Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Blog Post on Repetition, Repetition That Is Distracting

I don't know if I'm just now noticing, noticing the way some writers repeat certain words or phrases for emphasis. But I've been seeing this so much lately, seeing how authors are taking a word or two from the beginning of a sentence and using them again to elaborate, using them in a way that I think is supposed to sound lyrical. As with any writing technique it can be done well, done well in a way that emphasizes a key word or two. But when it's overused, overused again and again, it can begin to drive the reader crazy, crazy in a way that you definitely don't want to drive a reader.

Please be careful with repetition, repetition that can become distracting if it's used too much, used too much in an attempt to create a lyrical style, a lyrical style that is undermined by the repetition.






146 comments:

Olleymae said...

THAT'S HILARIOUS, hilarious in a way that makes me laugh.

I will try to avoid this in my writing!!!! Although, now that I've done it, it's kind of fun.

clindsay said...

BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Awesome! I was just talking about this to another agent yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Clever point. Clever.

sally apokedak said...

You made me laugh, laugh like I haven't laughed in a while.

Lisa Schroeder said...

This made me laugh out loud, laugh out LOUD, I tell you Nathan.

You are so funny. Funny, dude!!! FUNNY!!!

Torie underlines said...

hahahahhahaha. nice.

Jon said...

Funny how trends seem to pop up. Where do you think it came from?

Anonymous said...

i love you so called experts..WHO have never achieved SUCCESS in any way writing...now experts!

NOT EXPERTS!!
I repeat, NOT EXPERTS..just wannabes, who can't admit FAILURE.

JohnO said...

But this? This is only the first post on the subject? Subject us to one more, eh? Eh, while we're on the subject, Ben Greenman used repetition to interesting effect yesterday in McSweeney's:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/3/8greenman.html

Anonymous said...

And now we're all doing it. Doing it in a way that isn't as funny as the original.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@8:20-

Dude. My novel isn't even out yet. At least read it before you give it a bad review!

Tina Lynn said...

*snort laugh* That was awesome. Awesome in a way that transcends all other forms of awesomeness. Awesomeness that can only be achieved by one such as you. You the clever agent/writer.

Jessica Young said...

Hilarious! Maybe you could write political speeches?

Teresa Green 1984 said...

Okay that gave me a headache. It was very much like looking at the picture of a mirror image that keeps getting repeated and smaller and smaller and smaller.

Anonymous said...

Painful and timely.

In poetry and music, repeating phrases, notes, words work. They weave the music.

For those of us from those realms, we need to curb our inclinations.

Andrea said...

Love your amusing way to make a point!

The Pollinatrix said...

Repetition can definitely be lyrical, which is why it can work so well in poetry.

In fact, I think this post could be given line breaks and turned into a smashing poem.

Tiffany said...

Guilty.

Aimee Laine said...

Thanks for the laugh!! And well put. I'm one who tries not to do it ... over the top ... and sometimes the thesaurus is not your friend. :)

Janet said...

I'm swaying, swaying in my cubicle. Damn, I need some coffee, coffee, coffee to keep from swaying.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

This is totally going to call me out as the loser I am, but I I noticed this trend on Grey's Anatomy. At least twice per episode, someone gives a rousing speech and where they use this type of repetition. I'm sad to see that it's crossed over into books because it's grating when they do it on TV.

The Rejectionist said...

But sometimes you have to be all like STARBUCK IS AMAZING STARBUCK IS AMAZING STARBUCK IS AMAZING!!!!!!!

Linda Godfrey said...

I think it comes from watching too much Grey's Anatomy, where every character makes cute repetitive speeches ie "I never wanted to be McSqueamy. I NEVER wanted to be McSqueamy. You are McSqueamy. I am not McSqueamy. So give me back my scalpel. Now. McSqueamy."

Those writers should read this blog.

Linda Godfrey said...

Shaun - just saw your post after posting same thought. Together in Loserville (although I have stopped watching for that reason.

~Jamie said...

Did this come up in my google reader twice on purpose? If so, then that was pretty much genius.

My favorite super villain right now is lady redundant woman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordGirl

She's the bomb, the bomb like the coolest girl on the block.

ryan field said...

This is common in first drafts, and it happens to most writers. I once read somewhere that it has to do with the sub-conscious. I'm guilty of doing it myself and I'm paranoid about it now.

But when you are conscious about it, the repetitious words can easily be removed during edits.

Good Post, and very helpful.

Books Dudes Will Read said...

Recently read &, overall, enjoyed a Newberry winner (not this year's, certainly) that employed this technique. The repetition was generally of an adjective; not every modifier, but about once or twice per chapter. I'd say the author was establishing voice (it's written in 1st person. Still, the plot was compelling, the character quirky, & the setting well-drawn. Other than the distracting repetition, word choices were also high-quality. I just thought it interesting, NB, that the thing that irked me about that book is something that annoys you, too, in writing. Give me variety any day, thanks.

Nathan Bransford said...

jamie-

That was actually because I accidentally set an earlier draft to publish this morning and forgot all about it - and the word repetitive was misspelled. Whoooops! Coincidence worked though.

Steve Fuller said...

That is some beautiful writing, Nathan. Some of your best yet.

Amanda J. said...

HAHA! Funny, but please don't do that again... :)

Steven Till said...

Do you have a specific example from a story that you could share with us? Are you talking about repeating the same words within the same sentence, or even with the same paragraph?

The examples in your post will drive a reader crazy. That's way overdone, but like you said, I've read plenty of authors who use this technique really well. Such authors employ repetition in a subtle way so as not to distract readers, but in a manner that still maintains a consitent rhythm and pacing to the story.

Nathan Bransford said...

steven-

I couldn't share anything specifically. As you said, it can definitely be done well and in a way that doesn't distract the reader. I think when it doesn't work is when it's used again and again and again and it's a writing tic rather than a conscious strategy. Does that make sense?

Christine Danek said...

Very funny. I am sure everyone is guilty of this at some point.

Lydia Kang said...

I'll bet you see this in queries ad nauseum.

trishtash said...

Oh how I laughed. Laughed my socks off. Socks I bought only last week. Last week when I went shopping for new socks, to replace, yes, replace the socks I had laughed off last time I laughed my socks off.

Josin L. McQuein said...

If you think repetition is annoying, then you don't get it.

If you think repetition is done poorly, then you simply don't have the skill to understand the lyrical nature of the author's musing ramble.

If you think repetition has been overused then you're probably re-reading the same query 27 1/2 times in a row ;-)

If you think repetition will end because you make a blog post about the tendency for it to be redundant rather than emphatic, then you're naive.

If you think repetition ended up in this post spelled correctly without the aid of Firefox's spellchecker, then you're wrong. (darn dyslexic fingers!)

If you think repetition... bleh, even I'm tired of it at this point...

Tiffany Neal said...

Okay. You just made my brain spin.

gray said...

good advice, well presented :)

Thermocline said...

My running list of words I lean on keeps running and running and running...

Sam said...

Nathan-- this is an unrelated issue, but I couldn't find anything in your archives to hint at an answer.

How do agents & editors feel about epigraphs? Thank you in advance.

Monica said...

Hee hee, Shaun and Linda, I was going to post the exact same thought about Grey's Anatomy.

Cracks me up that I'm not the only one annoyed by it.

Seven said...

I wonder if people still remember listening to records that skip, and repeat over and over. A 'broken record', a term I haven't heard in a long time. This reminded me of that from when I was a kid.

I doubt most people today have owned records and record players, much less listened to songs or stories that way.

Zoe said...

That hurt my head a little.

Point has been made and noted!

Kathryn Paterson said...

Oh God, now I'm totally paranoid, because I sometimes do this (except I've been told I do it well). But now I'm thinking "if I query Nathan, I better not have REPETITION!" Ha ha ha ha ha. Sometimes I think agent blogs just add to our insecurities. Even though this was really, really funny.

John Jack said...

Ma and 'em used to call me three times before I took 'em serious like.

"Why three times? Because anything less is unsatisfying, because anything more is redundant, because Aristotle and Lewis Carroll said that what I tell you three times is true. Three times, on a rising scale of effort, commitment, and depth of knowledge of the problem and one’s self, is the correct number. Human beings believe that three times has an effect which two does not. Conversely, four creates overkill."

From "The Basics of Writing" by Algis Budrys. February 2009 W&IOTF Herald Newsletter. http://www.writersofthefuture.com/newsletter/february09.htm

Aristotle says pretty much the same thing about repetition in _Poetics_, from which Budrys cites.

But repetition that doesn't escalate tension is pointless.

Seamus said...

Time to stop. My head hurts. (Thanks for the riff.)

AjFrey said...

My first draft was drowning in repetitions. But that's all cleaned up. This post was hilarious. Hilarious because it's true. K, I'll stop. Bet, this is also one of those posts that will fill your inbox full of clever. Lol imitation= flattery.

Stina Kanaris said...

I have to agree with the people who commented on Grey's Anatomy, it drives insane just listening to it, I wouldn't be able to get through a book that had it as well.

Hilarious blog, though!

Brittany said...

I've seen this so much in books, so much that it's beginning to get really annoying, annoying so that I want to write a repetitive letter to the writer about his annoying repetition.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Are you lookin' at me? Are you LOOKIN' at ME!

Watch the movie WOODSTOCK and witness Richie Havens occupy 15-20 minutes of your life with one word --- Freedom.

Haste yee back ;-)

abc said...

OH nos.

I think I do this.

Again, good advice, Bransford. Damn.

Vanessa said...

I was discussing The Underneath by Kathi Appelt just yesterday with my class of 12 to 15 year olds. The repetition in her book thrilled some of us and annoyed others. It offered a great way to discuss motifs and, in particular, the literary device of leitwortstil ("leading-word style"): the leitwort (leading word) underscores a theme important to the work and the author repeats the leitwort to make sure the reader doesn't miss major themes. I think Appelt does this masterfully in her repetition of the words respect, promise, missing, and the warning--do not. Hers is lyrical language done well . . . really, really well.

reader said...

Please don't hate me, as I mean this in a fun way -- but I've kind of been feeling this repetition with all the ebooks posts on the blog lately. Ebooks! Here to stay! Ever evolving publishing world! Ebooks! Love them or not, here to stay! Kindle! iPad! Nook! Sony Reader! Did I mention ebooks! :)

Nathan Bransford said...

reader-

Don't shoot the messenger!

reader said...

Nathan -- no, no, I won't. I LIKE the messenger! And the messenger's blog!

Moira Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

Thank you Nathan! I will now feverishly read manuscript for repetition. THIS is exactly why all publishing hopefuls can benefit from reading publishing blogs.

Moira Young said...

*resists a repetitive comment since the poor dead horse has already been beaten to a bloody pulp* ;)

I think it's one of those Internet diseases. Those things are unconsciously contagious.

Postman said...

Ever notice how many times H.P. Lovecraft uses the word "cyclopean" in one single story? Robert E. Howard does a better job, but there was still a stock of hard, punchy adjectives and nouns he used, and recombining them endlessly doesn't solve the whole problem.

I'll keep an eye on this in my scribbling.

D. G. Hudson said...

Perhaps the writers who use this 'lyrical' emphasis are reticent poets. This is an interesting trend that I hadn't noticed.

The occasional use wouldn't bother me, but it sounds so trendy. Like it's trying too hard to be noticed.

Thanks for the warning on another pitfall for writers. Just use 'clean' writing, no repetitious fillers.

Peter Dudley said...

I believe this comes from cable TV "news." Read Nathan's post out loud, out loud with the overly emphatic voice of a reporter, a reporter live on the scene, the scene where nothing has happened yet the news media, news media from all over, are on hand to cover the event.

verification word: deval
short for devalue; can be shortened even further to dval for texting purposes

Kia Abdullah said...

Love this! Thanks for a much-needed giggle, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

grey's anatomy is the absolute worst for it. And all the characters do it. If one did it, then fine, it is quirky. But they all have the same voice, even the guest stars.

Kia Abdullah said...

Just to add my random two-pence (or cents for you Yanks), I think it's so important to read out loud to really hear the cadence of your writing. Of course, different things work for different people, but I really started to hear things that I was repeating (although not in the intentional sense Nathan is referring to).

For example, I wrote something like "He walked up the corridor and opened the door". For some bizarre reason, I didn't catch how terrible the repetition of 'door' sounded until I read it out loud. But anyway, back to the giggling. I really loved this post!

Tammy said...

You know who did this effectively? Gary Paulsen in Hatchet. But it was a survival story (we've probably all read it)and the repetition felt like survival self-talk that worked. otherwise it kills me, too distracting.

Kat Harris said...

Dang. That's irritating.

Giles said...

Ah ha ha ha ha...I find it difficult to write this way. When I'm writing my books, I try not to repeat words in the same paragraph if at all possible, and when I do repeat the word, I try to do it no more than once or twice (so I use the word two or three times). Just my style, I guess.

T. Anne said...

Thank you. I have a ringing headache now.

Kayeleen said...

I just beta'd a manuscript where the dialogue did this. The characters rambled the same thing with different words throughout the whole piece. Drove me nuts!

If you read that kind of thing frequently, hats off to you for your patience.

TERI REES WANG said...

Is that like, when everyone like, over uses the word "like"....
like a lot?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:20

I'm not sure if you're kidding or being serious. Maybe you're attempting satire by repeating the all-caps. Perhaps you're pointing out that many agents haven't proven themselves in novels, yet judge them anyway.

Your point is confusing.

If you are being negative (and not joking), your point is based in hypocrisy. Just the fact that Nathan's blog is widely read means ... um... he IS successful at writing (not a failure).

I'm not like others on here: I don't fall all over myself to compliment the highly respected Mr. Bransford. But I do recognize his writing skillz; blog or otherwise.

Skillz, I say...Skillz.
I remain anonymous because I'm a coward. :)

~John Reason.

RR Kovar said...

I do my best to avoid repeating words (outside of pronouns, etc.) on a single page. There are so very many synonyms in our lovely language that I feel they should each have a chance. Or, should none of them please me, it behooves me to rephrase or cut.

M. Gray said...

Wow!! Point taken!! I know Martin Luther King Jr. used anaphora well. George Bush used it in a lot of his speeches, but I agree, we need to use it well.

Jaimie said...

Painful. (painful) (.... painful)

abc said...

anon @ 11:04

I totally agree about Grey's Anatomy! It is a show of speeches. The character starts with one thing "I'm good with my hands" or whatever and always ends the same way. Ugh. You are right; every character is the same. Quirky and spazzy and speechy. Still, I watch it. For whatever reason.

Sorry for the digression. It felt good to get that off my chest.

Ray Rhamey said...

Er, would you mind going through that again?

Donna Hole said...

Man, do I hear you on that score.

........dhole

word verif: symando. Edit annotation for: Say man, don't double dip on symantics.

Doreen McGettigan said...

I will be so obsessively careful now not to do this...

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh, no. I just wrote a post called, "C is for" and I repeated that phrase throughout. Well, my commenters thought it was funny...

Ulysses said...

You can say that again.

brigittekm1 said...

Funnily put in a way that it sticks in one's head. Thanks for the tip, for the tip.

Chuck H. said...

Hemingway did this. I don't care for Hemingway.

Terry said...

I've seen writers use it for emphasis and it works - once.

Mira said...

This is funny! :) At least it was funny until I realized that I do this ALL the time. And then it wasn't so FUNNY any more.

But first, I want to say, your post ended too soon, Nathan. I was enjoying it, and starting to envision a bongo and people dancing to it, like some sort of beat poetry.

In terms of how this affects me as a writer, it's definitely food for thought. When I first read your post, I thought, nah, I never do this. Then I realized I do it all the time. I use it to build tension, or set up humor. Using the same word over and over creates a particular effect.

But it never occured to me that it was annoying - although maybe it did. Sometimes I'm deliberately annoying in my voice - I'm not sure why - maybe to wake the reader up alittle.

So, I'll look at this. I guess what I'd like to explore is when it's effective, and when it's just irritating.

But either way, it's useful to examine. And see? I used 'it's' three times just now. But that kept to the rhythm. Using another word would change the rhythm. Well, now I'm confused, but in a good way.

I'm also rambling, but that's because IT'S just so interesting.

Thanks. :)

Matilda McCloud said...

Thanks for pointing out this writing faux pas, a faux pas I never would have been aware had you not posted it on this day, a March day when we are finally feeling the hint of spring...

Marilyn Peake said...

That is so funny. So very funny. So very, very funny. Also, quite funny...referring to the funny way in which you said that. Just sayin'.

However, I have noticed that some books – including some very successful best-selling books published by the big publishing houses – include the type of repetition you're warning against. I can think of one very successful series in particular in which repetition of words and phrases was part of the overall writing style. I agree with you, and I know you're right. But I swear that every rule for successful writing gets broken in very successful books, and sometimes in clumsy, not-so-genius kinds of ways. The more I read, the more I discover that almost no book is perfect. Nearly all books break some of the rules, and many fall short of perfection somewhere between the first and last pages. I’m reading a novel right now that won a major book award. That book has been sheer perfection right through the first 90% of it (I know because my Kindle says I’m 90% through the book, LOL). All of a sudden, I find myself thinking, "Ugh. What’s happening here? The writing’s so rushed, just page after page of dialogue unraveling the mysterious parts of the book. Boooooring."

I think you mean that breaking a rule shouldn't be overdone or the writer risks losing a reader before they finish the book, and I understand that completely. Good advice, as usual!

Kristin Laughtin said...

As always, always, I laughed hard at how humorously you made your point.

Marilyn Peake said...

I should add that, a few years ago, contest judges that liked my writing pointed out that I would have scored more points had I used less repetition. It was a great learning experience for me. I now edit every sentence I write, experimenting with ways to change repetitions into different words that still convey the same meaning. It’s become an enjoyable challenge for me.

Marilyn said...

A nice end-of-day LAUGH for me, me who is tired. Thanks!

Breeze said...

Marilyn Peake...I like what you said :)

Anonymous said...

I use this tactic 2-3 times in my novel, but one usage is within the first 5 pages. So, a) now I can expect some agents/readers who saw this post and who are reading my sample pages to be hyperaware and potentially turned off, b) this probably played a part in my 20-minute R on a query +5 from NB, and c) I just eliminated my use of that device in the opening chapters. Good heads-up but I wish this post came out a month ago.

Jil said...

I never repeat myself or use the same words twice in any way near each other. But, oh criminey, didn't I do it just yesterday, on another blog! How could I? Maybe that was the only time...

Words repeated endlessly as the lyrics of a song drive me nuts! I think the singer must either have terrible memorization skills or the writer thinks his listeners are completely dense.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

a) I said in the post it can be done well and readers know this, b) my point was about excessive repetition not doing it once, c) keep your head up! Querying is a process.

Marilyn Peake said...

Although I haven’t watched GREY’S ANATOMY, I enjoyed the discussion about it here in the Comments section. Another show, PUSHING DAISIES, plays with language in the most brilliant ways. Anyone here watched that show? I watched the entire series on DVD, and was very sorry that it only lasted two seasons. Here’s a play on Shakespeare's words in Episode 3, entitled BAD HABITS, of PUSHING DAISIES:

Emerson: What got thee to a nunnery?
Olive: Oh, Emerson. You really want to know?
Emerson: Not especially. That was just my attempt at polite wee talk. Moment's passed, so let's talk compensation.

PUSHING DAISIES does use repetition quite frequently, but in ways that play with the words and use the repetition to create effect. Here’s repetition in Episode 2, entitled CIRCUS CIRCUS:

Emerson: You know how to knock?
Georgeann Heaps: I did knock. I came in, I said to myself, "I hope this good man can help me, knock wood," and then I knocked. My name is Georgeann Heaps.
Emerson: It's my nature to reward pushiness with inattention, Mrs. Heaps.

I love that show!

The Red Angel said...

LOVE, love this post. :P You make a great point that, well, points out a habit that a ton of writers are guilty of.

Moira Young said...

Marilyn --

Pushing Daisies was too good for television. I still miss it terribly.

Castle's not bad, though. I don't usually watch crime shows, but it's a lot of fun. (The fact that it stars Captain Tightpants from Firefly is just gravy.)

Steven Till said...

I agree. Absolutely, that makes perfect sense to me.

Marilyn Peake said...

Moira,

I agree with absolutely everything you said! PUSHING DAISIES has such excellent quality – in every aspect: writing, acting and cinematography. The visual aspects are stunning! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything on TV with colors that pop like that. And it seems to me that the show might have color motifs that were created on purpose. For a while, whenever Olive was in the restaurant, she was wearing green and the setting was mostly shades of green. Then, suddenly, Olive became associated with bright orange. Really awesome! I love CASTLE, although I don’t think it’s nearly as good as PUSHING DAISIES. I thought FIREFLY was excellent...as was Captain Tightpants. :) And, unfortunately, that series was cancelled after only 11 of the first 14 episodes aired! I heard that it was because of a dispute between Joss Whedon and FOX, although I don’t know if that’s actually true or not. I heard that he was told not to fade to black because that was a cue for commercials, so he started fading to a color close to black that fooled the TV equipment into not thinking the fade was there. I heard the TV executives were really mad when they realized what had happened, and then cancelled the show.

Michael said...

I think the point is that "less is more." It can work very effectively is used selectively. (No rhyming intended.) Just because one shot of vodka makes you more fun to be around, a dozen can make you pain in the ass.

Kaitlyne said...

Your posts are hilarious! You have such a fun way of saying things. :) I know I'm guilty of this, but hoping I don't do it excessively. Pretty sure I don't...*runs off to check manuscript*

Cory Emberson said...

Flogged, flogged in such a way...

Oh, never mind.

Here's my particular earworm from the world of TV. The well-employed writers of the tweenish ABC Family show "Secret Life of the American Teenager" have a script-writing challenge, for sure. However, do they get a generous bonus every time the phrase "have sex" is spoken?

I'm going to get an umpire's clicker to keep track.

Humph.

Excellent blog, Nathan! Love it, from all the way across the Bay, near the nuclear lab.

Mira said...

Hey. Did my post sound critical of your point, Nathan? It wasn't. I think this is really interesting - and I never thought about it before.

I appreciate the head's up. It's good to do things consciously. It's also good to be aware that the reader can find it irritating.

So, this is good!

Marilyn Peake said...

Michael said:
"Just because one shot of vodka makes you more fun to be around, a dozen can make you pain in the ass."

ROFLOL. That's hilarious...and true!

Cory Emberson said...

And what of the repetitive rhetorical question? :)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Here, here!

Wait, is that the way you spell "here, here" when raising a glass to toast Nathan Bransford for his wit?

Spelling a word wrong when using it twice must be the ultimate repetition fail.

Nancy said...

Postman,

I recently edited a novel where two of the characters were 1930s British and the author insisted on using the phrase "sticky wicket" (difficult situation) more than once as one of too few devices to flesh out the characters' personalities and cultural leanings. I had a difficult time explaining why using the phrase more than once didn't work. "Sticky wicket" hits me the same way that "cyclopean" hits you. It seems that Nathan is similarly struck by repetitive word/sentence structures. These instances hit us between the eyes and wrestle us to the ground for our sensibilities. All I could say to the author was "But... but it's a neon sign telling the reader to turn left when all s/he wants to do is read forward." Fun post Nathan. :) n

Word verification: powdo, as in "Pow--do you want it?"

LCS249 said...

semantics.
not symantic(s).
(that's a software company.)

Pretty sure this technique of repetition comes out of copywriting (advertising). It's a good one for pulling the reader through the copy.

Should not be used for "creative writing."

Andrea M. Bodel said...

I copy and paste my novel one chapter at a time into a tag cloud generator to avoid repeating words excessively. >_>

JTShea said...

Good good post post Nathan Nathan! But but is is there there an an echo echo in in here here?

Marilyn Peake said...

I’ve also learned that sentence length should be varied. If all the sentences in a book or short story are around the same length, the monotony tends to put the reader to sleep. Length of sentences needs to vary between long and short. One author who’s very good at varying sentence length is J.K. Rowling.

Of course, I used the same words repetitively in the above paragraph, but it’s just a blog comment and I’m very, very tired right now. :)

Ben-M said...

There's another type of repetition that annoys me.

When used in lists for humorous emphasis, be it colors, or cars, or colors, or girls, or colors, I can encounter it once in a novel and have a chuckle. But when the same mechanic appears again later, even if about something completely different, like smells, or clothing, or smells, or tools, or smells, I roll my eyes: The joke's been done.

AjFrey said...

The other type of repetition that bugs me is to throw about fifteen metaphors after a single concept. Her eyes were blue like the ocean. Blue as the the sky, Blue as a 1000 flushes after only one flush. Got it. Blue.

AjFrey said...

I meant simile. If one is to rant, they should get their words right first. I shall wear my dunce hat and sit in corner.

Myrna Foster said...

This is why your posts make me smile.

Lindsey Edwards said...

What a way to point out the annoying use of repetition. I have used this technique a time or two, but it's the overuse that drives one nuts!

Ishta Mercurio said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! And now, now that I know to watch out for this habit of repetition, repetition that can be annoying, I'll try my best not to inflict it on unsuspecting readers - readers of my work.

I LOVED this post. Thank you for a much-needed laugh.

Nicole said...

LOL. Point taken, taken to heart.

gennyca said...

I work on my novel and remove the repetition. I post on my blog and allow myself a couple. Now I have a radio show and am told, repeat, repeat! Sheesh...three ways to tell a story, each with its own set of rules.

Other Lisa said...

HEH! And what sentence was I editing when I popped over here to read this post? At the risk of embarrassing myself:

"Up the hill, she thought, if she walked up the hill she thought it led to a large avenue..."

Ouch.

Jimmy Ng said...

Holy crap! I noticed you were doing it while you were talking about it. Freakin awesome.

A writer friend of mine read a published writer does this to emphasize a point, or whatever his intention maybe. But I think some authors mistake this as a formulaic way of writing.

Aside from basic structure, should there be or is there a formulaic way of telling a good story?

Jimmy Ng

Lucy said...

Ow, that hurt. No, I can't bring myself to repeat it. :D

Jens Porup said...

When it's done well, though, it can be incredibly effective. Here's H.P. Lovecraft at work:

Mere dinosaurs were new and almost brainless objects -- but the builders of the city were wise and old, and had left certain traces in rocks even then laid down well nigh a thousand million years -- rocks laid down before the true life of earth had advanced beyond plastic groups of cells -- rocks laid down before the true life of earth had existed at all.

Nuria Coe said...

Okay, okay, you made your point, enough, enough already!

Anonymous said...

that's why i like the cheesy movie armageddon, the characters say everything twice, they repeat everything.

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

I thought this post reminded me of something. I believe it was this. Wonder where this type of trend comes from?

Jodi

katrin said...

What's with the anonymous posts? "I love you so-called experts." Um, hang on a minute, here. You, Nathan, are someone who makes their living selling books to publishers. MAKES A LIVING DOING THIS (no small feat). You don't know about writing? Who does, then?

Talewright said...

I really really hate and dislike with loathing people who redundantly and constantly repeat themselves over and over again and again trying to sound lyrical and musical and creative by repeating themselves constantly instead of just telling a good, well-written story and tale. Hate it, I does!

JR said...

StoryMill for Mac has a feature that checks out which words get repeated the most. Really useful

T. Wolfe said...

You almost sounded like Dr. Suess for a moment. LOL

At one time I was told that I do have a habit of repeating words. Now I am more aware. Hopefully.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I have to admit, this is probably my biggest pet peeve because it is so absolutely self-indulgent on the part of the writer.

J.J. Bennett said...

LOL!!!!!

Perfect.

Misty said...

Shoot. I do that. Will pay more attention and revise again. Thank you!

lotusgirl said...

LOL. Point made. Point taken.

Rachel Hamm said...

I am so guilty!

hopefully, not this guilty, but any bit of guilty is bad!

Mira said...

So, I'm STILL thinking this one over. I guess I feel confused about this, because I utilize this technique alot - but I also think you're saying something important here, Nathan. So, I guess the question is, when and how can this be done effectively?

When is this a good tactic, and when does it become so annoying
it breaks the reader's trance. That's the big no-no, right? Breaking the reader's trance by doing something that calls attention to itself.

Arrrggghhhh. I'm still confused. Darn you, Mr. Bransford. I shall ponder some more. :)

Bernard S. Jansen said...

That post was only 148 words long, yet reading it gave me pain in behind my eyes.

Simon said...

it's ironic that in a thread about repetition everyone keeps making the same joke.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

You sound like Robert James Waller in this post...hey, it worked for him, and he certainly isn't literary! (lol)

Anonymous said...

I laughed really hard at this, then I started getting paranoid.

"Did this guy just read my work on Booksie and got inspired by my repetition?" I thought. Nah.

ladebbie

Kathryn said...

Ha ha! I think all writers should read this... it will certainly make me think twice before repeating anything for emphasis!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan
Just finished my first novel for the sixteenth time. Now, I have to edit again for repeated phrases and words. Being an aerospace engineer that is trying to write, I can now verify that writing is more difficult than doing a flutter analysis on any aircraft. I know I have several repeated phrases.
Well, at least the names of the characters have not been revised.

Thanks for all the free education

Keith said...

In dialogue, one can distract the reader with the cunning insertion of a gratuitous character name, Nathan, a gratuitous character name.

Margaret said...

That's why God created editors.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just hate a person that always talks about himself, or herself. All the 'I did this' or 'I think that' or 'I have' begins to grind on you after even a short conversation?
Now, if you write a story in first person because most of the tension is in the main character's mental argument with himself, then how do you avoid all the 'I's that will result. I counted seventeen I's on one page. I counted seven in this post!

Ethan said...

Dan Brown does this and, although I didn't notice it when I read it, it became very annoying when I listend to it on tape.

Seasonal Deluge said...

While repetition can be distracting. Distracting like a loud conversation on a commuter bus. A loud conversation with a lot of mixed metaphors.

http://www.qwertyed.com/q_pages/q6_fun_pages/analogies.html

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