February 8, 2010
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
nodded his head
shrugged her shoulders
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.
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?
WE DON'T LIKE IT, KRISTA.
That's right. Keep your reader in the story.
Do you have any redundancy stories you'd like to share?