1. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    How to Avoid the "I" and "My"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Thornesque, Apr 7, 2013.

    So, I know there's probably not a quick fix to this, and that there's a variety of things I could probably do, but I'm curious, nonetheless, to see if anyone has some advice for me on this...

    My current project is a first-person narrative, and I keep running into the same dilemma - every sentence seems to either start with the word "I" or the word "My," or with some start phrase, then a comma, and then one of the former. For example:

    The sentences themselves aren't bad, and I realize that, in a first person perspective, there's no way to eliminate the "I" and "My" sentences. I'm just beginning to worry that it's too much. So, if any of you have any tips or advice, that'd be wonderful. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The way to avoid it is to write outward, not inward. The story is not about the protagonist, it is the world surrounding the protagonist.

    It's a given that you are seeing the story unfold through the protagonist's eyes. You don't have to keep reminding the reader.
     
  3. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    It took me about a dozen read-overs to get your meaning right (not implying that it was unclear; just my own mental interpretation of it). I guess I get what you're saying now, though. When I think things in my own head it doesn't come out as "I can hear a siren outside." It comes out as "There's a siren outside." Seems kind of obvious once it's been blatantly stated to you. v.v

    At any rate, thank you, thank you.
     
  4. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    ACK! Nevermind...
     
  5. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Instead of saying "I gazed," tell us directly what the character is gazing at. It's a matter of showing, not telling.

    Telling: "Jeremy gazed out a window. He saw a girl with a skirt walk her dog across the street. He sighed."
    Showing: "Jeremy sat next to the window. A girl with a skirt walked her dog across the street and around the corner. Jeremy sighed."
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry Thorne. I've suggested this quite a few times, and I was rushed yesterday when I replied. I believe in being concise, but that went beyond concise to terse.

    Funky has it right. Instead of:
    use
     
  7. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    No worries. I understood the intention of the response and took no ill-meaning from it. Thank you, both, for the advice. It's definitely helped.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to disagree, cog, but funky's example was in 3rd person, not first... so it's not 'right' for the op's 1st person narrative... and doesn't solve the problem...

    for 1st, it could be:

    vs
     
  9. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Thorn's question is really about how to show and not tell within a certain POV, and it doesn't really matter if it's in first or third limited. Now thorn has examples in various POV's, to create a distinction in what we're talking about.

    Both of your examples involve the writer telling emotion rather than showing it.
     
  10. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    XD The given advice was helpful guys. No worries. ^.^'
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Maia - that's why I cast my example in first person. The key point was to remove the observer from the narrative as much as possible, and it is a lesson that is applicable to third person as well.

    I strongly urge anyone who plans to write in first person to first master third person. The skills for third person writing are even more important in first person writing.

    Of course, there will still be times you need the observer's reacttion to the surrounding events, which is why you chose first person for your story. But as long as it is occasional, deliberate use, the first person pronoun usage will no longer weigh down the writing.
     
  12. Kendria Perry
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    Kendria Perry Member

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    There's nothing wrong with using "I" and "me" just as there's nothing wrong with using "said" and "asked".

    Wanting to cut down use of it would lead to awkward sentences like this:

    Then a hand went up in the air and a teacher called on it, the hand and the teacher both being related to the protagonist of our story.
     
  13. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Well, obviously, no one is suggesting that someone completely cut the words "I," "Me," "My," etc. from the writing. However, it doesn't read write when every sentence is "I did this..." or "My ____ was..." I wouldn't even think to try and eliminate them. Just avoid over-using them in my writing.
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is a pretty good piece of advice! Through 3rd person, the writer learns to weed off filters (she saw/noticed/felt), and at least I feel that their absence just makes the text flow better. When one then moves to first person, they are already sensitive to the filters and know other ways to narrate.
     

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