Bridge to Story

Articles Vs. Pronouns

Think of the times you use the words a, an, or the in a story. Think of the times you might mean that or this or theirs or ours or his when you wrote a or the. This is the precision and detail of writing we talk so much about.

Pronouns are not solely to replace proper NAME nouns. Look at the instances of The in these sentences:

I run from the living room and out on the balcony, a volcano of pain ripping open the old scar.

Consider:

I run from the living room and out onto my balcony, a volcano of pain ripping open this old scar.

Subtlety places us in her personal space. And it is not just the scar, it is this old scar. Both changes make the scene more intimate, less distant for the reader.

Example Toggle

Example:

Here’s a ‘Before’ example that we’ll edit in the exercise:

A loud crack on metal breaks the silence. I jump in the seat. A sailor pounds on the soda machine with a fist. The sound echoes heavy like a hammer on an anvil. Again and again. In the dusky room the noise signals more than just the machine’s malfunctions. Skinny Gary and Silent Bob react by standing up and then not moving. Lowry moves towards the girls, Francine and LeeAnn, his head down. Willis shifts in a seat. The quivers his chin makes are the only signal he gives off that shows what the noise is doing to him. But it’s Anthony who goes over to the sailor, gently settling him into a seat on the sofa.

Now our group settles a bit, standing if we sat, or perching if we stood - our nervous motion as constant as waves hitting the shore. As we wait the noise fades, then the rhythm settles, but the unspoken emotions keep washing over us.

But before we get to that one, look here at other examples of how bringing intimacy to some of your lines:

  • Even if I’d had a radio, turning the knob wouldn’t have changed the high voltage between us.

Consider:

  • Even if I’d had a radio, turning the knob wouldn’t have changed this high voltage between us.

Again this small shift brings us to focus on some specific “high voltage” between two characters)

  • The place I called home; it had been a place of pain and only conditional love, but the only home I’d ever known.

 Consider:

  • The place I called home; my place of pain and only conditional love, the only home I’d ever known.

Again, notice the shift of a closer intimacy in this change.

Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle

Lesson Exercise 1:

Take our example paragraph and decide if any of the articles, (the, a & an) are candidates for a switch to a pronoun.

The criteria for the edit is to make a shift to a more intimate, storytelling sentence that will bring the reader closer to the work by using pronouns.

Did you make choices something like this?

A loud crack on metal breaks the silence. I jump in my seat. A sailor pounds on the soda machine, with his fist. The sound echoes heavy like a hammer on an anvil. Again and again. In the dusky room the noise signals more than just the machine’s malfunctions. Skinny Gary and Silent Bob react by standing up and then not moving. Lowry moves towards the girls, Francine and LeeAnn, his head down. Willis shifts in his seat. The quivers his chin makes are the only signal he gives off that shows what this noise is doing to him. But it’s Anthony who goes over to the sailor, gently settling him into his seat on the sofa.

Now our group settles a bit, standing if we sat, or perching if we stood - our nervous motion as constant as waves hitting a shore. As we wait the noise fades, then the rhythm settles, but our unspoken emotions keep washing over us.

How can these simple shifts in single words heighten your own work?

 

This editing method can work both ways. By bringing a reader closer or keeping them at a distance. So, also search your over-use of pronouns where an article can do. But start by looking to your own work for the articles a, an, and the - can edits be made?