1. Pheria
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    Pheria New Member

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    Overuse of names?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pheria, Aug 15, 2015.

    Hello everyone :)

    I've seen the "overuse of pronouns" post. Thus lead me to think of the overuse of names.
    I tend to use the same one or two names a lot in the same paragraph, I feel it's quite hard to always paraphrase the characters, because eventually, I'll use these paraphrases too much, as well.

    For example, here's a short paragraph of my story:

    I know my use of pronouns is heavy, I haven't done any editing yet, but this is to focus on the names. I know 'Shena' appears a lot, and while 'Dianthe' only appears twice, I still feel it's a lot.

    How do you deal with the overuse of names? Do you use any special tricks to not repeat the names over and over again? Or are you just really goot at paraphrasing them? I'm curious, let me know :)
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Clearly, when referring to a third-person character, you only have two choices; their name and their pronouns.

    All you can do is vary their use. Ask questions as you're typing the passage. When did you last refer to them by name? Is it clear to whom you are referring?

    The second question here is quite an important one. If it isn't clear, then you must refer to them by name.

    I'm afraid your passage has several problems in this respect. I'll try to highlight them.

    Not everyone will agree with my thinking here, but it's how I see it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2015
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  3. Pheria
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    Pheria New Member

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    And this is exactly where I am stuck. I keep thinking that I use names too much, but then it even gets unclear to me to whom I am referring. Then I put in the name and it seems to me that I used the name too often.

    But you helped me a lot here, actually. I just want to make sure I got it right.

    The name can't be said too much if it is necessary to refer to a character?

    This is the first time I'm writing something bigger, most of my short stories contained 2-3 people and it was quite easy keeping them apart since they were always the opposite gender, I figured I need a bit of help on this one ^^

    Thank you very much!
     
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  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not quite that simple, and yes, it can be used too much.

    Would you mind very much if I rewrote your passage? I'm not trying to suggest edits, but it might help if I show how I would write it. That's not to suggest for one second that my way is gospel, but it might help if only as a comparison.
     
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  5. Pheria
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    Pheria New Member

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    Okay, seems like I'm stuck.

    I'd be glad if you would, that'd probably help a lot. I'm a learning-by-viewing person :)
     
  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    "This way," Dianthe said.
    Shena followed, noticing now that the woman was barefoot. Several scars covered her legs, some of them old and faded, others far more fresh. A knee-length dress prevented Shena from seeing just how high up these marks went.
    They stepped into the living and Shena observed that the furniture here must have been almost as old as the house itself. Several painting adorned the walls, most of them featuring a fallen angel. Under any other circumstance this might have struck her as odd, but not on this occasion. After all, she knew who'd sent her here.

    Notice, too, the use of paragraphs, which can sometimes help clarify things.

    Just my interpretation, and remember I know nothing about your characters, so if it seems 'off' that may be why.
     
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  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember too, that the narrator also serves as an observer, meaning that it doesn't always have to be the characters who are 'noticing' things. I've done this with the line which starts 'Several paintings adorned the walls...' This technique allows you to take a break from names and pronouns.

    Another way to look at this technique, is to say that it's sometimes better to just state facts about a scene, rather than pointing them out via the character's observations. The reader will still understand that the characters are seeing these things, even if you don't say so in the narrative.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2015
  8. Pheria
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    Pheria New Member

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    Thank you very much for taking the time! Your really helped me!

    I like it a lot, I think I need to touch up my style a little in general (I'm still trying to improve my English, it's fine but for a novel it needs to get better, hah!).

    I feel a bit enlightened.

    It is very frustrating that I haven't thought of this earlier, thank you!

    I'm going to try and focus on these things from now on, I tend to mindlessly type and type and type until I look back at my paragraphs and feel a bit bad about them :D The paragraphs in general are a hard things for me, they always get criticized most, to be honest, but I'm working on it!

    And for the third time, I'm going to thank you, you really helped me a lot!
     
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  9. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're welcome, Pheria. Glad I was of some help :)

    I struggle with paragraphs myself. When I see them in a published novel I kind of take them for granted, but then when I'm writing I often ponder over their use.
     
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  10. Pheria
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    Pheria New Member

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    Right, I take them for granted, as well. Also, paragraphing seems easier than it is. I think they're quite tricky, though. At points I keep notes in between the stories because I'm not sure whether or not to start a new paragraph or keep it that way.
     
  11. musicgirl87
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    Please let me get off-topic a little bit because what OurJud said on the quote above made my brain halt. That quote is appliable even when you have limited POV (first or third)? I was under the impression that if you were doing limited POV all of the writting for the character had to be through his/her eyes.

    I have been reading about the theory of writing fiction for years, I can't believe I'm still confused about basic stuff like this.
     
  12. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I agree entirely with this, musicgirl. If the narrative uses a first-person POV, then the observations can only be through the character's eyes, as the character is also the narrator. Sure, you can still cut down on the pronouns by saying 'Pictures lined the walls of the hallway', instead of 'I noticed a row of pictures lining the hallway.' But either way, both of these are still being observed by the character.

    If this is what you meant, then I agree.
     
  13. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    This is quite a good thread. I sometimes feel like I overuse names as well. It's very comforting to see that others have the same issue.
     
  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I think we notice it far more than our readers. What does jar, as a reader, is when an author thinks they are using a new name too much so they throw in a few epithets instead. Like they start off by saying Julie and then call her "the waitress" and for a moment your brain goes "huh? is there another waitress?" until you realise it's Julie. Once you've established a name I think you have to keep switching between that and he/she.

    Sure, it's good practise to reword tricky passages to remove the need for pronouns and names, like @OurJud did above, but generally readers' brains can cope with a lot of name/he/she without noticing it.
     
  15. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I agree, it's quite annoying when somebody finds some fancy way to describe a person. It sometimes is very unnatural to the point that it distracts one from the story itself.
     

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