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I am trying to edit a short story, written in the first person. I have used "I" way too many times, it stands out too much at the beginning of a sentence, but I can't seen to change it without losing the meaning/tone of the sentence.

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    Could you show us a few examples? Hopefully we will be able to determine a better way to write them by looking at them. Dec 4, 2015 at 21:39

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A technical term for this is "filtering," meaning you're often reminding the reader what POV (or filter) rather than leveraging the context of the situation to make the filter implied and unwritten.

Instead you want write from "inside the character's head," tight enough that you're inside his body.

Ex of filtering: I found the envelope in the supermarket. I reached past the butternut squash and I grasped it, and I pulled. I noticed the envelope smelled like crayons fresh from the box. I twisted the envelope and whatever was inside was stiff and unbending. (Lots of "I" filtering, explicitly written at the front of many sentences.)

Ex of less filtering: The envelope came from the supermarket, hidden among the butternut squash. After pulling it out and examining it, the smell of crayons fresh from the box teased me to discover more. Cautious twisting indicated the contents as stiff and unbending. (Who's doing the activities is implied.)

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  • Thank you very much, this is really helpful. I'm very impressed. Dec 5, 2015 at 20:08
  • "After pulling it out and examining it, the smell of crayons..." is a dangling participle (the smell of crayons is not doing the pulling and examining), though if the character's speech is careless, this might be fitting. It's good to be aware of the issue, though. May 25, 2022 at 0:53
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Lance's example is excellent. It may also help to vary sentence structure (you may already be doing this). I'll give an example that retains the "I" but improves variation.

From I ran from the minotaur, and he chased me down the darkened, stone hallway. I grasped for my sword only to remember I had dropped it running from the goblins the day before. If only I had saved my flying potion, I could get out of this dungeon alive!

To The minotaur ran towards me, so I fled down the darkened, stone hallway. Grasping for my sword, I sadly recalled that it was lost during yesterday's flight from the goblins. The flying potion that I had needlessly consumed was what I really needed, but without it, escape seemed impossible.

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  • Thank you very much for this, the two samples are really helpful. I will continue to try to edit my work. Dec 5, 2015 at 20:09
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Consider switching the narrator to someone other than the primary character. Nick tells Gatsby's story. John tells Owen Meany's story. In effect then, your narrator is not who the story is about, but they tell us the story of the main character, providing an interesting point of view.

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  • Thanks very much Ken, I wanted to enter the story into a competition, so didn't have time to do that now, but I will try it when I have more time. Dec 10, 2015 at 12:03

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