Pronoun/Antecedent Confusion – Who Dunnit Mysteries

Keep the mysteries in your plot, not your narrative and dialogue tags.

Pronoun/antecedent confusion is a bad boy I’m often guilty of – as my crit partners will tell you.

What in the world is that, you ask? Yeah. I didn’t know what it was called either until a crit partner used the term. All it means is that you are using too many he’s (or she’s) and your reader hasn’t a clue which he is doing what to which other he (or she).

Quickly written blatant example:

Randy took off his coat as he entered the room and saw his brother standing by the fireplace. He glared at him. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see Father, if it’s any of your business.”

He picked up his coat and tossed it at him. “It is and you aren’t welcome. I suggest you leave.”

I think you get the idea.

Use names or descriptions of the characters in place of some of the he’s or reword to get rid of some of the pronouns in your narrative, so you won’t confuse your readers. Sounds easy, huh? But we do it without thinking – we don’t realize how often we don’t use names or descriptions to keep our characters distinct in the minds of our readers.

Short, simple, to the point – and perhaps you even learned a fancy term to impress folks with your writing knowledge.

originally published in The Sword Review 2006-02-16

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