1. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    How often should you repeat a character's name?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mashers, Jul 2, 2016.

    I'm working in a passage where one character is carrying out a lot of actions alone. There is therefore lots of description of what he is doing, and no dialogue. I'm finding that I'm using 'he' quite a bit, and then arbitrarily using the character's name in case 'he' gets boring.

    Is there a guideline for when I should repeat the name in amongst the strings of 'he'?
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I don't think there's any real guideline, but personally I don't use character's names that much unless there's any chance of confusion at who's doing what. It might just be a weird me thing, but when a character's name is repeated for no reason, I feel like I'm being talked down to - like I can't remember who they are, or something.

    If your guy's completely alone, as a reader I wouldn't be thrown by nothing but pronouns (though you do want to keep your sentence structure varied to make sure it's not a lot of "he [verbed]" because that does become noticeable). If he's doing something that does involve other people - just ones who don't have names, like taking out random mooks or something - then you want to use his name as often as you need to to prevent pronoun confusion. Really, as long as it's clear. That's the important thing.
     
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  3. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Thank you @izzybot. That's really helpful advice :)
     
  4. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I will echo izzybot in saying that you definitely don't need to beat the reader over the head with the characters name. Instead, what would work best is to, as izzybot also suggested, vary the sentence structure as best you can. It's something that I think all new writers struggle with at first. I certainly do. It's only in revision that I seem to be able to spot the parts that go "he he he he he he". Also, I don't think you should avoid his name all together. Use a combination of he and the name. I would stick to using the pronoun more than the name, but throw it in there for the sake of avoiding redundant prose.
     
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're writing in close POV, you can avoid a lot of pronouns and proper nouns by watching out for unnecessary filtering.

    You can also sort your sentences around so they don't all start with "he" - a "he" blending in part way through a sentence is a lot less noticeable than if every sentence starts with one.

    You could write:

    He stepped cautiously into the room, running his fingers over the wall, searching for the light switch. He couldn't find it. He needed light. He was already terrified about what was to come, and there was simply no way he could face it in the dark. He flattened his hand and ran his entire palm along the rough stone, searching desperately.​

    or

    He stepped cautiously into the room, running his fingers over the wall, searching for the light switch. It wasn't there. No, that was impossible. His head was already spinning from fear, the adrenaline coursing through him, trying to persuade him to just run, and now there was no damn light? He flattened his hand and ran his entire palm over the rough stone, fighting back desperate tears.​
     
  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as the reader knows who 'he' is, there's no need to repeat the name. And since he's alone, you could get away with using character tags to reinforce reader memory.
     

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