Imagine you’re having coffee with a friend (we’ll call her Julie), and she says “Oh my gosh, I have the funniest story to tell you about that guy John I’ve been seeing!”
You smile and sip your pumpkin spice latte, ready to listen.
Then imagine that Julie begins her story like this (read aloud for full effect):
“I knocked on John’s door, and when John opened it, he smiled and gave me a hug. Then John asked me to come in, so I did. John and I sat down on his couch, and then John asked me if I’d like anything to drink. I said sure, so John poured us each a glass of red wine. Then John took my hand and said he had something important to tell me.”
If you were Julie’s friend, by this point you’d probably be wondering less about the story and more about what was wrong with her, because NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT. We already know that her date’s name is John, so after the first reference we expect her to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to him.
Unfortunately, many first-time authors act like Julie, i.e., they don’t use enough pronouns in their writing. Instead they use a character’s name over and over, both in dialogue and narrative, often multiple times in the same paragraph.
Using a character’s name when a pronoun would be better distracting and annoying, and it’s not good writing. Readers are smart, so respect them!
Palo Alto native Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.