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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Avoiding Repetition

So I've finished four chapters in my fifth rewrite/revision, up to 8,853 words. With any luck, I'll get the fifth chapter completed tomorrow.

In the meantime, during the Pratt writer's group I attended, I was asked by somebody there to read his latest manuscript. As I read through some of this afternoon, I started thinking about some of the writing tips I've learned in my meetings with other writers, following writers on Twitter and advice I've read in books and blogs.

One of the things that's stood out is to avoid repetition. In other words, you don't have to keep reminding readers about something all the time. Always find a way to describe what your character is doing without writing the same thing.

As an example: Let's say you have a character who is heading to the grocery store. Say you write this in your draft.

Joe needed to get some groceries. He walked out the door as he said to his wife, "I'm going to the grocery store."

There may be a need to say this in the quote, but you don't say it in the interior monologue. Let's try a different approach.

Joe opened the refrigertaor. No milk. Why didn't somebody keep track of these things? He shut the door, walked to the table and picked up his car keys.
"I'm going to the grocery store," he said to his wife.

Not only have we avoided repetition, we get into the reasons why the character is going to the store, and we've got an idea about what he thinks about the situation.

So a better way to remind your readers about the setting or situation your character is facing is to get your character's thoughts out there. If the setting is a crowded room, you may want to write about whether or not your character likes being in a crowd. If the situation is tense, write about your character's heart pounding. If it's hot, have your character wipe sweat from the forehead.

Remember, though, that repetition means you don't want to hammer the point home. Go back to the crowded room example. Mention the room is crowded, get into either your character's thoughts or actions, then get to your next development. From there, you only need to remind your readers about the crowded room if it leads to something else. How you do that depends on how important it is to the story.

If your character starts a conversation with somebody, and they try to leave the room, you can mention that they have to push past people to get out, but leave it at that. On the other hand, if somebody shouts "Fire!" and everyone panics, now the crowded room becomes an important element, and you can describe what your character is thinking and doing as everyone tries to get out.

With practice, you'll learn how many times it's OK to remind your readers about a setting or situation, and the ways you can do it without writing the same words. And your story will flow better.

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