1. nomadpenguin
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    nomadpenguin Member

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    Overusing names

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by nomadpenguin, Jul 1, 2012.

    I feel like I overuse names sometime, for example, if I have a character named John, I will say 'John stood impassively', or 'John produced his phone', or 'Drawn by John's flashlight'. However, when i start using pronouns, it becomes murky who is doing what. What can I do to stop using a character's name again and again?
     
  2. lasm
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    lasm Member

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    I think this might be one of those things like "said" which bothers writers but that most readers don't really notice much. In any case, it's more important that the reader knows who "he" is than that you say the name one less time.

    That said, sometimes if a scene is told from a very defined perspective, I will just assume that "he" is, say, John unless it's very clear that "he"'s someone else.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For some of these, I'm not sure you even need pronouns. For example, does more than one person have a flashlight? If not, then you could say, "Drawn by the flashlight..."

    If you have a sample paragraph - even just one written for the purposes of this thread - maybe we could help you figure out how to eliminate the names.
     
  4. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    Sometimes its pretty much close to impossible to eliminate the names and it doesn't really matter. As long as its not like "John went to the pub, then John had a drink and then John went to the toilet and then John went to the loo". If its different paragraphs with big descriptions then its different and its hard to eliminate the names.
     
  5. nomadpenguin
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    nomadpenguin Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, I guess I'm always overly self-conscious about my writing.

    @michaelj lol, John must have had way too much to drink
     
  6. Lady Amalthea
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    Lady Amalthea Member

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    I have read somewhere that it's OK to repeat a name at least three times in the same paragraph. I try to keep that in mind when I'm writing, but I don't obssess over it. As every rule in writing is more of a suggestion, it really depends on the situation. For example, if it's a small paragraph (say, three sentences) repeating the name three times could be too much. However, if it's a bigger paragraph, you might need to use it more. All in all, I don't think it's that big a deal unless you repeat it every single sentence. Let's try it.

    "Mary lives in a house. Mary's house is blue. Mary is an animal lover. Mary owns a cat with a fiery temper. Mary's cat is named Demostenes. Aside from her cat, Mary keeps a snake as a pet. Mary's pet snake's name is Melpominee. Mary's pets get along splendidly. Mary has a lot of fun with her pets." -- too much first name repetition

    "Mary lives in a blue house. She is an animal lover. She owns a cat with a fiery temper named Demostenes. Aside from the cat, Mary also keeps a pet snake named Melpominee. Her pets get along splendidly. Mary has a lot of fun with her pets." -- normal level of first name repetition (3x). And wouldn't you know it, it's a small paragraph, and still doesn't make that big of a difference.

    Ok this is a pretty ridiculous example, but you get the idea.
     
  7. Kaylin
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    Kaylin Member

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    In scenes where there's several characters you could also convey which character it is through the word use and characteristic gestures. If it's an action, something that that character would be expected to do, think, say, etc. The reader will assume that it's him or her.
     
  8. rogue writer
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    rogue writer Member

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    I did this w/ dialogue. I had my characters call the other char. by their names too much. I cut a lot of it and it reads way better now.
     

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