29 May 2013

Referencing Pronouns - Got Tips?

This question comes from one of my critique partners who has given me permission to use it in order to prompt other writers to share how they handle this situation. First, I'll share the draft version of the paragraph in question, and then I'll share some tips and a revised paragraph. But first, the question.



In this draft paragraph there is only one character, Charlie. To me using his name in the place of every "he" for each action seems too much.

Charlie opened the door...Charlie put the gun down and then Charlie closed the door. Charlie put his hat on. Charlie walked to the front of the truck...etc. 

I have been using third person the entire book so far. I start with a name and then if there is no other character in the scene yet then I just use "he" or "she". Is that not right?

Draft version:

Charlie pulls up to the cabin and shifts his truck into park.  He sits there looking at the house for a bit.  He draws in a deep breath and looks over to the glove box.  He looks back at the house and then scans around his truck.  He reaches under his jacket and unsnaps his holster.  He places his pistol in the glove box and closes it. He grabs his hat on the seat next to him and opens the door.  The twenty year old hinges groan and send a startling echo throughout the surrounding woods.  Charlie closes the door and puts on his hat.  His hand follows the rim back to front where he pulls it lower. 

There are a few suggestions I had, but I know these aren't the only tips in keeping the number of referencing pronouns to a minimum.

1. Remove the subject pronoun 

He saw the clouds rolling in from the horizon.
The clouds rolled in from the horizon

He smelled the sweet cherry trees in the field
The sweet aroma oozed from the cherry trees in the field


2. Combine two sentences

He reaches under his jacket and unsnaps his holster.  He places his pistol in the glove box and closes it.

He reaches under his jacket, unsnaps his holster, and places his pistol in the glove box.


Revised version: 

Charlie pulls up to the cabin and shifts his truck into park.  The rotted siding of the house shows years of withstanding harsh weather.  He unsnaps his holster and places his pistol in the glove box for safe keeping. After grabbing his hat from the passenger seat, he opens the door.  The twenty year old hinges groan and send a startling echo throughout the surrounding woods.  The car door closes with a clunk and he places the hat on his head; his hand follows the rim back to front where he pulls it lower.

What are some other ways to deal with this issue? I thought I would pose this question to the writing community. Again, this is draft material, so feel free to make suggestions. As always, I appreciate your feedback!

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