Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tip of the week: unnecessary repetition

If there's something that really makes me groan when reading, then it's repetition. Or in other words, treating a reader like he or she is retarded.
What I see often is a scene being repeated through dialogue. Not only is it unnecessary, it's also clogging up word count and slows down the pace considerably. It's probably a trap most first time writers walk into, but it's easily avoided once you know about it. I did it myself -- with a minor character -- repeating his name after I'd introduced him to the reader a few pages before.
Let's make it a bit clearer: Character A and B have a conversation. Character B meets character C the next day and tell him exactly what the conversation was about in dialogue. Now I, the reader, have been present the first time, hanging on ever word character A and B exchanged and don't need to get it retold.

Or: A scene where a woman gets mugged, described in detail, how she screamed, what he said, how she reacted, maybe even that she thought he looked far too posh, etc. Later at the police station she's interviewed and the questions of the officer as well as her answers tell me the whole scene again. Boring!

Those kinds of repetitions aren't needed. It's often the moment, when I start skipping or at least sigh loudly.

Better to let character B fill character C in. C could then give an opinion about the conversation, perhaps even make a statement about character A.

And the police could ask additional questions, you can inform the reader what will happen next, they could try to identify the posh mugger by looking into their database.

If you eliminate those, you'll have a much tighter and better book. The reader will be thankful for it.

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