I'm writing a scene where two people are battling. Both's pronouns are "he/him".

The reader (and the third person limited narrator) only know the name of the MC, but the other's name is unknown. Example paragraph:

He punched Rick in the face. Rick kicked him in the ankle, tripping him.

The next sentence describes the anonymous character using magic to push the MC (Rick) back, but I don't know what pronoun to use, since "he/him" could be confused for either the anonymous character or MC.

I don't want to use metonymy, and dialogue is out of question since the people will never meet other than in this fight, which clearly isn't conversational.

How would I narrate the scene?

  • How does Rick refer to his opponent in thought?
    – Allan
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 13:38
  • @Allan An ambusher which attacks him for seemingly no reason (there is a reason, but Rick does not know about it). Another character knows a lot about the attacker and reveals some new information to Rick, but this is after the attacker is... neutralized and the fight scene is over.
    – DaCool1
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 18:03
  • You answered your question in your comment, instead of he/him you used 'the attacker'...
    – Allan
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


You are right to be concerned about Rick killing Red shirts or Cannon Fodder, especially if it is going to be a common activity.

Give Rick's opponent a name -- Bill. It doesn't matter if Bill dies and we never see him again. If there is not be any real reason that Rick knows this individual's name, the narrator, that sharer of all known information, can always provide that detail as part of the setting up the moment.

Use Rick's opponents job or role -- the thief, the assassin, the guard, or the Walmart Greeter.

Use metonymy to label Rick's opponent -- dagger guy or inconvenient guard guy or the poor sap whose going to die too young|old|stupid. The upside of using metonymy is it gives you a way to develop the Rick character more -- his choice of label can say a lot about the character.

If Rick's opponent is an effectively an NPC, then the risk to Rick is minimal. The worst outcome is he gets a boo-boo. That suggests that spending paragraphs describing the fight scene is counter-indicated if you want to write an exciting and gripping story.

In Robert E Howard books, Conan kills endless non-names, but they die quickly, a sentence or two, and are gone from the page, unless their corpse somehow plays a role in the unfurling story.

If you want to draw out the moment, focus on Rick's internal state -- his need to defeat this Red Shirt fast and silent in order to pick up his Mom from Bingo in time or his rapidly fading strength because of the poisoned taco he ate in the food court. Rick can evaluate his opponent, that keeps the narrative focus on Rick, freeing you to reserve the pronoun usage for the Red Shirt.

  • Thanks for the answer. I chose the second option, but the character is not a "non-name" exactly. The character is referred to in a lot of dialogue and even drives a character to join the good side. How would I get a name for the character?
    – DaCool1
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 1:53

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