1. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Style Overuse of pronouns

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Burnistine, Aug 13, 2015.

    I'd like your input as to how you've tackled the overuse of pronouns. Below, I've included a paragraph that I've written three (3) different ways, all in an effort to reduce the number of pronouns. But when replacing the pronouns with other descriptions of my character, they come across contrite. Please share with me how you have handled this. If this is not a problem you've tried to overcome, please ignore this post. Thanks everyone.

    Example 1 - As originally written - Approximately 11 "he" pronouns

    Red Satin Ribbons

    Chapter 1.

    Yesterday, bright sunshine gave Glenwood Canyon life, but it lacked the defiance and ferocity Robert craved. Today, the hazy, damp, cold atmosphere encouraged the canyon's nasty attitude. Instead of waters along the riverbank barely covering the tops of his boots, as it had the day before, it swallowed Robert's ankles. Rough, violent currents thrashed and formed white foam, heightening Robert's need to whitewater raft one last time before he headed home to Seattle. But he had to hurry. The sky had settled into motley shades of gray and it darkened with each passing minute. He gazed at the heavens and estimated that in about two hours rain would spoil his plan to enjoy the river if he didn't get moving.

    Up for the challenge, he hurried to the river's edge and looked to his left to make sure no one had launched their raft. His heart pounded and it's then that he realized he was as giddy as a school boy.

    Example 2 - First Revision - Approximately 14 "he" pronouns

    Red Satin Ribbons

    Chapter 1.

    Yesterday, bright sunshine brought Glenwood Canyon to life, but the rushing river still lacked the defiance and ferocity Robert craved. Today, it roared. The hazy, damp, cold atmosphere encouraged the canyon's rage. Violent currents thrashed its banks while majestic sandstoned walls towered over it. Instead of waters along the riverbank barely covering the tops of his shoes as it had the day before, they swallowed Robert's ankles. With tight-clamped jaws, he ground his teeth. He wanted the canyon to manhandle him before he headed home to Seattle. But he had to hurry and get started. The sky had settled into motley shades of gray and it darkened with each passing minute.

    Up for the challenge, he strapped on his helmet then looked to his left to make sure no one had launched their raft. His heart pounded and that's when he realized he was as excited as a schoolboy—a feeling he hadn't experienced since February 14th.


    Example 3 - Second Revision (but still a work-in-progress) - Approximately 6 "he" pronouns

    Red Satin Ribbons

    Chapter 1.

    Yesterday, bright sunshine brought Glenwood Canyon to life, but the river lacked the defiance and ferocity Robert Jaeger craved. Today, it roared. Robert thought the hazy, damp, cool atmospheric conditions encouraged the canyon's rage. Violent currents thrashed its banks and puked white foam on the floor of majestic sandstoned walls towering over it. A hawk soared. The young man followed the bird's movements for a moment then observed rough waters sloshing at his feet. Twenty-four hours ago, water barely covered his shoes. This morning it rose above the ankles. The uptight twenty-eight-year-old wanted the canyon to manhandle every muscle in his body before he headed home to Seattle. Near the end of this excursion, he expected to become a power-rowing machine. For that to happen, Robert had to hurry. The sky had settled into motley shades of gray and darkening by the minute.

    Ready for a challenge, Robert strapped on a helmet then looked left to make sure no one had launched their raft. "This is a magnificent place," he said. His heart pounded; jaw tightened.
     
  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm counting seven in your third revision...cheater ;)
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find it helps if you can hear someone reading it. Just paste it into this: http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/ (use Peter (British English) as he sounds the most natural) and see how it 'sounds'. If the pronouns don't come naturally, you'll hear them.
     
  4. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    For what it's worth, I like the first and second examples the better. The third sounds a bit too forced. As for how I handle pronouns, I typically do something along the lines of what OurJud is suggesting. Reading it aloud really helps bring out any awkward bits or excessive pronoun usage.
     
  5. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Aaah, didn't know there was such a thing as text to speech. What will they come up with next?

    Thanks! You've been a big help. I've rewritten the third version, inserting a few of the "he" back in the text.

    Thanks again.
     
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  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    They used to call it reading out loud. :) As a kid I liked it when my parents used books with visual aids. ;)
     
  7. natasha
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    natasha New Member

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    Hi

    The third example was a little much- it sounded quite forced. I always find when I consciously try to reduce my pronoun usage it starts sounding a little silly. As long as you don't have a long stream of pronouns and are able to tell which character is which it usually flows well if I'm honest. Personally I liked how your first example read.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep; the "other descriptions" strategy never works, IMO.

    I think that many of the pronouns can be eliminated by eliminating the phrases that "tie" his sensations and thoughts to his senses and his mind. We know that they belong to his senses and mind, so we don't need those explicit ties.

    Samples of ties:

    Robert craved.
    heightening Robert's need (Though I replaced this with "inviting him" so we break even on pronouns.)
    He gazed
    estimated
    looked to his left
    he realized

    Other ties that can potentially be eliminated:

    he had to hurry
    his plan
    if he didn't get moving.
    His heart

    The following is a first cut of how I'd do this in my voice:

    Yesterday had been a nice day, a pretty day--a dull day. Today, the damp, cold atmosphere encouraged the canyon's nasty attitude. Yesterday it had been possible to walk the riverbank with nearly dry feet; today the water washing over those same banks swallowed Robert's ankles. Thrashing currents and white foam invited him for one last rafting run before the trip back to Seattle. A quick run--the sky, mottled gray and darkening with each passing minute, promised rain. An hour? Maybe two. Maybe not enough...

    Caution be damned. He splashed to the river's edge, giddy as a schoolboy.
     
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  9. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    ChickenFreak, love the list. I'll go back and eliminate some of those ties. Never thought about that. Thanks.
     
  10. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    Wow, that was fun to play with. "Heather' made me want to burn my WIP. 'Peter' was awesome, but a bit too WH Auden and formal for the type of book I am writing. but you're right, he's the least stilted computer voice on there.
     
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  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, CGV are far from perfect yet, but getting better all the time. I often paste my passages into this if I find myself wondering if the flow and rhythm is right.
     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you're overusing pronouns; the adjectives, though? Perhaps a wee bit.
     
  13. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Thanks for all the input.
     
  14. musicgirl87
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    musicgirl87 Member

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    As a reader, I hardly noticed the pronouns even in your first attempt, they didn't distract me.

    I understand though that you may want to work on restricting them as a writer though, if it's something that worries you, and I certainly learned a little lesson as an inexperienced fiction writer with ChickenFreak's fix.
     

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