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  1. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    Distinguishing between two "its"..

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Peutra, Aug 11, 2011.

    In a story I'm writing, it tells of two animals fighting, an eagle and a hawk. I'm referring to these two as "it", for example:

    "The hawk was faster and more agile than the eagle. Its talons locked around the eagle, sending the latter sprawling."

    In the sentence above, I also used "the latter" as a pronoun.. I'm wondering how I can distinguish between the two "its" without:

    a) referring to the subject in question before hand (in the sentence above, I had to refer to the hawk before I could use "its") every time I want to use a pronoun

    b) repetition of pronouns (it won't sound too elegant if I keep using "its" in the entire paragraph, won't it?)

    c) gender-labeling each subject - what if they're genderless? Then what? I don't want to depend on that to use he/she as a pronoun..

    Thanks!:D
     
  2. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    a) Anaphora. It's a fundamental law of grammar that you will have to use in this situation, and others like it.

    b) Just mix it up, pronouns tend to go unnoticed if you throw in the odd noun.

    c) I think you're worrying to much here, when reading the action, I doubt the reader will worry too much about whether it is a he/she. At any rate, you deciede that factor.
     
  3. Radrook
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    Radrook Contributing Member

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    You know, I have never been annoyed by the use of the pronoun "it". The word seems to just flow and merge unobstrusively. However, I can't say the same for the pronoun "she". Here is how it happened.


    I was reading this introduction-to-dinosaurs series children's book. The author was female. Which is OK. The book was about one particular dinosaur once referred to as Brontosaurus and now as Apotasaurus.

    Well, instead of using "it" to refer to it, the author chose to use "she". Now please note that nowhere in the story are we told that the dino was a female. The dino was introduced and described simply as a representative of its kind.

    Yet the word "she" cropped up so many times paragraph after paragraph and page after page that I became distracted by what I began to perceive as an ulterior motive-a woman's liberationist one. Instead of the author coming across as just wanting to help children understand dinos, she came across as wanting to push a certain mentality or having a vindictive agenda against what she perceived as a male-dominated world. I found this extremely distracting. That would not have happened had she chosen to use the neutral "it" instead.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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  5. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    No, I'm not looking for the distinction between "its" and "it's", I'm looking for the distinction between two "it"s in a storyline, when "it" is repetitively used to refer to two different subjects.

    Now, as for the above replies, thanks! Very useful indeed.
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    In your sentences, there's no problem with using "it" in place of "the latter" (though I would change "sending the latter sprawling" to "and sent it sprawling" ... since it would be rather difficult to send it sprawling with its talons locked around it). For example, "The hawk was faster and more agile than the eagle. Its talons locked around the eagle and sent it sprawling." There's no confusion there what the second "it" is referring to because if it was referring to the hawk it would be "itself" in that reference.

    But you could also search for other words and descriptors to replace eagle and hawk. For example, "The hawk was faster and more agile than the eagle. Its talons locked around the winged intruder's thick neck and sent its foe sprawling into the abyss."
     
  7. lemurkat
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    lemurkat Senior Member

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    You get this exact same problem if you have two males fighting. I've always just made sure that I referred to the creature by its name or distinction before it did anything. There's no real way around it. And as long as the passage makes sense and flows well, I've never found a problem with it - so little in fact that I cannot even think I have ever actually noticed it, so I guess it makes perfect sense!

    As for the "she" thing - I've been doing a lot of bird trading cards for another project and I include with them a little information sheet, in which to try and make them sound less formal and fun I refer to the animal as a "he" or "she". Generally speaking, I will choose which one is more interesting, unless due to sexual dimorphism I have already illustrated the male. I try and vary it about 50/50 but ultimately end up with more "hes" because the male of most birds is the more interesting one to draw. In terms of animals in novels, I have a female fossa that is the pet of one of the characters and her name is Kaikitra. Every time I write her into the story I have to keep changing "she" back to "it" because I want to imply that she is an animal compared to the other characters (which are lemurs btw).
     
  8. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    Thanks, Raki - and yeah, I know that when it's clear enough what "it" is referring to, you can use a billion its in the paragraph, but I'm worried that might interfere with the flow. Guess not, though.

    I've been trying to use different word descriptors like what you've said, but some critiques state that it's really annoying when an author uses a lot of different names for one person/thing, you know?

    Yup, personally I find it a lot easier when there's only two distinguishable things being told about (with a "he" and a "she"), but when it gets to the same pronoun... yeah, that gets complicated. And you're totally right - I always tried to include a robotic character in my story, but never really decided if it was a he or she, and ended up doing "it". Turns out that it's really... awkward to write about something talking and moving like a "he" or "she", and referring to it as an "it". That's confusing, but it's correct, for me anyway :cool:
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just be a tad more creative... such as with:

    "The hawk was faster and more agile than the eagle. Its talons locked around the larger bird's right wing, sending it sprawling."

    ...however, 'sprawling' doesn't relate well to such a situation, since any battle between those two raptors would take place in-flight, not on the ground... and one can't really 'sprawl' while in mid-air... plus, if the hawk actually locked its talons 'around' some part of the eagle, they'd both tumble earthward, no longer able to keep flying, while locked together...

    ...sorry to be so nit-picky, but i am a virgo! ;-)
     

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