If the Pronoun Monster Calls, I’m Not Here

I know I promised to spend some time on romance subgenres, and I will, but today, I have something more pressing on my mind. Pronouns.

Yesterday, I was working with an editor who wanted some changes to a manuscript. After looking over her comments and then reading through my work, I was HORRIFIED. The Pronoun Monster should have clobbered me on Page 1. Total explosion of pronouns: he, she, it, her, his—-all over the page. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many she found in one paragraph. But the number is burned into my brain and I have to tell you—24!

After the inital shock wore off, I tried to figure out why I’d used so many. One simple reason: LAZINESS. In every case of overusage, there was a better, more active, way to write the sentence. Yes, there are instances where pronouns are required, but if you’re using them indiscriminately, i.e. every other word, you’re not paying attention. In long passages, where I was caught up in writing, I made this mistake time and time again. After I saw the passages with a reader’s eye, instead of a writer’s eye, it was easy to spot and correct.

Here are some examples:

Before:
Looking in the mirror, she saw the dark, sooty lines of the mascara she’d applied so carefully this morning trailing all the way down her cheeks. (3 Pronouns)

After:
Dark, sooty lines of mascara, applied so carefully this morning, trailed in rivulets down her cheeks. (1 Pronoun)

Before:
Her red dress hugged the curves of her hips like a second skin and did nothing to hide the generous swell of her breasts. And the shiny black heels she wore made her legs look even longer. (5 Pronouns)

After:
The red dress fit like a second skin, accentuating the delicious curves of her breasts and hips. And the shiny black heels made her legs look even longer. (2 Pronouns)

Before:
The feel of her, so close to him, was electric. He wrapped one arm around her shoulder and let himself enjoy the way she fit so perfectly against his body. Her breath tickled the side of his face and it took every ounce of control he possessed not to wrap both his arms aroung her and pull her as tightly as he could against him. (14 Pronouns) (If the Pronoun Monster sees this sentence, I’m dead meat.)

After:
The tantalizing press of her breasts against his thin cotton shirt sent flickering waves of desire through him. Wrapping one arm around her waist, he tightened the embrace. The two bodies fit together perfectly, as if designed for eash other. Warm breath tickled his cheek, and he fought for control. (7 Pronouns–still not ideal, but much better.)

See what I’m getting at here? Too many pronouns slow down the writing and make the brain feel tired. I encourage you to look over some of your own work and see if this is one bad habit you can fix before it’s too late. (I hear him breathing. . .He’s coming. . .)

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One Response to If the Pronoun Monster Calls, I’m Not Here

  1. Barbara says:

    Fantastic! I had to laugh because it's such a struggle to keep those pesky things at bay!

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