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starscape
05-04-2010, 08:23 AM
A while ago, when I was revising the novel, I thought of this "personal pronoun issue".

There are too many male characters, hence too much "he" "his" "they" "their" and so on. Perhaps I'm not skillful yet. But would it be easier for people to understand the story, if I just change it to first person POV?

In that case, there would be "I" "my" and "we" "our" etc. I think it's easier to tell the characters apart.

Do you agree? Look forward to your opinions. Because it would be a huge task to do the 100,000 words again. -.- Thank you. :)

The Lonely One
05-04-2010, 09:36 AM
No need to switch POVs. Ask a trusted reader where it's unclear which character is being mentioned. Replace the vague pronouns with a character's name. Or, use some other distinguishing feature: the boy, the man who felt distinguished in his new hat, the professor, etc.

Darklite
05-04-2010, 11:50 AM
But don’t use ‘the black hair man’ or his ‘blue eyed companion’ because those kind of epithets stick out like a baboon’s butt. Especially once you’ve already established the character(s) in question and given them a name already. Those 'he' and 'his' etc are probably a lot less noticeable than you think. And as long as it’s clears which particular character you’re talking about it shouldn’t be too much of issue using a combination of names and pronouns.

Danthia
05-04-2010, 05:01 PM
If whatever the pronoun is referring to isn't clear, it won't matter if it's I or he. Clarity is the issue.

Trust your instincts. If a pronoun could refer to more than one person, use the name. If the name sounds funny or repetitive, use a pronoun. If neither feels right, rewrite the sentence or paragraph so it's clear and flows well.

And ditto Darklite. Don't go through naming hoops to avoid them. Pronouns are pretty invisible in the text. They usually only jump out when the reader doesn't know who that pronoun is, or there's an excessive amount of them close together.

kaitie
05-04-2010, 05:12 PM
I wouldn't switch to first to solve it. My guess is that if you tried, you'd find yourself with an overload of I. If it bothers you, pay attention to the sentence structure and see if there are ways to vary it. Personally, pronouns tend to stand out to me not so much because they're repetitive, but because they share the same grammar. For instance, "He picked up the coffee. He took a sip. He tasted the bitter flavor that came from being slightly burnt," and so on does get repetitive, whereas you could change it up to read something more like: "He picked up the coffee and took a sip. There was a bitter edge to it, one that came from being left in the percolator too long," or whatever (I clearly don't drink coffee and have no idea what I'm talking about haha).

Does that make sense? Another thing to look for is whether or not you're telling every single action that the characters do. A lot of writers make this mistake (myself included, it's something I constantly edit out). For instance, something like: "He leaned over and reached out. He pulled the plug" could just as easily be said, "He pulled the plug" without needing each of the actions described, because the action itself is going to convey the image necessary. Bad example, but hopefully it makes sense. I've found tons of these things in my last story, and found that you can cut tons of them and still maintain the image.

Hope this helps.

kaitie (who ended her last book with 185k and did about six full rewrites and is working on another major one as we speak, so she says "have at it." ;))

Ehab.Ahmed
05-04-2010, 07:09 PM
But don’t use ‘the black hair man’ or his ‘blue eyed companion’ because those kind of epithets stick out like a baboon’s butt. Especially once you’ve already established the character(s) in question and given them a name already. Those 'he' and 'his' etc are probably a lot less noticeable than you think. And as long as it’s clears which particular character you’re talking about it shouldn’t be too much of issue using a combination of names and pronouns.
I totally agree with this. Make sure you don't fall into this mistake.

backslashbaby
05-04-2010, 09:34 PM
POV should be chosen for far better reasons :) And what they said ^^^ :D

Devil Ledbetter
05-04-2010, 10:34 PM
Another thing to look for is whether or not you're telling every single action that the characters do. A lot of writers make this mistake (myself included, it's something I constantly edit out). For instance, something like: "He leaned over and reached out. He pulled the plug" could just as easily be said, "He pulled the plug" without needing each of the actions described, because the action itself is going to convey the image necessary. Yes. Also, watch for filtering, e.g., "He looked at the door, and he saw that it was open" where you could say "The door stood open." Whatever is in your character's POV, we can assume he saw, he heard, he smelled, he sensed, etc. without being told that he did. The added benefit of removing filters is that it gives the writing more immediacy.

I am not a fan of "the man who" structures used to avoid pronouns. I will even go out on a limb and say "the man who" should be reserved for when the POV character doesn't know the person's name, and even then used sparingly.

job
05-05-2010, 07:03 AM
We assign pronouns. It's just one of those technical things. Just a matter of staying on top of it.


External Clues. This is the brute force approach.

In this case, you assign each pronoun by what 'he' is doing or thinking or saying, or where 'he' is in the room, or what he's seeing.

If George is the one washing the car and Armand is the one sawing wood, then you can stick a soapy brush or a piece of pine into the sentence and you will know which 'he' is meant.

"You're a fool." He wiped his face with a soapy paw. "The tenth Doctor knocks the Tom Baker out of the ballpark."

We know who 'he' is. George.


Or you can use the Default pronoun.

The 'default pronoun' is where the reader comes to assume that any 'he' or 'she', not firmly tacked down to another character, belongs to the POV character.
Being able to use the default pronoun for the POV character lets you account for just a huge number of pronouns.
Establishing this default pronoun is part of creating 'deep POV'.


You create a 'default pronoun' by

-- first, using the 'POV character name' – that is – you give us an 'Evie' or 'Mitch' at the beginning of the scene.

-- Second, you put us in and keep us in, deep character POV. You use internals, internal monologue, character knowledge and opinion, character voice, and you direct and describe action, events and scenery from the POV character's position.

-- Then, third, you use the 'default she' or 'default he' in a way that is unmistakably the POV character. You do this carefully a couple times. You scrupulously avoid ambiguous pronouns.

That should establish your 'default pronoun'. Having once established default pronoun, reasonable care and maintenance will keep it working through the whole scene.

starscape
05-06-2010, 05:34 AM
Wow. that's a lot of advices. I will read them carefully.

Thanks, everyone.:flag:

The Lonely One
05-06-2010, 07:37 AM
I am not a fan of "the man who" structures used to avoid pronouns. I will even go out on a limb and say "the man who" should be reserved for when the POV character doesn't know the person's name, and even then used sparingly.

What about something like:

Freddy and Mr. Stetson walked down the street, the man leading, the boy close behind, and together they disappeared into the sunset.

Cheesy line but just an example.

starscape
05-06-2010, 07:43 AM
I'd use

"Mr. Stetson led Freddy. They walked down the street and disappeared into the sunset."

The Lonely One
05-06-2010, 07:44 AM
Different strokes for different writers, I suppose :)

Darklite
05-06-2010, 11:41 AM
Freddy and Mr. Stetson walked down the street, the man leading, the boy close behind, and together they disappeared into the sunset.



This line wouldn't work if you're in deep third POV though. Which is how I tend to work. Don't know about the OP.

IDGS
05-06-2010, 12:08 PM
Establish what you would consider clear in a situation.

Ex.

Quince ran towards Carey, arms outstretched. He ducked just in time, missing him by inches. If he had stayed upright a moment longer, he could have caught him in a bad chokehold.

Let's play the game, "Who The Hell Is IDGS Talking About!?"

See what I mean?
Make it clear who's doing what so nobody ends up tackling themselves.



For the sake of the children.