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Young Writers Society
Sun Feb 24, 2008 1:14 am
Repetition is one of my biggest pet peeves. It (in my opinion) is what determines a great flow from a good flow--and thus a great writer from a good writer. There can be some repetition, but too much is always a bad thing.
There are three basic ways this can happen:
The same word appearing multiple times in a short amount of space.
This can be quite annoying. If you keep repeating yourself (perhaps for clarity) it can actually make your piece less clear. For example: "The woman unclasped her purse. She reached a slender finger into the red purse and removed a cell phone. Dialing, she slung the purse over her arm. When nobody answered the phone, she put the phone back in her purse." There are two words repeated in that example: "purse" and "phone". Here's a "fixed" example: "The woman unclasped her red purse. She reached a slender finger into the leather bag and removed a cell phone. Dialing, she slung the purse over her arm. When nobody answered her call, she put the phone back in her purse."
Another way this can manifest is using the same descriptive words throughout the piece. For example, of your piece takes place in a forest and you keep describing the trees as "A lacy emerald canopy," it doesn't matter how effective that image is--it will get boring. That's not to say that referring back to a metaphor isn't good (it's quite the opposite, actually) but if you keep wording it the exact same way multiple times throughout the piece, it can be quite annoying. Try using a thesaurus!
Repeating the character's name.
If there is just one character, you do not need to keep saying their name, "he" or "she" can suffice. You also need to make sure that when you do repeat it (because every once in a while that is fine) you do not say it at the same place in the sentence each time. That is easy to fix with a little monkeying. Here's a pretty generic example: "Maria was a quiet, slim girl with big brown eyes. When Maria looked at you, Maria's eyes would grow round and you could see deep into them. Maria's hair was also brown, and it curled slightly at the edges." This can easily be fixed: "Maria was a quiet, slim girl with big brown eyes. When she looked at you, her eyes would grow round and you could see deep into them. Her hair was also brown, and it curled slightly at the edges."
That was easy, right? Right. But what if there is more than one character of the same gender? That gets a little more difficult. You have to use descriptions such as "the latter/former," (<--pretty generic) "the officer/colonel" (<--or any social standing... even mother/daughter or boss/employee) or "the older man" (<--comparative). Here's an example: "Maria's mother, Angela (a plump woman with a twinkling personality) lived with Maria in a small house. One day, Angela saw Maria sitting on a rock by the creek. Maria was deep in thought and Angela didn't want to disturb Maria." That can be changed to, "Maria's mother, Angela (a plump woman with a twinkling personality) lived with her daughter in a small house. One day, she saw Maria's slender form sitting on a rock by the creek. The girl was deep in thought and her mother didn't want to disturb her."
Repetitive Sentence Structure.
If all your sentences are the same type of structure, your piece will lose its punch. For example, I have a friend who uses this a lot: "The [description/metaphor] that was [(possessive) pronoun] [description/metaphor]" For example: "I heard an intimidating growl that was my friend's stomach." That isn't a bad thing to do once in a while (actually it's a good method for showing rather than telling) but if you overdo it, it loses its strength.
Here's another example... "I looked over at my sleeping sister, popping a piece of gum into my mouth. Her chest rose and fell, rustling her clothing. I leaned over and kissed her forehead, my breath moving her bangs." Notice how there's always [action][consequence]? Again, this is fine if you do a few here and there, but try not to have all your sentences be the same.
Another problem very like that is the problem of using the same punctuation over and over. This usually happens with Semi-colons, ellipses, and dashes, which are in most cases practically interchangeable, so if you feel like you're using too much of one, just try putting another in!
(And yes, this is part of something I posted in Writing Tips, so that could be why it looks familiar ^_~)
It's a dramatic situation almost every time you answer the phone—if you answer the phone.
— Matthew Weiner
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