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Please do not make this a duplicate, I know there's a couple of questions like this, but they are not quite like my question, and their answers don't answer my question to the fullest, hence me asking my own.

I'm writing a zombie apocalypse genre book (yes, I know it's a heavily used and abused writing genre, but I'm writing it in my way, a way I believe is a good way). Anyway, I caught myself writing "he and/or Will" one too many times in the beginning paragraph. The paragraph solely serves the purpose of making time go by (as the highly contagious zombie virus takes a little time to spread), but also to give the reader a feel of one of the main characters and my writing style. The paragraph is supposed to have a little comedic value through how I write it an through a little vulgar language. Feel free to give feedback on that too. Here it goes.

Day 1
08:00 AM

"Alright, I’ll pick up Jack from school after work, and then we’ll head to the supermarket", Mia said as she grabbed the keys to her car.

"Okay, catch some bad guys then", Will said as he kissed his wife.

"I will, you worry about doing the bare minimum on your day off", Mia said taking Jack’s hand.

"I’ll try. See you later bandit", Will said hugging his son.

"See you later dad", he said grabbing his Spider-Man backpack and heading eagerly out the door.

Mia followed and waved as she headed out the door.

Will stood silently in the middle of his simplistic abode, and nodded to himself. What to do? He asked himself dumb-founded as to what he was going to do with the abundance of time he suddenly had on his hands. It wasn’t often he had a day off, and now he did. Will walked into the kitchen and poured some cheerios into a bowl, and covered it in milk, making them float like water doughnuts. He grabbed a spoon and started slurping the the cereal into him whilst walking around his home. Nothing much was going on outside, he thought as he looked out of his window.

"Wow, I have truly sunk to a new level of purposelessness", he said catching himself in the act of looking out through the window like an old man.

There's more text, but I think the writing is better in that paragraph and utilized less "he/Wills" in it. The paragraph isn't supposed to convey much information, rather just a little text to get you started and get the "action" started. It's super mundane and boring, but I thought it was need. But then again, I do not know, hence me asking you all.

4

Ah, I also had this sort of problem, back when I first started writing. It's only natural, especially if English is not your native language.

Thankfully, it's not so hard to get past this, after realizing what you should be doing. After writing a paragraph, read it to yourself and look out for these little eyesores:

Try to eliminate all the pronouns he/she/it/they-said/saw/did something and so on, as much as you can. It is impossible to write a book without them, but keeping them to a minimum is definitely a plus.

Just look at it this way - Instead of telling the readers what the characters are doing (which gives off the impression that you are just re-telling a story, rather than writing a book), try to show them what is happening through the characters actions/observations/surroundings/thoughts (this is what I believe, makes a story come to life, and entices reader attention)

I'll try to give an example, using your paragraph:

Will stood silently in the middle of his simplistic abode, and nodded to himself. What to do? He asked himself dumb-founded as to what he was going to do with the abundance of time he suddenly had on his hands. It wasn’t often he had a day off, and now he did. Will walked into the kitchen and poured some cheerios into a bowl, and covered it in milk, making them float like water doughnuts. He grabbed a spoon and started slurping the the cereal into him whilst walking around his home. Nothing much was going on outside, he thought as he looked out of his window.

Now, let's try to get rid of some of these annoying buggers:

Silently standing in the middle of the rather simplistic abode, Will nodded to himself, and pondered over what to do next. A day off was a rare occurrence, indeed. Suddenly dumb-founded as to what he was going to do with the abundance of free time, he opted to go into the kitchen and pour himself a bowl of cheerios. While adding some milk to the mixture, he noticed the cheerios floating. "Heh... almost like water doughnuts." (Italics can be pretty useful for character thoughts) Grabbing a nearby spoon, he started slurping the cereal while taking a stroll around the house, stopping only for a moment to look out from one of the windows "Nothing much going on outside..."

I wouldn't say, my example is necessarily better (somebody here can definitely pull it off even better), but it is definitely cleaner this way.

My final tip to you is: Try to rearrange some of your sentences every once in a while, and you can pull off a damn miracle, mate :)

  • Thank you, you're brilliant, and I think you pulled it off quite well. I liked the twist with instead of describing the cheerios floating up, you simply write his thoughts about it. I'll definitely start leaning towards that kind of writing instead of what I previously used. Though, I saw you said I should avoid using "saw". Is there away to construct my story to not have to be put in those kind of situations, or could I just switch it out with another word. -Like observed, noticed, etc.? – A. Kvåle Mar 24 '18 at 16:12
  • You're welcome. I'm glad you liked my advice. Regarding you're question about "saw" - you don't really have to avoid the examples I gave you at all costs. Like I said, it's impossible to write a good book without using them, at least a little. Using other synonymous words as a substitute like your examples - "observed", "noticed", for the word "saw" is also a good way to avoid too much repetition. In the end, all those words might have the same general meaning, but they are still different words, right? Vary and increase your writing vocabulary for maximum effect. – Cindered Soul Mar 26 '18 at 8:24
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You've got filtering and wordiness plaguing you. "he asked himself" is a filter, generally recommended to be avoided. It puts a 'layer' between me being Will and me being the reader. (You want me to be Will. Don't remind me that I am not.)

A filter is any construction that breaks my sense of being the protagonist. "She listened to the music" <- If we're in her POV we don't need the jarring reminder of 'she listened." Instead say "The music was..."

You also have more words than you may need (in my opinion, as I aim for sparse.)

You (five or six, and a filter):

He asked himself dumb-founded as to what he was going to do with the abundance of time he suddenly had on his hands. It wasn’t often he had a day off, and now he did. Will walked into the kitchen and poured some cheerios into a bowl,

My quick edit (one, and no filter):

Unsure how to spend the abundance of time of a day off, he walked into the kitchen and poured some cheerios into a bowl,

  • I believe my wordiness is a part of my style, one that is alike many others. I think an abundance of adjectives and nouns in a sentence can make someone's language more colorful and/or playful, though it's important to alternate between lengthy sentences and short ones. If all the sentences are lengthy than the reader or at least I get very disorientated, and it isn't as colorful anymore. But, it is a matter of discussion, and I'm not claiming to be 100% correct, or 50% for that matter. @DPT – A. Kvåle Mar 19 '18 at 22:03
  • True, your version has a lot less "he" in it. Also, what does filtering mean. I'm far from an expert so I have no idea what it means :P – A. Kvåle Mar 19 '18 at 22:06
  • @A.Kvåle - your "wordiness" may be a part of your style, does not necessarily mean it is a good style or a successful style. As a reader, I would not be able to finish an entire story written that way. It's juvenile in style and looks like you are looking to meet a word count. Sometimes less really is more – Thomo Mar 20 '18 at 2:50
  • I see what you mean. I gave researched the subject, and found out it's a common ESL mistake. I will aim for a shorter and more simplistic language in the future. But also, I believed my wordiness added some comical effect to the language and story, painting a funnier picture. Was there any truth in that? @Thomo – A. Kvåle Mar 20 '18 at 9:41
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Often you can eliminate "he saw" and "he thought" and "he knew" and "he remembered" by simply stating what he saw, thought, knew, and remembered.

Those words are examples of the filters DPT warned about.

In some cases, removing a filter word requires minor re-sequencing.

For example, from:

Nothing much was going on outside, he thought as he looked out of his window.

To:

He looked out his window. Nothing much was going on outside.

If we're firmly in a character's viewpoint, we know who is thinking, seeing, remembering, and so on. So you don't have to tell us.

If you reduce these filter words, you also reduce the associated uses "he" and "Will."

If you focus for now on reducing only these filter words, you lose very little (if any) of your voice or your character's.

ETA: Chuck Palahniuk wrote a lovely article advising writers to eliminate thought verbs.

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You avoid pronouns by editing them out and restructuring your sentences.

Many of the dialogue tags, "he/she saids," can be completely omitted because they're redundant and unnecessary. Dialogue tags are used to identify who's speaking, but with only two characters involved in a conversation the speakers are already identifiable. The same rule applies to monologue tags like "he thought." If you italicize a character's internal thoughts the typeface already implies that it was a thought.

Your sentence structure is also repetitive and could be restructured to avoid pronouns. The "He did this as he did that" format invites repetition.

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An important thing is to not overcorrect in the other direction with "said bookisms"

lists of verbs that can be used instead of "said", like "exclaimed", "emoted", "sighed", "rumbled", "hissed", "pontificated", "enquired", etc.

Often "said" and pronouns/character names become almost invisible, like punctuation.

You still want to improve your writing always for flow and pacing, but readers still NEED signposts, whether it's a comma, a pronoun, or a proper name, so just be careful not to overcorrect in the other direction.

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