1. Revlis
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    Revlis New Member

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    When does necessity become repetitive?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Revlis, Oct 20, 2009.

    I'm really having trouble writing in the first person. I have to write the word "I" in order for the reader to understand that the narrator is talking about himself (I realize that I don't need to tell anyone here that; it's just to make my point.) How do I get around writing the word "I" every three seconds? Here is an excerpt:

    Perhaps it's just a bit of ocd for me when it comes to writing. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    You could always just change the sentence structure around. An example:
    That gives you two 'I's rather than the five that were there in the original sentence, also gives a bit more variety to the structure, not every sentence begins with 'I'.
    Does that help? I don't even know if it's right myself!
    xxx
     
  3. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Maybe taking time out to actively read a few first person novels will prove beneficial, taking into account how a writer uses sensory and experiential aspects to move away from the 'I'.
     
  4. Revlis
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    Revlis New Member

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    Thanks to the both of you. I see what you mean by using the environment instead of I.
     
  5. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I think X hit the nail on head! Vary the position of the I and you will get a lot milage from it.
     
  6. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    While it's worth trying to minimise the I's to an extent, I think they become rather invisible to the reader - like "said", which can appear very frequently too. They're not read like other words, unless you're reading aloud - they're really barely noticed by the reader unless the usage is very extreme.

    Remember this is the narrator's POV, but you don't have to make the narrator do everything. If you're tempted to put "I watched the boy come down the stairs" - just write "The boy came down the stairs" while you're writing in first person - same thing, but a little simpler. Instead of putting "I thought what an idiot he was", just put "Idiot!" - simply expressing the narrator's thoughts without dressing them up.
     
  7. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    i agree with iolair
    It's not a big issue, so don't let it be...

    Anyways...

    As I slipped a stick into my mouth I grabbed for a match. (<--- that should end with aperiod, shouldn't it?) “You seem awfully calm for a woman with a missing husband.” I snapped the match into a flame and lit my cigarette. I shook out the light and tossed it into my ashtray.
     
  8. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I'm always compulsively checking my work to make sure sentences don't consistently start with the same word, whether it be I, the, it, etc. After all necessary details have been added I'll start rearranging the sentences to give the best flow. It's a habit I developed very early on even bother I got a passion for writing.
    Watch how you start your sentences as you write and you'll have a bit less to deal with when editing later.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't be too obsessive about that. Read the story aloud. If it is too repetitive, it will be obvious when you do that, as will other sins.
     
  10. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yeah, don't stress it.

    The narrative during dialogue helps to pace the dialogue and generate mood/form an image. But what you have there is perhaps somewhat overkill, slipping into what I'd call stage direction. The focus here is the conversation, not the smoking, so why throw so many words at the inane? I think you could delete the last sentence--and, incidentally, an "I"--without losing anything, because it's obvious what happens next.

    I glanced at her chest and then over to my cigarette case. As I slipped a stick into my mouth I grabbed for a match. “You seem awfully calm for a woman with a missing husband.” I snapped the match into a flame and lit my cigarette.

    A minor thing, really. But deleting fluff content can clear up a lot of potential problems.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Another thing that helps with first person "I reduction" is to look outward more, rather than inward. Spend less time looking at your character, and more time looking as your character.
     
  12. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Maybe I picked too strong of a word. I just like to catch myself before writing too many "he"s and to keep things flowing nicely as I write.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's actually 3... and the excerpt is overwritten, as well as over-'i'ed... here's just one way you can correct both problems:

    as you can see, not every single physical movement has to be included... and by adding some 'character color' you can tell the readers something about this guy and where the characters are heading... of course this may not gibe with your story, but it should show you how you can do the same thing, instead of boring the reader with a bland litany of trivial actions... hope it helps...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think varying where the "I" appears makes it seem like it appears less often, even if it doesn't. When writing in third person, you don't want to start every sentence with a noun or pronoun either. Bob this, he that, he then, etc.

    You can start sentences with introductory phrases or clauses, like a participle phrase. Just be sure if you start a sentence with an "ing" word that the actions can happen simultaneously.

    A way you could change the first sentence to have it begin with something other than "I" and even remove it.

    A quick glance at her chest and then at my cigarette case, let me know . . . (I can't think of a way to make this work because I don't know the character, but I wanted to give the idea. It can be used other times.)

    Whenever you start a sentence with "as" you can most likely begin it with a participle phrase and remove a noun in the process.

    I glanced at her chest and then over to my cigarette case. Slipping a stick between my lips, I reached for a match. "You seem awfully calm for a woman with a missing husband." After lighting my cig, I shook the match and tossed it into an ashtray.

    Starting a sentence with a prepositional phrase, allows you to change "I" to "my" and combine two sentences without using a conjunction.

    If you really want the image of snapping the match, here are a few more ways to reduce "I."


    After snapping the match into a flame, I lit my cigarette, then shook out the light and tossed the match into my ashtray.

    After snapping the match into a flame and lighting my cigarette, I shook out the light, then tossed the match into my ashtray.

    After snapping the match into a flame, I lit my cigarette, then shook out the light. I tossed the match into my ashtray.

    I snapped the match into a flame, lit my cigarette, shook out the light, and tossed the match into my ashtray.

    It's all about subordination, really, except for the last example.

    As Maia pointed out, you can also have body parts doing things as if they were their own entities; although, this can lead to some bizarre imagery at times.

    I've highlighted what I feel are the bizarre parts in Maia's example.

    Both of those examples in red read oddly to me. The fingers seem like aliens acting of their own will. The match seems to be tossed by some invisible, ditached force.

    I like the use of using the tag to remove an "I". "Blah blah," I said, lightning a smoke. That's always good to use, I think.

    So perhaps a mix?


    My eyes admired her chest, then wandered over to my cigarette case. Slipping a stick into my mouth, I grabbed for a match. "You seem awfully calm for a woman with a missing husband," I said, snapping the match into flame and lighting the cig. With a whip of my wrist, the match went out, then into the ashtray.

    I really liked Maia's last sentence: More than a cigarette was on its way to a bitter end. It really adds character.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see anything bizarre or odd about those parts, arch... i was giving the piece a 'noir' feel and such imagery is common there, but also acceptable and effective in other styles/genres... but it's a matter of opinion, of course, and you're certainly entitled to yours...

    hugs, m
     

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