Monday, July 13, 2015

It, Elves, and Folksy Wisdom

My editor screeched. Well, she screeched on paper.
Peter Leavell

She counted how many times I used the pronoun it in my manuscript. Eight billion uses! So the story read something like—it it it it it it. Serious lack of character arc.

Or more accurately, my work read—It rained on his face. He dropped it, picked it up, and slid it into its scabbard.

I have insider information. Somewhere, in another dimension, elves are employed to help readers. Twenty work in the pronoun department. Once an order is received from our dimension, they work tirelessly connecting the pronoun with the antecedent and send the correct answer back through the portal. But the little guys are so overworked, many times they get mixed up and things go haywire. 

That's what I told my editor.

Really? she replied.

Yep, in fact, one industrious elf wrote a book on pronoun usage filled with folksy wisdom.

Tidbits like—

Pronoun and antecedent must agree, or we don’t get off work at three


So we don’t make a bully out of a nice boy: The boy ate his lunch is not The boy ate their lunch. Or elves don’t get lunch.

Here’s the part on the pronoun it.

It. Eh

The pronoun it is simply too vague. So I searched my last two manuscripts and used it as a signpost. When I saw the pronoun, I took out it and enhanced the story.

For example, a sentence from my manuscript— It was a foggy day —is utilitarian. The sentence does the job, but it doesn’t do much. Fog clouded Abby’s vision. More definite. More immediate. Now only 7.9999 billion more its to demolish.

It points to a noun. Particularly, a noun used in interaction with a character or the world around your character.

So I fixed the first problem sentence from above…

Rain splattered against his face. The sword slipped from his fingers. He reached down, grasped the hilt, and slid the blade into the scabbard.

I like not using it.

One last bit of wisdom from the pronoun elves:

Flatter the nouns.
Scatter the pronouns
Now get back to work.
(Help, I’m trapped in another dimension.)

Peter Leavell is an award winning historical fiction author. He and his family research together, creating magnificent adventures. Catch up with him on his website at, or friend him on Facebook: Peter R. Leavell. 
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