous stone path behind her. If she turned back now, she could be back at the steps of the castle before anyone knew she had gone.

    Also, what do you think about contractions like "don't" "won't" or "hasn't" in dialogues if I am writing medieval fantasy? I feel like I should eliminate them to make my writing feel a bit more authentic (like also using medieval terms of measurements versus using current terms). But, on the other hand, it sometimes feels like my dialogue is a bit stiff from doing this.

    Anyway, any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Obviously, I am a new writer and trying to find my voice and style and could really use some help!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. Truepinkas

    Truepinkas Dreamer

    The best advice I can give is find places to reword things. Instead of saying:
    The wind washed over the treetops and prevented her from hearing anything else.
    You could say:
    The wind washed over the treetops preventing anything else from being heard.

    I don't personally have a problem with lots of pronouns when describing a character's actions.
  3. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    The longer the word, or the rarer the word, the more annoying it is to see it over and over. "He" is short and common, so you can get away with it.

    Whatever you do, do NOT start substituting short descriptions for pronouns. Look up "burly detective syndrome" if you want to see how much this annoys people.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    A couple of ideas, above. I don't think it is a real problem, though. As you said, there are published works where many pronouns are used. The comments could be the result of something else. For example:

    1) The reader is giving too critical of an eye to the work, looking for things to point out as problems instead of reading like a reader; or
    2) The writing didn't engage the reader, and since he/she wasn't pulled into it, things like use of pronouns stood out more than they would if the reader was lost in the writing.

    As for contractions in medieval fantasy, just remember that contractions (at least in spoken English) go back quite a long way in the language. I think you can approach them either way, just be consistent.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Rewrite attempt:
    I generally don't like rewriting another's work & this is a quick attempt so take it with a grain of salt.... Anyway, in those two sentences, which do the same work as the original three, the character's name is used once, "her" is used once, & "she" is used once. If that's what you're looking for, it sometimes helps to elaborate on your description (in this case the description of her actions). Also, think of alternative angles for visualizing the concept you're trying to convey. Instead of "her hand falling to the hilt of her mace" you can use description of where the mace is on her body like "her hand falling to grip the hilt of the mace dangling between hip and thigh".

    My advice here is to stick to modern English. Have your characters talk in a contemporary manner, the way your readers do. Personally, I don't want my readers to have work to do in getting through dialogue. I want the writing transparent so their attention is focused on story & character.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think this post appeared twice. Here's my post from the other thread:

    My tip would be to re-read your text a while after you've finished it and then see how you feel about the amount of pronounce you're using. Waiting a bit gives you distance to the piece and you'll have an easier time noticing things that don't work so well.

    I'll take a stab at trying to eliminate some of the pronounce in the piece you've written.

    If you feel like you have too many pronouns in the same section but can't figure out a way to get rid of one of them, see if you can rewrite the piece in a way that they're not so close together. It's the repetition of words that is the issue - any word, not just pronouns.

    As for writing word together as one I don't personally have a problem with it. I feel it's more important that the text reads and flows smoothly than that it's time-period authentic. Unless you're writing historical fiction they may not be speaking English anyway, and if you ARE writing historical fiction, then they probably wouldn't be speaking in a way anyone alive today would understand easily anyway. ;)
  7. Rivyenphx

    Rivyenphx Acolyte

    Thanks everyone for their input! I can see ways now to improve the work without necessarily finding an actual word to replace "he" or "him".

    And I agree that since my work is NOT a historical piece, I can use contractions as long as I am consistent through the work.

    This has been very helpful and I am glad I posted my questions!
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    But as I noted above, in the context of speaking, contractions go back to the early days of English, so their use wouldn't be out of place even in historical fiction, though as Svrtnsse points out, the language is going to sound quite a bit different than modern English if you were trying to be authentic to it.

    Contractions in speech are not a modern invention.
  9. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    A particular problem along these lines are those passages that are mostly the character doing something, that can lead to three out of every four sentences in half a page starting with either "he" (or "she"), the name, or an alternative that risks Burly Detective Syndrome :)

    --Although for the last problem, I'd say an occasional swapping in of some noun can be safe, if it's used less often than pronoun and name, and it doesn't have an adjective attached. (I was going to say "a gratuitous adjective," but in this context anything's liable to be too bulky.)

    The main cure for the "He- He- He"s in sentence beginnings is to keep mixing in some sentences that have parts of the environment as their subject, even if it's only moving the spotlight as far as "The sword felt light in his hand." Another form of this is tucking the environment in as a subclause before the subject: "Before the dragon could roar, Gawain--" And of course, "the environment" could mean any other character too, although too many sentences starting with names or pronouns (even if they're all different ones) still can add up.

    Of course, keeping a mix of the main character, other characters, and environment in our sentences is basic to good writing anyway. Don't just round up the usual Subjects.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  10. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    I know you're both talking about things like "don't" and "couldn't" and the like...but I miss being able to use contractions like "'tis" or "'twasn't" or "shan't" or even "e'en". I suppose if I ever write a very lyrical speaker I might be able to get away with those in dialogue, but...I miss seeing them in fiction. (I love classic literature, in case that wasn't apparent before.)
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    If I'm not mistaken, the book Dragondoom by Dennis McKiernan (which is a good book) utilizes such dialogue in places. It is supposed to take place at an earlier point in the history of his setting, and he used the more archaic language to reflect that fact.
  12. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    This thread has a doppelganger in Chit Chat. I'm going to delete it.
  13. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    Thank you so much - I never had a concise way to describe this before. And yes, it's intensely irritating.

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