View Full Version : Using 'It'
May 22nd, 2007, 10:18 AM
I remember a little while back Holbrook had a problem with trying to not describe a character by using 'it' to conceal the identity. I find myself in a similar position and was wondering what people thought of avoiding use of a character's name - is there an easy way around it (:D )?
May 22nd, 2007, 10:47 AM
Yeah, I once had a character shadowing another character and I didn't want to give anything away until the 'reveal'. So there was a lot of "its" and a lot of non-specific identifiers like ". . . the shadow moved closer . . .", etc. It gets old quickly, so I would suggest not trying to conceal a character like this for too long.
May 22nd, 2007, 11:10 AM
Agree that "it" gets old. Recommend establishing a new identity such as "the stalker," "the spy," "the adversary," something that meshes with the character's actions.
May 22nd, 2007, 11:19 AM
It was very hard using it. I used the name The Glimpser, and the name it referred to itself by, used others POV's to tell the reader what a Glimpser was, and why it was considered an "it". I managed it for a third of the book, then the story demanded the character be "outed"
I suggest if you can call it a he or a she do so, but created a nickname other characters refer to it by, this could be its profession, "Old mage, merc, cobbler ;) something about it , crook nose, bad breath, ;) If you want to hide the "sex" then again a nickname would be best, something the reader can latch onto.....
May 22nd, 2007, 01:54 PM
Using "it" as the pronoun denotes an alien intelligence, such as an animal, a non-gender alien, etc. In Holbrook's case, for Oracle -- though I suppose she may have done it in another story -- the person has been rendered into an "it" and no longer is regarded as a human with a gender, nor thinks of itself as a human with a gender, so the use of the word is not to disguise the character's gender but to indicate its mental state and status. The use of the word therefore has a dramatic impact on the narrative.
To disguise gender, size, age and other identifiers of an actual person, you probably don't want to use "it," because that tells the audience that it's dealing with a strange intelligence or creature, not an ordinary human being. If you have a human and are just keeping in doubt who it is, you can use non-specific nouns -- the shadow, the figure, the person, and/or designations such as the watcher, the guardian, the searcher, the dark one, etc. that serve the same purpose as a name.
May 22nd, 2007, 03:14 PM
i've used "the stranger" a few times sometimes it worked and others it missed a little
May 22nd, 2007, 04:16 PM
If you have a human and are just keeping in doubt who it is, you can use non-specific nouns -- the shadow, the figure, the person, and/or designations such as the watcher, the guardian, the searcher, the dark one, etc. that serve the same purpose as a name.
The situation is awkward because the being isn't a known species of my world, hence alien in the truest sense. It comes from the beyond and has entered the world without notice, so none of the characters know what it looks like, what the gender is etc etc In my notes I've placed a name-holder of beach head in there but I was hoping to get away with 'it' or some means of identifying the unidentifiable :D
May 22nd, 2007, 07:49 PM
I agree with the use of general descriptors. It's also a way to get around using the charas' names over and over again without getting your pronouns crossed every which way. I tend to favor having at least two descriptors on hand for significant characters, but that's just my preference.
Along the lines of what Brian was saying, "it" works if you're only using stuff like "the figure" or "the shadow", words that wouldn't be associated with gender. As for it getting old quickly, that's incentive for you not to drag things out too long.
May 23rd, 2007, 03:01 AM
To conceal gender, and sometimes more, it's generally considered OK to use the word they.
May 23rd, 2007, 05:40 AM
The singular "they" is becoming more and more widely accepted as a gender-neutral pronoun. In my more formal writing, I adhere to the old rule of using "he" as the default, but in more casual situations, I've been riding the wave.
Keep in mind, though, that a more traditionally minded editor is likely to complain if you use the singular "they". If you've got the Oxford Guide to English Usage handy, you can put said person in his place (or should I say "their place"? ^_^ ).
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