1. Youniquee

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Nov 18, 2010
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    Under your bed.

    Avoiding the overuse of 'I nod', 'I turn' 'I sigh' ect...in first person

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Youniquee, Mar 13, 2013.


    After not writing for almost the whole summer, I've realised I've gotten worse at avoiding the overuse of 'I..[insert verb here]'. Avoiding I see, I felt...is pretty easy but I find avoiding more physical actions harder.

    Any suggestions how to find different ways to reword sentences to avoid the overuse of these?

    I'll probably be getting my hands on my favourite first person book soon to see how they do it, but I thought it was better to have a variety of advice.

    Thanks in advance :)
  2. SwampDog

    SwampDog Senior Member

    Mar 5, 2013
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    Back in Blighty
    Look at what you did in the first sentence:

    No personal pronoun required. :) Much better than how you thought you were wording stuff - I didn't write...

    Keeping rearranging your word order can often help.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    just be VERY careful to not misuse/abuse 'ing' verbs, while doing so... too many new writers link actions together with an 'ing' when the actions can't possibly be happening at the same time...

    re nod/turn/sigh, here are some examples of how to avoid 'i' altogether:

    A nod of my head signalled the executioner to pull the lever.

    Turning my back to her was cruel, but letting her see my tears would have been worse.

    The second sigh let him know my patience was at an end.
  4. supportivemember

    supportivemember Banned

    Feb 22, 2013
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    ("...often, in trying to avoid one side of the ditch one falls headlong into the other..." smiled the goblin thinking the quote came from somewhere, after all most quotes did it seemed, adding "...nah, just write it all wrong at first so that you may then correct it at your leisure later, so don't shackle yourself with self-imposed limitations while writing now, but if this might help you just think when fluid write when dry edit...", not that the goblin ever cared much to fix rules anyway, for it was not that it was ever written perfectly that made it pulling, no, more it was that it was pulling that it was perfect to read then)
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Write outward. Instead of focusing on the observer, focus on what he or she observes.

    For example, instead of saying the character feels cold, write about the cold draft stirring the curtains and the frost on the window panes.

    Instead of saying the character sees an old man shuffling by, write about the old man. The reader is perfectly capable of inferring that if your character is talking about the old man, it's because the character sees him.

    Save the personal senses element for when it is really needed. Feeling the hairs rise on the back of the neck is more effective at conveying uneasiness or fear than describing the odd look from someone that prompted the fear.

    But there's no question about it - this is one of the more difficult aspects of first person writing that cause more experienced writers to recommend that new writers master third person before attempting first person.
  6. thewordsmith

    thewordsmith Contributor Contributor

    Nov 18, 2009
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    State of Confusion
    First of all, ditto Cogito's comments.

    Note, however, that, although there are many instances where the subject of the sentence is implied and not stated, in this instance the "After not writing for almost the whole summer," is a dependant clause. "I've realised I've gotten worse..." is actually the body of the sentence - actually a compound sentence in that "I've realised" qualifies as a complete sentence as does "I've gotten worse". The "after not writing for almost the whole summer" shows nothing happening in more ways than one but most especially, not having a subject nor a verb, is not a sentence in and of itself and, therefore does not adequately illustrate the point you were making. (And, in my best "teacher mode", anyone care to offer examples of sentences where the subject is known and not stated?)

    But, Youniquee, SwampDog is, essentially, correct. It's easier than you might realize to structure sentences, even in first person, without belabouring the subject of the sentence - "I did this", "I thought that". Just as an off the cuff example:
    "My head sagged, eyes closed. That's not right. It's just not right. And if nobody else was going to do anything about it then... Y'know. Sometimes it really sucks being the good guy, the one everybody else turns to for help. But, somebody's gotta do it. Right?"
    Yes. That's a really poor example but, the idea is to show that you can construct sentences without always saying "I - I - I". You don't outright say, "I thought" but the reader reads the lines and understands this is what he is thinking. And, the good news is, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Also, you need to accept that, obviously, you cannot completely eliminate the use of the first person pronouns and, much like the dialog attributions "he said/she said" in 3d POV, if used conscientiously, they can be as unobtrusive as one four-leaf clover in a field of shamrocks.

    I generally write in 3d limited and so, just to stretch myself and my skills, I wrote a story in first person. It was terribly difficult to start. I felt awkward in that POV. But, once I got into it, it was actually fun and I enjoyed it. I was conspicuously aware of the use of first person pronouns and struggled with each sentence construction requiring a personal reference to the MC. In the end I discovered you have to let the story be stronger than the pronouns. If you do that, the words will flow both for you and your readers. The reader will accept the "I nodded"s, etc. So, I guess what to take away from this is, make the story strong you can edit later.

    Good luck.

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