I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript. Yep, you can join in the fun, too. Let’s take a looksee at topic #7
7: If you find you’ve said the same thing more than once, choose the best and cut the rest. Frequently, I see the same idea presented several ways. It’s as if the writer is saying, “The first couple of images might not work, but the third one should do it. If not, maybe all three together will swing it.” The writer is repeating himself. Like this. This is a subtle form of pleonasm.
While I don’t do this often, I do catch myself doing it once in a while. This comes back around to dialog that moves the plot forward.
It’s tricky when you’re in a place where your main character knows something, and he/she has to relay the information to someone else to move the plot forward. If your character just rattles off everything the reader already knows, it is redundant, and boring, right? This is a tricky problem to try to wiggle around.
You need to find a creative way to make the scene flow naturally, without repeating yourself. Maybe someone else relays the information, and the person then “walks into the scene” with the main character so they can discuss. Or, maybe allude to your main character relaying the information (creatively of course) and then continuing with the dialog.
Whichever way you choose, the most important thing is to not repeat yourself. You need to keep the plot moving forward… not shifting backwards.
What creative ways have you come up with the wiggle around this problem?
Er, I’m still working on removing such things. 😉 One thing (there are plenty more) that I struggle with is finding the right balance of not repeating myself and yet providing reminders for the reader. For example, a beta reader might suggest refreshing the reader’s memory when a minor character reappears after an absence or reminding him where things stand when the plot has taken some twists. And then when I’ve done that, another reader in the next round says I’m repeating too much. Sigh. 😉
The trick is not to do it blatantly. Also, you may want to consider that if you need a reminder, maybe your book has become too long.
I often come up with a great line, and use it several times without knowing it. In revision, I have to figure out where it has the biggest punch and re-write the others.
However, it’s also possible that writers use similar examples in order to emphasize a theme. Though maybe too blatantly.
I’m not aware of whether I do this or not. Must take a close look and keep this in mind. Interesting rule.
I caught myself doing this just yesterday — caught it while proof reading
I can relate to this one!! Growing up in a big family, I often had to repeat myself 3x before anyone listened to me . . . some habits die hard, lol.