1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    "She did this...she felt that...she said this...she walked..."

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Jul 1, 2012.

    So, I'm 67 pages into my novel, and I am noticing a disturbing pattern in my writing process.

    "She did this"
    "She said that"
    "She felt this and..."

    How do I get away from she did this, she felt that, and...it is driving me nuts and it is dampening my story by making the writing style repetitive. How do I remedy this situation?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Stop telling, start showing. 'She said' is an exception, its hard to get around the 'said' matter, but basically don't pull out a thesaurus to do so, keep it simple unless a specific case comes to mind.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It might be easier to respond if you could provide an example? But some thoughts:

    - You don't need to tie things to the character's senses.

    So instead of
    She heard a bird chirping outside.
    you could use
    A bird was chirping outside.

    Instead of
    Across the room, she saw a large group of teenagers.
    you could use
    A large group of teenagers was across the room.

    - Actions and thoughts can also be untied.

    Instead of:

    She left the office and got into her car. She went to the grocery and bought dinner, a chicken and salad. Then she drove home and climbed the stairs to her apartment. She thought ahead to her evening, imagining how good it would be to relax and watch television. She unlocked the door and walked into the apartment, and stopped in shock. She saw chaos - every possession was jumbled or thrown on the floor, and the couch was slashed. She was furious, and thought that surely this was Joe's work. She said, "I'll kill him."

    you could use

    A forty-minute commute, a stop at the grocery for roast chicken and salad, a long climb up the apartment stairs, and she was finally home. Television, a squishy chair, and a brain on Pause. Heaven beckoned. But her apartment failed to fulfill that promise. The door swung open past shreds of mail scattered on the floor, and revealed a scene of chaos. Every possession was jumbled or thrown on the floor, and the couch was slashed. She put her keys down on the hall table, the movement slow and measured, the hand shaking. Joe. It had to be Joe. "I'll kill him."

    Neither of my examples is great, but hopefully the "untying" is apparent. In the second paragraph I'm finding ways to describe the world and her thoughts in a way that makes it clear that it is her world and her thoughts, but without repetitively emphasizing that fact. The only time I directly tie to her is when she puts the keys down, because that motion is specifically intended to show her emotional reaction.
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Repetitive sentence structure is a pitfall for new writers and you should be glad you are able to detect the mistake.

    The simplest solution to this problem is varying your sentence structure (and length), but avoid passive sentences as much as possible.

    She saw the diamond among the slippery rocks. She looked at it intensely. She found out that it was oddly shaped. She felt the sparkle of the diamond as a ray of sunlight fell on it. She lifted her hands to protect her eyes, but she stepped toward the diamond anyway.

    can be written as....

    Inside the cave, among the moss carpeted boulders, the diamond sat like an ordinary rock. It had no brilliance of the diamond she had imagined; certainly not worth risking her life finding it. At that instant a ray of sunlight fell on it and the sparkle blinded her. Using her hands as shields to protect her eyes she inched forward with butterflies in her stomach.

    I thought giving you an example is the simplest way to explain things.

    The most important thing to remember is that once you have established the viewpoint character, the 'she' in the example, you need not clarify that she is doing/hearing/seeing things in every sentence.

    P.S. I was disturbed by an earthquake which happened while writing this post, and that is probably why Chicken beat me in posting examples. But, as they say, more the merrier :)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Describe outward, not inward.

    For example, instead of:

    She saw a shadowy figure making his ways stealthily among the trees.

    use:

    A shadowy figure slipped stealthily among the trees.

    The first focuses on her perception. But if you have already established that hers is the point of view, the second form. focusing on the action itself, is far better.

    As for "editorializing" (she believed, she thought, she knew, etc.), it's usually a sign of excessive telling rather than showing, Character conclusions are typically more effective shown rather than told. See Show and Tell.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Killbill and ChickenFreak are right. The problem is that you're using the same sentence structure over and over. Have a read of some of your favourite novels and short stories, and see how they do it. Variety will break up the monotony, and add some spice to the prose, as will finding ways other than straightforward telling to explain what's happening.
     
  7. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Thank you SO much for these examples. I'm going to go through my story again and cross out "she felt" and "she heard" and "she sensed"...that will knock my problem down in half.

    I have a major problem with passive voice. Definitely something I need to work on. Thank you for the example.

    Thank you for the link!
     
  8. DomTheDoxx
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    DomTheDoxx Member

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    Wow, this was great! I immediately went back to a chapter i was very unsatisfied with and gave it a complete makeover. Now i can continue writing haha
     
  9. Eliot Bauers
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    Eliot Bauers Member

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    _____Over a decade ago, a high-school English teacher told me three ways to vary sentences. (Woo-hoo, I'm showin' my age!) Here's what he said. Change beginning, change length, and change structure. Instead of saying "she-she-she," use other at the start of the sentence. Try, "the girl," "the woman," or "the female soldier" (or whatever the person's role is). As for length, make longer or shorter sentences depending on the situation. Hey, technically speaking, sentences can be any length--even whole pages! I wouldn't recommend pulling that nonsense, though, unless you're writing for a literary rag--which is subsidized by taxpayers and broke college kids anyway, hence full of unreadable crap that nobody outside sight of a university or New York would be seen reading. To make short of long, just go for those three tips.
    _____Hey, try this: Write whole chapters without using the word "she" even once. I wrote whole novels of over 70,000 words without using the word "she" at all. In fact, I'm doing that for my current work. MS-Word says it's 55,932 words right now, and you won't find "she" ANYWHERE. It's a good way to flex your word-choice and gets you to use more variety. Besides, "she" is so freakin' awkward as a pronoun. Saying it makes it sound like somebody's sneezing. So, give that a try, tacked on to what a retired high-school teacher said many moons ago: Change beginning, change length, change structure, and try writing without certain words.
     
  10. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    This is what the professionals say!

    The difference between a pro and a wannabe is the willingness to "re-write"!

    Don't worry about your first draft, it's gonna be crap, and you should expect it to be crap. You're going to re-write at least 5 times until it's magnificent!

    The pros love to joke and say to turn of your monitor while you write so you'll just get the first draft DONE! GET! IT! DONE! That's the biggest step!

    Good luck! ; )
     
  11. BonanzaGirl1
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    BonanzaGirl1 Member

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    Thank you for bringing this up. I too have this problem of she said, or he said, he walked or he made his way. Thank you for showing how to fix this problem.
     

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