Dave offers this as an example of narrating the action/interaction of two women or two men in the same scene:
"She was about to pivot to face Podgorny squarely again when Podgorny attacked, swinging her right fist in a controlled strike at Sally's left kidney."
Hmm... using Podgorny's name twice shows how hard this is! Is there another way to do it? "She was about to pivot when ..."
That is, go with the motion but figure that the reader will understand why (to face the adversary squarely). But then we lose that sense of action/interaction.... How about starting with Sally, and then "her".... Sally was about to pivot to face her squarely again when Podgorny attacked..."
And then I can see ... "swinging her right fist in a controlled strike at the left kidney."
Not perfect at all, but I think we can figure that P is hitting Sally's kidney, not her own.
This NEVER gets easy! And Dave has the additional challenge that this is an action scene, high action, in fact, where both are moving simultaneously -- so it's not like he can put each's action in a separate paragraph.
Another issue is keeping the action sequential. I might suggest putting P first: "When Podgorny attacked, Sally was about..." But that puts Sally's aborted action (pivoting) after an action it really precedes-- that is, P's attacking is what stops Sally's action, so you want Sally's first.
So here would be my imperfect alternative:
Sally was about to pivot to face her squarely again when Podgorny attacked, swinging her right fist in a controlled strike at the left kidney.
Maybe "to face her opponent?"
But notice a slight POV issue arising with this version... this is Sally's POV, and yet, referring to P as "her" first in the sentence hints that it's P's POV. I think probably if the section starts clearly in Sally's POV, this won't be such a problem, but I did notice, re-reading it, that in Dave's version, I didn't have any doubt that it was Sally's POV, and in the alternative, I had a moment of confusion.
clg suggests identifying characters with alternate descriptors (like my "her opponent" above), and use those instead of the names or pronouns:
I've used that template in my own manuscript, which deals with military men. For example: Jeb Stuart in a scene with Robert E. Lee can be indentified as "Stuart," "Jeb," "Lee's young lieutenant general," "the young man," or "his cavalry leader." I may even employ Stuart's habit of tugging on his long beard when in thought, or his cheerful personality.
I tend to use just a few of these, because a friend of mine, Lynn Kerstan, wrote an article where she excerpted something she'd written as a young writer, where in one scene she referred to one male character as the duke, and the older man, and William, and Dartmer, and the silver-haired man, and finally she realized it sounded like there were 12 people in the room, and there were only the duke and his confidante. So ever since then, I remember that when I use a descriptor rather than a name or pronoun. However, I do use "the other man" and "the younger man," and neutral descriptors like those when necessary. And I'd probably use only one alternate, just to keep confusion at bay.
Anyway, I like the idea of identifying with something associated with that character. After all, we want the dialogue of a character to be recognizably hers, so that we don't need a "Sarah said" with each line. So maybe the same should be done with those minor actions. I think this would be most effective if these were established earlier, so we already know that Jenny has glasses and Sarah doesn't, so when we see "She shoved her glasses up on her nose and glared at the other woman," we know "she" is Jenny, and the other woman must be Sarah.
Ian offers: He's hunting his father's killer, and in a roundabout way makes him responsible for almost every ill that has befallen him:
That's a REAL toughie, because there are actually three "he" possibles in there (the killer could be male or female, but the father is male :). I'd think about taking that "him" into a noun... like "makes that crime responsible..." But I think that might mess up the meaning, that the protagonist is making HIM, a person, responsible. Maybe "makes that man responsible..." except maybe the pro doesn't know for sure the killer is a man.
The last part I'd probably recast... for most ills since the murder. I'd probably look for a replacement for "ills," actually, as it sounds a bit prissy for the situation.
So often what I'd suggest might lose something essential in the meaning. Like...
He wants revenge, as he blames his father's killer for every problem that has occurred since the murder.
Well, that might well lose the meaning!
What do you all think?