1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It'd be nice to have a list of options that replace "I did" and "Doing ..."

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GingerCoffee, Jul 13, 2013.

    I'm trying to add to my repertoire of phrases/types of sentences that replace "I did ..." and "Doing that ...". You can only use 'I' and 'ing' so much.

    Take the simple scene, I went back in the kitchen, put the plug in the drain and filled the sink.

    Entering the kitchen
    Plugging the drain
    Filling the basin

    No matter how I write it, the 'Is' or the 'ings' sound repetitive in the larger scene.

    So I'm not looking for help with this particular scene, rather, I was looking to create a thread with dozens of examples (hopefully) of ways people say "I did X" in a narrative but without using 'I' or 'ing'.

    I'm hoping that I can use different examples to generate ideas that work in my narrative.

    Thanks for sharing. :)
     
  2. Erasmus B. Dragon
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    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

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    I know what you mean about too many I's and ings, and the problem is proving to be a sticky one. It didn't bother me before, but someone pointed out to me in a critique that too many I's can be distracting, and ever since then they've been jumping out at me like clowns in a house of horrors.

    Here's one example I used:

    Instead of writing, "I waited there for twenty minutes." I wrote, "It only took about twenty minutes for my hunch to pay off."

    and instead of saying, "I found a place where I could hide." I said, "There was a perfect spot, a little nook where the walls of the buildings didn’t quite line up, about halfway down the alley." I just let the rest of the scene imply that I used the spot to hide.

    And:
    instead of "I've been having the same problem." I said, "The problem is proving to be a sticky one."

    Find a way to make something other than the POV character the subject of the sentence. Easier said than done, I know, but worth the effort.

    "The plug didn't quite fit in the drain, but a little effort forced it in enough to allow the basin to fill."
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can avoid the "I went" often times by just going straight to the action. The reader can generally infer that the character went to the location where the action has to take place.

    Instead of saying "I put the drain in kitchen sink" you can also get at that in a more roundabout way.

    For example:

    "The kitchen was dark, but I couldn't do anything about that until morning. The sink plug rattled in the drain, a loose fit that held the cold water back just long enough to do the dishes."

    The reader understands that the character went to the kitchen, put the drain in the sink, turned on the water, and did the dishes. But there is no "I went" or "I did" to be found.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is great, just what I wanted. Keep 'em coming folks, thank you. These are the examples I can grow my skills from and hopefully so can other people.
     
  5. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    And "He said".

    I know I never notice and probably don't actually read those parts but WOW do I notice when I write it a million times.
     
  6. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    There are gobs of "to be" verbs. Unless you live in a trailer park, I think.

    Then all you have is "gots", "be" and nothing at all.

    "The car needs washed." [facepalm] I hear this all the time. Almost as much as people adding "at" to a perfectly good sentence, ruining it in multiple ways. All of which I feel acutely, in my soul. "Where are you at?" I seriously want to slap them.

    "He gots to be goin' to school so he don't be dumb like us be." [gag]
     
  7. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    When we read our brains absorb and accept dialogue tags are just a piece of how it is written. If someone does start to see them as repetitive, then they may have trouble reading in general, because dialogue is going to end up with tags.

    Usually.

    Most people can filter it out.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the problem with 'ing's is that they usually don't make any sense, since when you attach one to another action, both actions must be taking place at exactly the same time, to make sense... and in work i see from less than excellent writers, they don't...

    also, starting a sentence with one of those pesky ing-things most often doesn't read well, in any case...
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. And for me personally, as a reader, this is one of the things that jars me out of a story the most when I come across it. I notice it every time.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've made this same recommendation in a different thread, and I agree wholeheartedly with Steerpike's example here. I often do this to avoid those endless strings of he verbed - she verbed. When I'm writing, I try to think of the scene from a fly's POV, zooming in to different parts of what's happening and how they might seem from angles other than that of the actor. This also helps avoid marionetting the actor through every single twitch and wiggle of movement. Kinda' like dialogue. Dialogue is different from real speech in that it doesn't include all the inanities and fillers and verbal detritus that is present in real speech. I think of action in a scene the same way.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two more options are the "commands to self" and "skip and describe new scene":

    She shook her head and headed for the kitchen. Chop the onions. Melt the butter. Measure the wine. Open the...eew. _What_ happened to the chicken, to make it smell like that? She stared blankly at the package, then dropped it in the sink. Forget this. It's takeout time.

    Forty minutes later, she was planted on the couch, surveying a coffee-table buffet of the best that Golden Dragon had to offer. Much better.


    (Edited to eliminate the italics, after Mammamaia's question.)
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're not suggesting all that should be in italics, are you, cf? :eek:
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    No! In fact the very idea tempts me to go to the over-dramatic "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

    I used italics to distinguish my sample writing from the rest of my post. I usually color it blue. I'll do that from now on. :)

    (In fact, I just edited them out. OK, then.)
     

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