Allow me to reintroduce you to the word “they.”
It is a useful word. A versatile word. A word that so completely disappears into the background you don’t need to worry about repeating it.
For some reason lots of writers are scared of pronouns. They find all sorts of convoluted ways of avoiding them.
For instance, there might only be two people in the scene, but rather than just saying “They went,” the writers will say:
“Girl and father went.”
We know who’s in the scene. We already know their relationship. You can just say “they.”
Or, in order to avoid saying a character’s name or simply “he,” you’ll see things like this:
“You’re my brother and I love you,” she said.
“Thanks,” her brother said.
We know he’s her brother. You can just say “he.”
Or a character will be referred to very consistently one way, only for the writer to suddenly change it up. For instance:
His mom handed him a ham sandwich.
“Thanks, Mom,” he said.
Mrs. Williams nodded.
Just keep saying “his mom” or “she.” It feels like Mrs. Williams is a totally new character who magically appeared.
Or they’ll just keep saying a character’s name over and over to the point of distraction. Once you say a character’s you should then stick to their pronoun afterward until someone else comes along that could cause confusion.
Pronouns disappear into the background. They’re like the word “the.” Readers don’t notice the repetition.
They absolutely will notice if you find all sorts of convoluted ways of replacing them and changing up the way you refer to characters.
Use pronouns or character names as consistently as possible and don’t worry about repeating them. As long as it’s clear, your reader isn’t going to notice.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Art: The Mirror of Venus by Edward Burne-Jones