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I-yi-yi!

The overinsertion of the first person pronoun “I” in a story can be deadly. Take a look at the following:

I walked to the store, but I forgot my wallet at home, so I walked back to my apartment, where I retrieved my wallet and I put it in my pocket.

I-yi-yi!

Readers become sensitized to any repetition of words when they appear too frequently, and in a first-person narrative, the last thing the writer wants is for the reader to become sensitized to the word “I.” The sort of problem shown in the example above can be classified in a number of ways. It’s “padding” in the sense that the writer can rephrase it to get rid of excess words, and tighten her or his prose.

In addition, it’s an example of “what the reader knows” in the sense that the reader expects the action in a first-person narrative is largely going to center on “I.”

Whether we look at lots of uses of “I” as repetitive, or an overuse of words when the reader already intuits the situation, the word is being used when it’s unnecessary. The writer can use this knowledge to cut a few corners.

I went to the store, but soon realized that my wallet was still at home, so I travelled back to my apartment, retrieved it, and put it in my pocket.

See? Three instances of “I” and one instance of “my” down! We avoid the drumbeat repetition of a word, lower the chance of the reader focusing on excessive use, and tighten the prose, making it a gentler read.

Looking for more tips? Here’s what’s up so far. More to come!

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