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Thank you for your quick response.  I still have one area that I want to make sure I understand.  I do try to steer clear of internal dialogue (italicized text) but your statement about my usage of "Pa" except through Ellie's dialogue still has me a little confused.  In the following example, you will see that I used Pa as a tag leading to his dialogue.  Would I change this to his name (BEN)?  I have peppered my mansucript with tags such as this since I was in Ellie's POV and he is her Pa.  Just making sure I have my facts straight.
I really appreciate your help.

Followup To

Question -
I've been in a critique group and I'm terribly confused about when it is appropriate to use he/she rather than the character's name.  For example:
If you are in the characteer's POV, she of course would refer to her father as Pa, but would you carry that on until the POV changes.  As an example:
Ty reached over and patted Ellie's belly.  "Do you think we'll get ourselves a boy this time, Ben?"
Ellie scowled at Pa.  It better not matter to him.
My second area of conflicting information concerns using he/she when you are following a sentence in which someone else was named.  One editor told me that whenever you mention another character, you must use the name of the person in the next sentence.  Example:

Ellie savored the love between Pa and her daughter.  She smiled when Pa pulled Rosie into his lap and bussed her cheek with a kiss.  Ellie smiled.
Kind of corny paragraph, but you gete the idea.
I'd appreciate your help.


Answer -
Let me clearly state that point of view does not always have to be internal dialogue, and good writers avoid getting directly into the characters’ thoughts too often. When the narrative is not internal dialogue, it should not include nicknames such as "Pa." The sentence in which the word “Pa” is used merely shows the scene, not the character’s thoughts. Only the last sentence reflects Ellie’s thoughts: It better not matter to him.

Next, the first part of the paragraph refers to Ty, his actions and his speech, so I would break into a new paragraph to show the shift to Ellie’s actions and thoughts. I would recast the example above into two paragraphs and change the nickname to a standard noun like this:

Ty reached over and patted Ellie's belly. "Do you think we'll get ourselves a boy this time, Ben?"

Ellie scowled at her father. It better not matter to him.

Pronouns always should refer to the last stated person of appropriate gender, so using the pronoun “he” in those last two sentences would mean that “he” referred to Ben, the last stated male. “Ellie scowled at him. It better not matter to him.” would mean that Ellie scowled at Ben (the last stated male), and it better not matter to Ben (the last stated male).

Regarding the next example, I understand what the editor was trying to say about the names of characters, but perhaps it is clearer simply to remember that each pronoun refers to the last stated person of that gender. In starting a new paragraph, it is better to state the person again, rather than using a pronoun first.

In the example you sent, the pronouns are confusing because two women are in the scene and the second sentence begins with the pronoun “she.” The last stated female was the daughter. If the daughter smiled, the pronoun is correct, but it would confuse many readers who might not understand which female smiled. Also remember not to use nicknames such as “Pa” in narrative that is not internal dialogue, so if the daughter is the one who smiled, the sentence would be correct by recasting it this way:

Ellie savored the love between her father and daughter. Rosie smiled when her grandfather pulled her into his lap and bussed her cheek with a kiss.

Wait! One more issue has arisen. Buss means to kiss, so the last sentence contains a redundancy. It would be correct to recast it this way:

Rosie smiled when her grandfather pulled her into his lap and bussed her cheek.

Now, if Ellie is the one who smiled, the example should be recast this way:

Ellie savored the love between her father and daughter. Ellie smiled when her father pulled Rosie into his lap and bussed her cheek.

Creative writing rarely has absolutes. Ask ten editors and you might get ten opinions. Ask ten writers, and you might get twelve opinions. Writers can try any technique they like.

That said, this editor recommends using names in the attributions, not terms of endearment like Pa, because tags/attributions are narrative, not internal dialogue.  

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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