Author Topic: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?  (Read 8883 times)

Offline abbeysroad

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Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« on: August 05, 2010, 10:22:04 PM »
Ever feel like you're in Pronoun Hell?  I can't seem to get rid of them.  The infestation has mulitiplied out of control and I have no clue how to get rid of them all. :'( :'( :'( :'( :'( :'( :'( :rant: :rant: :rant: :rant: :rant: :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :sad2: :sad2: :sad2: :sad2: :sad2: :sad2: :sad2:

SOOO.  Any help would be fab.
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Offline violet

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2010, 11:15:35 PM »
Don't fret!

Can you give us some examples? I'm sure everyone here would be happy to help you.

 :)

Offline Magic_Seeker

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2010, 11:15:57 PM »
:lol:  Give us an example to play with.

Also, try starting the line with a descriptor instead of a character.

She watched as lightning struck only ten yards away.
     -->
Lightning blasted the soil only ten yards beyond her feet, thunder throbbed over her skin.


Is that the sort of thing you have in mind?
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Offline DHE

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2010, 12:56:47 AM »
Magic Seeker has a great tip! 

If you have a sentence starting with your MC experiencing something, it can be stronger to cut to the experience (yes, I realize this sounds like martian-speak, so example!):

I watched the bus pull up. -->  The bus pulled up.

He heard a low growl from behind the fence and froze. --> A low growl from behind the fence froze his step.

I'd always thought Gretchen was far too nice for her own good. --> Gretchen was far too nice for her own good.

So a quick way to change some is to search for heard, saw, felt, thought, smelled, etc., and look for places to just jump right into the experience. 

Good question, though!  I'm interested to hear what people come up with!

Offline abbeysroad

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2010, 05:17:06 AM »
Here's an example from my finished manuscript:

Dave opened his eyes, and blinked several times.  She hoped he wouldn’t pass out, she didn’t feel like dragging him anywhere.  He looked around at first and then walked toward her kitchen, and back out again.  He walked into her living room and library, all the while nodding to himself.  Wondering what that was all about, she couldn’t help but follow him.


Also, I have the same problem while working with dialogue.
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Offline EvaBrick

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 05:50:44 AM »
Dave opened his eyes, and blinked several times.  She hoped he wouldn’t pass out, she didn’t feel like dragging him anywhere.  He looked around at first and then walked toward her kitchen, and back out again.  He walked into her living room and library, all the while nodding to himself.  Wondering what that was all about, she couldn’t help but follow him.

How's this? It takes a few pronouns out and hides some others.

Dave opened his eyes, and blinked several times. She didn’t feel like dragging him anywhere and hoped he wouldn't pass out. He looked around at first and then walked toward the kitchen, and then into her living room and library, nodding to himself all the while. FEMALE CHARACTER'S NAME bit her lip and followed.

Offline Tabris

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2010, 07:48:44 AM »
I avoided looking at Eva's rewrite. If/when we agree, you know we rock. ;-)


Dave opened his eyes, and blinked several times.  She hoped he wouldn’t pass out, she didn’t feel like dragging him anywhere. You just gave me flashbacks to my freaking novella. That's a comma splice, two full sentences joined with a comma. You need either a conjunction between them, or replace the , with a ; or else make them two separate sentences. Please, for my sake, don't leave it that way. He looked around at first and then walked toward her kitchen, and back out again.  He walked into her living room and library, all the while nodding to himself.  Wondering what that was all about, she couldn’t help but follow him.


Dave opened his eyes, then blinked several times. Wondering how she'd cope if he passed out again and she needed to drag him somewhere, she touched his shoulder.  Dave pushed to his feet, then walked toward her kitchen, hesitated at the threshold, then turned back around. Nodding to himself all the while, he meandered into her living room and library. Wondering what this was all about, she followed.

I don't think I actually removed all that many pronouns, but I buried them. We notice the pronouns more when they're in prominent positions: first word, last word.  If you shift them around, we tend to not see them.

He bit the sandwich. He hummed. He handed it to her. "Taste this," he told her. -->

Biting the sandwich, he grimaced. After forcing it down, he handed it toward her, saying, "Taste this."

Whatever you do, don't come up with forty-five ways of describing the protagonist. ;-)

"Dave stood to do jumping-jacks. After fifty jumping-jacks, the young blond man began to do push-ups. Later, the well-muscled sailor did sit-ups and ran on the treadmill while a dozen women gazed with longing at the apprentice magician's gorgeous body."

Offline EvaBrick

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 06:16:15 PM »
We do agree, Tabris... except for that passive voice "biting the sandwich" thing. :wink:

Blow that sucker off the page. :draw:

Spraking of hiding pronouns, I saw a home makeover show once where the decorator had tucked a little glass reindeer (it was Christmas) on an out-of-the-way windowsill. The show's host said, "But you've hidden it - no one will see it now!" And the decorator said, "You're meant to discover it when you look out the window to see your guests coming for your Christmas party."

That's what pronouns should be like. The focus is on the party and the guests - the pronouns are there too, but they're tucked away on the windowsill.

Offline DHE

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 09:26:47 PM »
Just be careful you don't get carried away with burying pronouns.  You might end up creating a much bigger problem if you end up with a bunch of awkward sentences trying to get around it. 

Your sample sounds a bit staccato because a) the sentence structures are similar (He did this.  She did this.  He did that.) and b) they're the same length.  So, one way to kill two birds with one stone might be doing some combining of sentences OR to combine steps within the sentences to a single action (instead of, for instance, walking toward the kitchen and then back out, you could say he stuck his head in the kitchen and then when you move on, we understand his head's not still in the kitchen.). 

Sometimes you can cut out a lot of "he did this and then that. Then he did this..." type of stuff by cutting out intermediate steps of actions and trusting your readers to follow.  For instance, instead of saying she followed him, if in the next paragraph you started with, "What are you doing?" I asked from the library door., your reader will probably understand she didn't just beam over there.  We understand she followed.  Here, you seem to have more of a wandering thing going on, so I didn't change that, but I know it's a trap of mine to not always trust my reader to follow me without bringing them through every step.  I've been working on that one.   

Another thing that might help, depending on how you've written your book, is to intersperse the narrator's thoughts into the action. 

For an example of both:

Dave opened his eyes and blinked several times.  Oh jeez, he wasn't going to pass out, was he?  She didn’t feel like dragging him anywhere.  He looked around at first and then walked toward her kitchen, and back out again, then wandered into her living room and library, all the while nodding to himself.  What on earth? she thought, trailing after him.

Offline Jim W

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2010, 05:19:49 PM »
I've found I notice pronouns most when I'm not varying sentence structure enough.  Like a lot of writing problems, sometimes what we find is a symptom, not the disease.  It's not the pronoun that's the problem.  Pronouns are like prepositions and conjunctions.  They were there, they're there now, and they're always going to be there.  You can't eradicate them, and they're aren't intrinsically evil.  Readers only notice them when they're handled clumsily.  They're almost invisible if you change up the way you build your phrases.

But you're doing something like this:

I ran to the door.  I opened it.  I looked outside. I saw the rain.

The first thing you notice is the pronouns.  That's because they've developed a cadence, and it's falling on the pronouns.  What looks at first glance like a pronoun problem is really structural.

Here's a way to check.  Change the sentences, so the above becomes something like this:

I ran to the door and opened it.  Outside, I could see the rain.

One sentence for the price of two, two less pronouns, and identical content.  And it's still snappy, quick and to the point.  (So you keep the pacing up.)  But by varying the sentence structure just enough, the pronouns no longer stick out, the cadence that drew your eye to them is gone.  If the prose sounds like a two-bit rap star, it's lilely structural.

But don't rely on just one or two techniques.  Develop a multitude of them.  Let yourself use the occasional fragment.  Just because your English teacher or literature professor would have circled it with a red pen doesn't mean you can't use it in fiction.


Offline violet

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2010, 06:29:07 PM »
I ran to the door and opened it.  Outside, I could see the rain.

To build on your example, Jim, you can go one better:

I ran to the door and opened it. Outside, the rain slapped against the pavement in a furious cadence.

We get that it's still "I" who is in action. And it's nice to see sentences without a pronoun at all.

Hope this helps!

 :)

Offline Jim W

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Re: Pronoun "H" "E" double hockey stick?
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2010, 07:39:37 PM »
Quote
I ran to the door and opened it. Outside, the rain slapped against the pavement in a furious cadence.

Oh, that's a good one, Violet  :) ... a furious cadence indeed. 
(Although it verges on the purple for me.  Or is it violet?) :naughty:
I will stop punning now.  I promise.

Karma to Violet for putting up with the pun on her name.   :up: