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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Repetition Repetition Repetition Repetition Repetition

Repeated words are usually considered a big no-no. I like to think I catch most of them, but every now and then, I'll proof/edit something and find the same word written a million times in two pages. (I may be exaggerating just a little bit.) Last night, I was going over a very short chapter, only about 1000 words or so, and in that 1000 words, I'd used the word "hope/hoped" at least four times. Good job, Thea. Good job.

That, at least, was pretty easy to fix. I was able to quickly swap in some other words that didn't sound awkward at all. Other times, I don't get so lucky. When writing The Edge of the Sphere, one of my problems was coming up with different ways to talk about water. "Water" itself doesn't have a whole lot of synonyms. Sometimes I was able to describe the form of the water, like "pond", "waves", etc., but other times, water just had to be plain old water.

The two other troublesome words that immediately spring to mind are "smile" and "eyes". Granted, maybe it should be a hint to me that my characters spend too much time grinning like idiots, but sometimes "grin" and "smirk" and the like have connotations that I just don't want. While I'll admit to occasionally using them, the frequently-used metaphors for "eyes", such as "orbs", usually make me roll my...sightballs. Eyes it is, then.

I've seen similar discussions come up with regard to using characters' names and how much repetition is acceptable. While I'm confessing things, I'll also admit to swapping in descriptors like "the blonde seductress" and "the rugged commander" when I'm getting tired of names and pronouns in the past. A lot of writers seem to feel that repetition of characters' names is just fine. After giving it some thought, I'm inclined to agree. Especially when there are a lot of people of the same gender in a scene. Oof, those pronouns can get crazy in there.

Lastly, I'll throw in a callback to my post about adverbs. Sometimes I'll take the time to go back and look over some of my older writings and see what worked well and where I really need to improve. This exercise has made me cringe at times, because not only was I abusing the adverbs, I was using a lot of the same ones over and over and over again. Ouch. Those have been eliminated completely.


  1. I have many words I like to put on repeat as well. Look is a big one. My characters are always smiling, smirking, or something. You'd think they've been smoking some good stuff with all of the smiling. I've been diligent in keeping "ly" adverbs at bay, but (and that's another one!) I know when I get ready to edit my WIP, whenever I finally finish the first draft, I'm going to have to make a list of repetitive words to seek and destroy. At least I don't mention the color of my main character's eyes every other page (so it seemed) like another published author did in a book I read recently. I wanted to gauge out said character's eyes (or the author's) by the time I had finished reading the book! Good luck with your work!

    1. I actually apologized to my editor once after going through a scene where "but" seemed to be in every single sentence. I feel your pain.

      My characters seem to gaze and stare a lot - maybe I should just have them try looking!

  2. I also am a big adverb-abuser! One word that I have to however remind myself is okay to repeat is 'said'. I always want to come up with more descriptive terms but have to keep in mind that in this case sticking to one word is the right thing. Things that I like to repeat and have to get rid of more often than not are sighs and wrinkling of eyebrows.

    1. Heh, I also have to limit the number of sighs. (Sometimes I'll slip in an "exhaled heavily", though!) Eyebrows usually get raised.

      "Said" is all well and good, until we slip up and stick an adverb after it. I'm trying to break that habit!