Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Repetition, Repetition, Variation

Maybe it's because I make my living as a programmer, or maybe it's just the obsessive-compulsive in all of us, but repetition in writing fascinates me.

It crops up in so many ways. The first word of a paragraph, the first word of a sentence, repeating words throughout the same sentence. Most of the time, you want these repetitions to be absent--they tend to take the reader out of the story. As the Taoists say, "[an] author leaves no trace of himself in his work."

Repetition can have the same unwanted effect on a larger scale. I noticed this while working on my second draft. The word 'threatened' popped up only a total of three times, but I still remembered it.

It's not all bad: repetition can be used for good. It can give rhythm to a sentence, or add a poetic spin to your prose. It's easy to overdo, so be careful he says, as he touches his nose.


I just threw that word in because I was sick of 'repetition'.


Mary said...

Good point. This is something I have to remind myself of often.

John R. said...

Pretty much.

Not only agreeing with you, but that's my own personal repetitive bugbear. "Pretty much" crops up everywhere if I don't squish it.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Bugbears, hey? Dave White said he used 'smiled' as a crutch, Mary uses 'also' and 'too' too much, also.

I tend to do 'just', 'a little', 'a bit', just a little bit too much, also.

Pretty much.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

The one that used to kick my ass is "and". Nothing screws with the prose more, I think, than overusing that one word.

These days what gets me are the goddamn verbs. Smiled, blinked, twitched, sweated. I've got all these happy, blinking killers sweating and twitching their way to the next murder.