February 8, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch 2... or II... or Deux

Welcome to Tuesday Edit Crunch, an informative, fresh, concise, and important part of this nutritious... blog... (shhh, I know I am posting this on Monday evening, but I have the flu, and I will not be getting up in the morning, if I can help it).
Today's Crunch is all about repetition. Repitan, clase, por favor... REPETICION. We will address three forms.

Simple redundancies. They can sneak up on us, as we write, slip right in, hard to detect, nigh invisible. Difficult to spot.
Not only can redundancies add to word count, they scream, "Hey! This is just a story being told with a lot of words!"
Let's start with the stealthier ones, shall we?

climbed up the stairs
crept slowly
dropped down
exact same
fell down
nodded his head
rose up
sat down
shrugged her shoulders
stood up
tip-toed quietly

Seemingly innocent? Hmmm. Let's look again.

He climbed the stairs. Obviously going up. Doesn't need to be said.
She crept. Is there a fast way to do it?
Dropped. Gravity plays a big part in this one.
Same. If it's not exactly the same, it is similar.
Fell. Again, see Mr. Newton.
Nodded. Most of us use our heads.
Rose. To rise, the opposite of fall.
Sat. She sat. This one is debatable, I know. If you use it when your character is standing, though, it's obvious. If she is already sitting, she can sit up. She sat up.
Shrugged. We know the move, one shoulder, two shoulders, we can see it.
Stood. Again, up is implied.
Tip-toed. Tippy tippy-toed. Even when Fred Flintstone was bowling, this was quiet.

Get the point? Because this was huge to me. HUGE. I'm repeating myself.

Pronoun repetition is the second part of redundancy I would like to crunch. I am a visual writer. I see what is happening and my fingers fly to keep up. When I (or my readers) go back and read my story, I (or they) often find this:

He scanned again and sluggishly moved forward, stepping over bodies and weapons and waste.  He gathered arrows as he went, keeping his eyes up and his nostrils closed.  He was not queasy.  He was not a coward. 
He hated this.
He suppressed the urge to examine, to listen for breathing.  He knew by now there would be time to help those that would make it, and it would be a waste of time to help those that would not.
He made his way towards a narrow neck out of the clearing.  He could hear the battle continuing there, and instinctively crouched lower to the ground, his muscles straining, his back already stiff.  He moved to the brush on the right.  To enter in the open would be to announce his late arrival.

Yikes! All but one of those sentences began with He. Change it up!

The third type of redundancy is pretty cut and dry. If you've used the same adjective, verb, phrase, or the hated adverb in the same paragraph, or even within 4 or more paragraphs, find yourself another word. Unless there is a point for the repetition (and I know there can be), avoid it. It's like, when someone, like, uses the same phrase like, over and over again. It can be like, so annoying. Or a bit distracting anyway, as in,"Oh, wait, didn't I just read that same word?" Reader stops reading, scans back, "Oh, yep, mendacious. Hm, the author must like that word. Now, where was I?"
And how do we feel about pulling our readers out of the story?
That's right. Keep your reader in the story.

Do you have any redundancy stories you'd like to share?

The next few Crunches will cover sentence structure, scene set up, and duh-duh-duh... flashbacks.

Hope you enjoyed Tuesday Edit Crunch! Watch out for the the K's, they're especially crunchy.


David J. West said...

I'm using a lot of these as I'm going over my LDSP story submission making sure its tight-I hate word count maximum's.

Kate said...

Sorry you're sick. Hope you feel better soon.

Nisa said...

I definitely enjoy Tuesday edit crunches. One thing I can do really well when I critique/revise is to find the redundancies. They jump out and bite me like coiled snake. Love this post!

My verification word is "nible". It didn't get them memo. Snakes don't nibble. They bite!

Abel Keogh said...

Great editing cruch tip. I need these reminders too.

ali said...

Haha! Love this! Funny examples too. Thanks Krista!

Krista said...

I'm glad you're all finding this useful. I guess I'll keep it going! Thanks for the well wishes, Kate. Feeling better today.
Abel, thanks for visiting! Your blog has been helpful to me, too, believe it or not. So, thanks!

Krista said...

David, I found that if I could lose 10 unneeded words per page (of course this was novel-length) it drastically cut down my over-extended word count. Just a thought, maybe could be applied to short stories as well.

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