Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Repetition

Repetition is an important tool for writing of any sort.  The more often a point is repeated, the more important it seems to the reader.

In narration, for the most part, you want to avoid repeating things word for word.  You want to repeat a reference to a situation or event, but not a word for word repetition.  Some people have a higher or lower tolerance to this.  For example, I got irritated at seeing the phrase "like a puppet with its strings cut" twice within fifty pages in one book.  Someone else might not notice that at all.


Finding unique ways to describe things each time will usually improve the enjoyment of the story.

There are times, however, when you want to hammer a point into the ground, or when you want to make a deliberate reference to an earlier occurrence.  The latter is called an ironic echo and is usually used to either point out that a prediction has come true, or else an event happening at the current point in the story mirrors almost exactly a similar event earlier.

Also, single words and small phrases can be repeated fairly frequently as part of a variety of sentences.  These can be representative of the current storyline or arch.  Hence the term "arch words" and "arch phrase".

There will be some habits that are yours that end up repeating over and over again.  In my case, I make frequent use of the word "however".  Such accidental repetitions can be a part of your style, but at the same time they might just imply that you're not paying attention to what you're writing at the time.

In dialogue, an often repeated phrase applied to a particular character is called a "catch phrase" and is used to further define a particular character trait.   A good example I've recently seen is Sabre's "...is the enemy."  "Extravagance is the enemy," "laziness is the enemy", "hunger is the enemy", so on and so forth.  It is used to hammer home the point that she tends to think of things in militant terms.

The key, as with most things, is less about do or don't do it, but to understand what impression will be given dependent on how you choose to use it.  It is when you don't think about things that you make mistakes and generate responses that you don't want.

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