Watch out for repetitive descriptions in your writing
On March 26, 2018 | 0 Comments | Writing tips |

In previous posts I’ve addressed my tendency to overuse certain words, phrases, or gestures, for example she bit her lip and she walked home slowly. To solve the problem I use the “find” option on Microsoft Word to catch the over-usages before my manuscripts go to the copyeditor. Some still slip through, but I’m getting better.

For words and expressions that are common, repeating them on occasion over the course of an entire novel is not a problem. For example, multiple instances of following descriptions wouldn’t attract my attention:

  • She opened the door.
  • He fed the dog.
  • They ate dinner at home.

It’s the uncommon descriptions that are problematic when repeated, because they are memorable. For example, using any of the following more than once in a novel would not go unnoticed by your readers:

  • She covered her face with her hands and began sobbing hysterically.
  • To celebrate, he jumped up and did splits in the air.
  • As she looked at him, her eyes flickered with curiosity.

While it’s fine to sprinkle the same common gestures here and there over the course of an entire book, be careful to space them out. Last week I began reading a novel in which the following appeared in the span of just two pages in the first chapter:

  1. Kristen rubbed my arm, yanking me back to the present.
  2. Kristen rubbed my forearm. “Please talk to us.”
  3. Kristen pushed out her lower lip. She rubbed my forearm.

If those sentences had appeared fifty pages apart, I doubt I would have noticed them, but their proximity made them leap off the page. As a result I stopped thinking about the story and instead found myself wondering how neither the author nor the copyeditor had noticed the repetition. Having lost interest in the story, I gave up on that book and moved on to another one. That’s not what you want to happen to your readers, right? So be careful! We all have our “crutch” words. What are some of yours?



This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2018 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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