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I'd vs I'd

red61544

I'm reading an author who frequently uses the abbreviation "I'd" to mean "I would". It's a bit confusing because, normally, I would expect it to replace "I had". Although it is a proper contraction for either, does any one have suggestions on how the confusion could be avoided?

Dominions Son
Updated:

@red61544

Per dictionary.com both are valid.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/i-d-

As to it being confusing, the context, specifically the verb tense, should generally make it clear which is meant.

I'd with a future or present tense verb will be I would.

I'd with a past tense verb will be I had.

I'd give you a dollar on Tuesday.

Here give is future/present tense, so I'd has to be I would to make sense.

On the other hand:

I'd given you a dollar on Tuesday.

Since given is past tense, I'd has to be I had.

Switch Blayde

@red61544

It's a bit confusing because, normally, I would expect it to replace "I had".


Interesting. I would never use "I'd" for "I had." I would always spell it out. For me, "I'd" is "I would."

Ernest Bywater

@red61544

does any one have suggestions on how the confusion could be avoided?


Sometimes, but not always, a rewording of the sentence can remove the I'd and still get the message across. However, it's more often seen in dialogue than in narrative, and the context should make it clear.

Dicrostonyx

@red61544

Although it is a proper contraction for either, does any one have suggestions on how the confusion could be avoided?


Per @Ernest Bywater's comment that "I'd" is mostly used in dialogue, I would say that one answer to your question is right there. If the author is using any contractions in the prose, that should be discouraged.

As long as the contractions are in dialogue, that is fine, even if it is a bit confusing, because the point of dialogue is to replicate exactly how the person actually sounds, and some people do have confusing speech patterns. It can be a problem for some readers, but that might be intentional.

Crumbly Writer

@Dicrostonyx

As long as the contractions are in dialogue, that is fine, even if it is a bit confusing, because the point of dialogue is to replicate exactly how the person actually sounds, and some people do have confusing speech patterns. It can be a problem for some readers, but that might be intentional.

In general, a stories narrator determines how 'they' speak. If you have an omniscient narrator (the 'talking voice of God', or a historic perspective, then contractions are dropped and you use a formal tone of voice for the narrative. However, if the story is told by an individual, whether identified or not, then the narrator should have their own voice, the sound of which is determined by whatever history you reflective of him (useful when he's a future version of one of the characters).

richardshagrin

Use a driver's license or a passport for ID.

Ernest Bywater

@Dicrostonyx

If the author is using any contractions in the prose, that should be discouraged.


There are some contractions I try not to use in narrative, but I write in the vernacular and contraction are common in the narrative as well as in the dialogue when writing in the vernacular. Thus I have to disagree with you about the quote above. You're right if the person is using Formal English, then there should be no contractions in the narrative, but that does make a story seem stilted and slow.

Switch Blayde

@Dicrostonyx

If the author is using any contractions in the prose, that should be discouraged.


I used to believe that because I read so often that the narrative is formal English so contractions aren't allowed. And then I read current novels where contractions were used all the time in narrative.

Times have changed. Look at the top selling authors -- King, Patterson.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I used to believe that because I read so often that the narrative is formal English so contractions aren't allowed. And then I read current novels where contractions were used all the time in narrative.

Authors need to consider the narrative as another character. In many cases, you want a dispassionate voice of reason who merely observes, but other times you'll want someone who knows (and feels) for what the characters are undergoing.

Once you've decided who your narrator is, you decide what they should sound like. Anyone who insists that ALL narrators should speak alike is missing the boat.

As far as 'books of old' always showcasing the same narrator, consider their time. That occurred back in the day when America was in love with the 'objective reporter' recounting the daily news--a view now in dispepute now that it's understood they simply reported on the majority White framework of the time. As we've become a more multi-ethnic nation, we no longer favor the role of the fictional dispassionate narrator. Now, for the most part, we want whoever can breathe life into the story, and report the events in the most personal manner (hence the heavy use of 1-st person present tense stories).

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Authors need to consider the narrative as another character.


I don't agree.

Of course in 1st-person, it's a character speaking (e.g., Huck Finn). But in 3rd-person limited, it's an objective narrator. The only reason contractions are acceptable today in that narrative is simply because we, as a whole, have become less formal.

However, the narrative is written from that scene's POV character's perspective so he may see white when it's really black and to some degree his voice is heard.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Authors need to consider the narrative as another character.


I regard the narrator as a sort of character and write the stories as if I'm sitting at a camp-fire or a chair at the club telling someone the story. Even in the third person omni, I'm still a character recounting the events of what I see or worked out. Thus it's appropriate to use language suited to that situation.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't agree.

Ernest, that's exactly what I meant. Even if you have an objective narrator, that's their own character and you need to match the voice to the character. Think Walter Cronkite. If your story is being told by someone with knowledge of the character, then you need to adapt it to fit (ex: are they older now, has their voice changed over the ages?).

My main point, though, is that the voice of the 'universal' impartial narrator has fallen from favor as the role of the 'impartial newscaster' has. Since we no longer believe in impartiality, we've grown uncomfortable with anyone being truly impartial--even in fictional stories (which directly leads to the role of the anti-hero in modern fiction).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

which directly leads to the role of the anti-hero in modern fiction


There is nothing particularly modern about the role of the anti-hero.

The antihero archetype can be traced back at least as far as Homer's Thersites.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antihero

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Getting back on topic, another similar issue is using 's to denote "is" rather than a possessive, as in:

Al's lucky, in that he's never been caught yet."

In this case, the first contraction refers to "Al is" while the second refers to "Al has", neither of which is the standard possessive form a reader might expect.

Just a show of hands, but how many would use these alternate forms and how many would avoid them at all costs?

Dicrostonyx
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Once you've decided who your narrator is, you decide what they should sound like. Anyone who insists that ALL narrators should speak alike is missing the boat.


You also need to consider when the narrator is telling the story. This gets pretty deep into the weeds of critical theory, but in short most novels are told in the past tense. Whether it is explicitly stated or not, this means that the narrator has had time to think about events and to put their thoughts into order. Essentially, the protagonist is writing a memoir of their adventure.

Thus, the narrator, while a character, should also be treated as being an author in their own right. They're not just putting down anything that occurs to them, or describing what they knew in the moment, they are massaging the story to tell a specific interpretation of events. From this point of view, the narrator is a character who is consciously editing what they tell you. So when the narration includes contractions it may appear natural, but it should be interpreted as the narrator having chosen to use that language for some specific purpose.

@Switch Blayde


But in 3rd-person limited, it's an objective narrator.


Not necessarily. Most novels for the past 200 years use a style known as "free indirect discourse". This form of narration is so common that when it's explained in university classes many students have trouble grasping the concept: it sounds like the professor is just describing how fiction works. Basically, the idea is that most 3rd-person narratives are limited omniscient rather than a truly objective outside observer, and that means that the narrator has their own bias.

This writing style was first used in Jane Austin's Emma. In it, the narrator appears to be an outside observer, describing Emma in the third person, but as you read the novel you realise that the narrator is actually Emma's inner voice. By the time that you discover this, however, you've probably already accepted the narrator's descriptions of characters and events, so when things start falling apart the reader is as surprised as the character. It is only on a re-read that you really notice that the first thing the narrator told you was a lie, and that lie coloured your interpretation of everything that followed: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." -- she's actually spoiled, naive, and a poor judge of character.

My point is that since this style of writing is so ubiquitous, many authors, especially amateur and young authors, will use it without even realising that they are doing so. Thus, the narrator has an implied character that is somewhere between the protagonist and the author's own voice, but the author never actually planned out who the narrator is as a character.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer


Just a show of hands, but how many would use these alternate forms and how many would avoid them at all costs?


At one point I used to use contractions with character's names like Al's for Al is, but stopped that and now only us Al's as the possessive, simply because it's not always immediately clear by the context.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Just a show of hands, but how many would use these alternate forms and how many would avoid them at all costs?


1. he's as a contraction of he is or he has is straight up correct. The possessive would be his.

2. I don't think I've ever noticed anyone contracting is or has onto a proper noun like that. I'll have to check some of my own writing to see if I've done it myself. using 's with a proper noun for a contraction rather than possessive would be something I think should probably be avoided, though not necessarily at all costs.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx


the author never actually planned out who the narrator is as a character.


Still, as someone who gets into these types of stories, you can see why I stress treating your narrator as a character, so you're aware of the potential roadblocks and you'll know what sort of 'voice' to use with the narrator. A simple omniscient narrator might not be specific enough, even though that's all the reader thinks it is as they read the story.

Actually, giving credit where it belong, I think it was Stephen King who first came up with that line about treating the Narrator as a character.

Update: I tried researching, but couldn't find a credit for the line, although it goes back to the work of Goethe a few centuries ago.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Ernest, that's exactly what I meant. Even if you have an objective narrator, that's their own character and you need to match the voice to the character.


An omniscient narrator has their own voice. A 1st-person narrator has their own voice. But there is really no 3rd-person limited narrator. The scene unfolds from the POV character's perspective, but not his voice. There is no one telling the story.

Switch Blayde

@Dicrostonyx

This writing style was first used in Jane Austin's Emma


Actually, Jane Austin used to speak directly to the reader as in, "Dear Reader, if only so-and-so only knew that..." Today that would be considered author intrusion.

I was reflecting the current trend in genre fiction.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The scene unfolds from the POV character's perspective, but not his voice. There is no one telling the story.


I think this is where we'll have to disagree, Switch. When you verbally recount a story to someone, even in the third person, you do so in your own voice while you narrate it. The easiest to think of examples I can come up with on the spur of the moment is that old Muppets show where the guy used to sit and tell stories, the then scene would shift to show what he was talking about. Many an old story started with something along the lines of: 'I was sitting beside the fire in the club when Old Weatherby started telling us about what he saw happen in Africa ...' - in this you have two people narrating the story, one about the start and what goes on in the club, and then what Weatherby has to say, and they both have a different voice.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Many an old story started with something along the lines of: 'I was sitting beside the fire in the club when Old Weatherby started telling us about what he saw happen in Africa ...'


Yep, that's a narrator telling the story. It's done in 1st-person and omniscient.

Where there's disagreement is that when it's not one of those, people here think it's the author telling the story. Of course the author is writing the words so from that perspective he's "telling the story," but the author is not a narrator telling the story.

My guess is most people here use a narrator which is not 3rd-person limited.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Yep, that's a narrator telling the story. It's done in 1st-person and omniscient.

Where there's disagreement is that when it's not one of those, people here think it's the author telling the story. Of course the author is writing the words so from that perspective he's "telling the story," but the author is not a narrator telling the story.

My guess is most people here use a narrator which is not 3rd-person limited.

The only difference between 3rd-person limited and omniscient is that, in the first the narrator can only tell you what one person thinks, while in the second he can tell you what anyone thinks. As far as the style used, they're identical, as the only difference is what they know.

But that doesn't change how you approach the story. My point is only that it helps a story if the author treats the narrator as a character so they understand how to write the narration. If you always write in 3rd person omniscient (i.e. God speaking directly to the reader), then go ahead, but I think you're missing the boat. While it's not necessary, you're cutting an entire technique from your story telling repertoire simply out of spite. Especially if modern readers no longer inherently trust an omniscient 3rd person narrator.

Dicrostonyx
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


there is really no 3rd-person limited narrator. The scene unfolds from the POV character's perspective, but not his voice. There is no one telling the story.


This is the difference between the way that a casual reader or writer views narration and the way an academic interprets narration. From a critical point of view there is always a character telling the story. In some cases that character may be God, a spiritual being or disembodied presence, or an allegory for the idea of a non-character, but there is always a voice.

That voice may also change, such as in novel with multiple point of view characters. In some cases this means multiple narrators, in other a single but mutable narrator.

Likewise, there is always a time-frame for when the story is being told. This brings up one of the big logical flaws in how stories are told. Most stories are told in the past tense. Aside from meaning that there is an absence of threat -- characters may die but the narrator must survive since they are telling the story -- it also means that logically all stories are flawed, because no one's memory is perfect. Now obviously you can take this line of thinking too far, but a writer, or a critical reader, should keep the issues in mind when looking at what the narrator is actually saying and how they say it.

Just as the plot and the story are different, so too should you be mindful of the fact that what the narrator says may not always be what the narrator means, and neither is the absolute truth.


Actually, Jane Austin used to speak directly to the reader as in, "Dear Reader, if only so-and-so only knew that..." Today that would be considered author intrusion.


Yes, Austin did use that mechanic in some of her novels, but not in Emma. Emma was presented in a style which was new in 1815, but which would be easily recognisable today, in which there is no apparent distinction between the narrator and the protagonist, although the narrator is presented as separate initially.

Note also that Austen's use of "Dear Reader" isn't actually author insertion, rather it is narrator as character. Specifically, Austen uses the "Dear Reader" device to suggest that the story is being told through a diary or memoir written by the protagonist or another major character. This ties in to what I said before about the problem with past tense narratives; by suggesting that the story is being told through diary entries, Austen is remove the presumption of the character having forgotten details.

It's worth noting that Emma is one of Austen later books. It is possible that free indirect speech evolved out of the "Dear Reader" mechanic as a less intrusive method of producing the same outcome, but we don't have any essays by Austen on the subject so that is a matter of debate.

Overall, though, CW is likely right, that this subject should probably be shelved as an "agree to disagree" topic. The problem with discussing narration in any great detail is that it does get very picky, very fast, and this is the sort of thing that people write doctoral theses on.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dicrostonyx

Overall, though, CW is likely right, that this subject should probably be shelved as an "agree to disagree" topic. The problem with discussing narration in any great detail is that it does get very picky, very fast, and this is the sort of thing that people write doctoral theses on.

My Omniscient narrator disagrees with your 3rd-person limited narrator about the role of narrators in 1st person stories! 'D

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

My Omniscient narrator disagrees with your 3rd-person limited narrator


Nothing to see here, move along.

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