1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    "They" is confusing me...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jwatson, Jan 1, 2010.

    Hello all,

    There have been quite a few instances when I'm writing where I have to crack open a book to set me straight on something, and that something is the use of "They" in my third person novel. The gist of it goes like this: my main character, James, is with maybe one or two other characters throughout the book. Now, the novel is written from James's perspective. But say these three characters are walking along a dark path. I feel like it is wrong to write "They walked along the path" since it is written from James's perspective. What I usually end up writing is "James led X and Y along the path" or "James followed X and Y along the path." But when I do this it seems a tad forced. Is it incorrect to use "They" in situations like this? Can I ever get away with it? Sorry if this question is kind of stupid, but it has been annoying me for the longest time and I just want the right answer rather than look through all my books to see how they did it. Most of the authors I've read mix it up, so I'm not sure. Thanks in advance,

    J
     
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  2. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    It seems to me that "they" comes from the narrator's point of view, rather than James's, encompassing what all the characters are doing. Even so, I believe you could still use it to describe characters if they're performing an action together, such as walking together, while still keeping it in James's point of view with the next dialogue or description.
     
  3. thecommabandit
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    thecommabandit Member

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    'They' is a third-person plural pronoun. If your story is written in third person, you would use 'they' for a group of people doing an action.

    If it's written first-person from James' perspective and he is doing the action with them, he would use 'we'.

    If he is not doing the action with them then he would use 'they'.
     
  4. Forgetmenot77
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    Forgetmenot77 Senior Member

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    I feel as if both are right but use with caution..that's the way I would do it but it seems like it can get confusing at times.
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Exactly how I feel Forgetmenot

    Thanks all
     
  6. hoodwinked
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    hoodwinked Member

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    I believe it has to do with how personal you are with the character at that time on whether you use they or not... like, how much inside of his head you are... does that make sense?
     
  7. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    In other words it depends on the POV? Yeah, I understand that, I'm just not sure if I'm breaking some kind of POV rule for third person...
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are writing from third person, the dilemna you are encountering does not exist. James is "he", James with others is "they", period. James may be the focus, but he is not the narrator.

    With third person limited, your POV character is close enough to James to hear his thoughts, and perceive the world through his eyes and ears, etc. But the POV remains distinct from James. James is never "I" or "me", because tat would transform it into a first person POV.

    It may seem a subtle distinction, but it is fundamental to the third person POV.
     
  9. taylor.kuykendall
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    taylor.kuykendall Member

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    I would say write as James would talk... To me it's obvious that the solution here is to use "we" when that action involves James and any amount of characters. Is that not how you would recount your days event to a friend? If it's from his point of view, it should definitely be "we" and not "they". If you are using third person limited, I suppose "they" would be acceptable.
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Okay, thanks for clearing it up.
     
  11. hoodwinked
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    hoodwinked Member

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    No... I didn't mean it depended on POV... but how personal you are with the character at that time... like sometimes it feels like you're in their head... hearing their thoughts... other times, it feels like you're simply viewing the scene...maybe in hi-def... but still just viewing it... not seeing it through a character's eyes and thoughts...

    I don't think I'm making sense. Ignore me... please.
     
  12. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Haha Hoodwinked, I think I understand but I'm not too sure it applies in this situation. Thanks for your input though :D
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cog nailed it...
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would second Cogito's comment. You may be writing from James' perspective but you are writing from the 3d person, correct? You are acting as the narrator in the story and not as James? If you are writing as James and refer to actions such as, "I met them in the park ..." then "they" would be correct only when you (James) referred to your two companions. "We", on the other hand, would be correct if you (James) referred to the threesome.

    If, on the other hand, you are writing as narrator and James is an independant character apart from the narrator, it would always be 3d person, "they".
     

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