You are here:

General Writing and Grammar Help/Fiction - proper noun useage


I have a handicap when I write fiction. One (of many) problems I have is not knowing when to use he/she him/her and still be pointing to
the correct character. Because I’m afraid I will look stupid I write like this (  ()is what I’m afraid to use through my text):
First off, Bird (he) didn’t know anything about this farmer. Secondly, Bird (he) suspected Skip (he’d) find a woman and get married, buy a dirt farm and have a pack of kids. Bird had a feeling that dirt was in the man’s soul. Bird slept another night in the barn. Bird (he) awoke, as the morning sun broke low in the eastern sky

Hi Michael,

This is a common problem that many new authors have. It certainly comes with practice. It is good that you are paying attention to the inferrence of such nouns in your writing; many new authors simply write "he" and "she" etc without consideration of these facts and their stories are sometimes confusing as a result.

The general rule for this situation is this; if you are talking about the same character as you were a minute ago, you can use the generic noun. If not, use their name.

For example:
Thomas was playing poker with James, Frank, and George. George is an excellent player and Thomas was not sure if he could beat him. (in this case George is the subject of the sentence to it's inferred that "him" refers to George and not Thomas).

Thomas looked to George and handed him 3 new cards. (Thomas did the looking, and George is the subject).

I hope that helps.

Kind Regards,

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Johnathan Clayborn


I can answer a broad range of questions about both academic and creative writing. I can answer questions about APA format, research and references, essay structure and more. I am particularly helpful in the areas of character development, storyline development, etc. and I can provide authors with an array of tools to help them organize their work.


I minored in English for my Bachelor's degree. I have also written several books and I run a small publishing company (before you ask, we're not accepting submissions at this time). I have written both fiction and non-fiction books and I have been published in newspapers and written articles for major internet websites.

Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Kappa Delta Pi, APA

MS, Educational Psychology, BS Psychology (English minor)

©2016 All rights reserved.