Names Versus Pronouns



How can you replace tired third-person pronouns with proper names without monotonous repetition? In this essay, Chuck challenges you to develop a whole range of names for each character and object in your fiction.

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Phil Sykora's picture
Phil Sykora from Stow, OH is reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck October 13, 2014 - 6:05am

I agree with Plumage on liking the other articles except for this one.  I mean, I think there's a good lesson here.  That is that characters have multiple ways of referring to people, and if you get your narrator to refer to other people by more and more specific naming, then you reveal what that narrator thinks of the other character (case in point: the narrator's disdain for Big Bob).  But that doesn't make it okay to use everytime.  It certainly doesn't make replacing the pronoun or proper noun with a new name sound better, everytime.  It just sounds silly.

As an exercise, I think it's a good idea.  As a "none-of-this-for-one-month" rule, no.


P.S.  Isn't an archetype just a typical example of something?  An archeype can be a stereotype, or, maybe not, if the culture's depiction of that group is incorrect.  Right?  Am I missing something there?

Michael Wais Jr's picture
Michael Wais Jr from San Diego, CA is reading "The Iliad" December 30, 2012 - 1:52am

I disagree with Plumage. I really liked this article. Just my personal opinion on it.

I could see how in reality shows these archetypes/stereotypes could take on their own forms in how each characteristic stereotype would represent each-other.

I believe the movie that should have been brought up in this essay to really bring across the point would be "Cube". It's a sci-fi thriller movie with every different variation of type-casted character- varying drastically in age, temperament, and personality.

The whole point is that the characters who have nothing in common are mysteriously aboard something that "just might be" a spaceship and fighting for their lives. It opens in medias res and these characters who all are shining opposite stereotypes all have to fend for themselves or kill each other off or just do something to escape the location that they've all mysteriously ended up as hostages in.

I think that movie would portray how stereotypes, mannerisms, and ways of speaking can be used to skirt around repetitive pronouns or proper nouns.

That's what I took away from this essay, and my opinion on what might improve an updated version of it, but don't take my word for it.

Nice essay! Entertaining as all the other Chuck essays on here, imho. :)

Plumage's picture
Plumage September 28, 2012 - 12:43pm

Sorry I liked all the other articles so far but not this one. 

Firstly although I think being aware of pronouns and trying to find alternatives is a good practice, I don't think that in all cases adding varied little names for your characters helps. Even the examples given sound wooden and the Big Moosie titles are more suited to comedy than something more serious.

Secondly I think you need to know the difference between achetypes and stereotypes.Stereotypes refer to groups of people like Asians and Gays who are purported to all be alike by lazy writers.

Archetypes refer more to story roles such as Mentor or Lover. There is a deeper mythic structure, they represent something more fundamental.