I had a lovely post seventy-five percent done with a sample paragraph and editing demonstration for today’s topic…and then a tornado came through town, knocked my internet access out and my lovely post with it. No joke. And yes, I learned my lesson and am composing posts on my hard drive from here on out. I only mention this to warn you not to learn like I did – compose your blog posts on your hard drive, and copy/paste if you want to avoid losing your hard work. As for today’s post, I’m afraid you get the short version because I don’t have time to recreate the longer one…apologies.
Now, back to those sneaky repetitive pronouns. It’s only recently that I realized they were sneaking up on me – probably because I’ve been working on getting my repetitive word problem under control, so I’m hyper-sensitive to the pronouns as well. But they’re so handy for “telling” a story…and the fact that they slip in so easily is probably a testament to my lazy drafting voice. I don’t think all “telling” is bad, but obviously showing is better where ever possible.
While marking up Tempest, I wanted to crumple page 12 up and toss it while reading through 66 instances of “she” and “her”, collectively. It’s a pretty hot scene though (in my opinion), so it stays, but those pronouns have got to be cut down to a manageable level. Because readers should not be subjected to that.
I have a method of dealing with pronouns that seems to work pretty well and it’s easy to implement. I work one sentence at a time, and read it without the pronouns (just skip right over them). Sometimes I read them aloud. Most of the time, the phrasing only needs a little tweaking in order to banish many of the pronouns altogether. I also try to avoid starting more than one sentence every 3-4 paragraphs with a pronoun, in order to force variety to my sentence structures (a whole different problem, but limiting my pronoun usage helps a lot).
The cool thing about this is how many other problems this fixes. While I’m cutting pronouns, I normally end up fixing any poor phrasing and grammar issues, and the whole sentence structure changes for the better. The whole time, I’m focused on simply banishing those sneaky pronouns – the rest is just a happy side effect.
Are your pronouns sneakily trying to take over your work? How do you keep them from getting out of hand?