I'm writing a fantasy story in third person and I'm not that confident if I'm doing it right.

I noticed I'm using the word "he" so often (the character's guy by the way) and I'm afraid that I'm "telling" more than "showing."

Here is a sample from my first chapter:

Cold drops of water falling from the ceiling prevented Ian from falling asleep. Each time his eyes were to droop, a single drop of water would fall on his nape, the shivers pulling him back to reality. And each time this happened, his eyes would always meet with the oil lamp on top of a wooden table a good two meters away, its red-orange and yellow flame casting funny looking shadows all around the dark and damp cellar he was in.

He would’ve done something about it—but with his hands bound to a chair and his mouth gagged with a cloth, he couldn't do anything much.

It might have been hours already since he was brought here; he couldn’t tell exactly. But judging on how soaked his tunic was, it could have been more. The room had no windows; he could've used sunlight to tell the time.

Speaking of time, he had a pocket watch with him. Where could it be? Did he dropped it? Or was it taken?

No windows. No sunlight. No watch. Great. At least the faint, festive-like merriment from the outside passed through the thick walls, making him feel he had some company.

How did I end up in this place again? He squinted at the flame of the oil lamp, as if it would spout some answers. He wanted to scream for his captors to come down and answer his question—and demand for his release; the cloth was doing its job properly.

So, no other choice but to rely on good old memory—even if it was currently a dud.

He closed his eyes and rummaged his memories for any possible clues.

Nothing—still. What came about was a faint yet sharp throbbing pain from the back of his head.

Maybe Ian should stop; he'd been doing the same thing since earlier but always got the same result . . .

The pain made him wince. A concussion? Aside from the memory loss, there was confusion. He also felt he was out for a swim in the ocean . . .

Hope it’s mild. He was urgent to remember everything—and fast. He closed his eyes and focused on sleeping instead, ignoring the water falling water on his nape, the sensation of his shirt sticking to his skin. Maybe if he slept—maybe if he rested his mind—everything would come back.

But his plans of some shut-eye and relaxation got scrapped when the door flew open.

“Damn it,” he cursed through gritted teeth after nearly falling off the chair.

Am I abusing the "he" in this? Is it too filter-y?

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    Hi Julius - one of the reasons to close a question on this site is when people ask for specific critique of their writing. I think you're question is really good, is there any chance you could edit it to give examples of what you mean instead? – Liath Sep 24 '18 at 15:38

Words like "he" and "said" are generally invisible to the reader, they don't suffer from the problem of potential overuse that you need to be aware of for less nakedly functional words.

Technically speaking, you are always "telling" not showing in writing (unless it's illustrated!). So what people generally mean in the written context is to provide plenty of immersive, sensory details, to put the reader in the place of the character. It seems to me that you are already doing this well.

In the bigger picture, don't let your internal editor stop you from writing. Complete the story first, and then go back and nit-pick it. There are techniques and best practices that help you connect more easily or more deeply with your readers, but obsessing about doing it "right" or "wrong" is a trap.

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  • Thank you for the feedback Chris! I was worried because of the so many "he's" in my prose, I might be doing more harm than good :) Once again, thank you and I'll be keeping this up :) – Julius P. Coronel Sep 24 '18 at 16:38

Of course I don't know what the context of the story is. But I feel that I've already got the scene in my head in which he's captured and he's unable to recall how did he get there. Please don't forget that you shouldn't explain your scene to the audience instead, you should take them to the setting. As of now, you are doing a good job. Please continue.


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  • Thank you so much! :) But, am I explaining the setting instead of taking my readers into it? Thanks again :) – Julius P. Coronel Sep 24 '18 at 13:45

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