Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Hot Heat


Today I think I'd like to talk about redundancy. In doing critiques (which is why we all need to do them for someone else) you tend to find the mistakes you yourself make -- over and over. Redundancy. The bane of my existance.

Perhaps it's from having a young child in the house. I have to keep repeating myself over and over again. Pick up your wet towels. Hang up your sweater. Put your dirty dishes in the sink. Over and over.

I also found that when I am redundant, it's usually to stress a point. The heat down here is so hot. The dirt down here is so dirty. The water in the pool is so wet.

I know, I know. Hot heat. Dirty dirt. Wet water. But it's so true. How else could I describe it? Of course, this is easy. Stifling heat. Dry red clay. Silky flowing water.

It's all in the description. However, what you must keep in mind is that your readers aren't six years old. They generally only need to be told once about the oppressive heat, the filthy mud, the refreshing pool.

They only need to be told once the husband cheated with his secretary. The old lady on the corner makes pies on Sunday. It was Sally in the library with a candlestick.

The point is, to only make the point once. Oh sure, sometimes you might want to go back to the point, to make it clearer again, but take my word for it, don't.

The other niggly thing I tend to do is use the same word in the same paragraph. Especially if it's a descriptor. The dirt is so dirty. I can't believe how the dirt gets into every little crevice. My daughter's jeans are so dirty when she comes in from school. Now, I don't know about you, but I really hate that. I always try and change my words around so we're not always looking at the same thing over and over. The dirt is so red. I can't believe how the dust gets into every little crevice. My daughter's jeans are so filthy when she comes in from school.

Subtle changes can make or break a story. Don't be redundant. Your readers aren't six years old. (Well, unless of course they are.)

Tell me -- Did I make my point? Do you want to throw some dirty dirt at me right now? Are you redundant?

19 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think I'm redundant with descriptions (as I'm lucky to get them in there even once) but I do have my favorite repetitive words. (As you well know!)

Linda G. said...

A very good point, well made. :)

And dirty dirt is the worst kind of dirt. It's so ... dirty.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

My first drafts are always riddled with redundancy, so I love this post. You won't find me throwing dirty dirt at you. I'll be too busy cutting out repeated words and information. : )

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It's not just the words, it's the repeated phrases (guilty), or repeated info (double guilty). That's when it's helpful to read through your ms as quickly as possible. Only then will the repetition scream out at you. ;0

Bossy Betty said...

Arrrgggghhhh! Yes! I have a really hard time getting repeated phrases out. I know I don't have to hit my reader over the head with the same info, but, well, I really want to!

Sarah Ahiers said...

ooh yeah, redundancy is something that slips into my drafts as well. But is's just because i want to make sure i made myself clear about a point

Johanna Garth said...

Redundancy is so easy to fall into when you're writing a novel. Part of it comes, I think, from forgetting that we've already said or used that same word/description.

Kind of like old ladies who retell the same story over and over and over.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

A popular best-selling romance novelist repeats stuff in her books so many times I simply cannot make myself read her work anymore. Great stories, ordinarily, but it feels like she treats her readers like idiots, and I can't stand it. BUT... she's still churning out the books, and still selling a kazillion of 'em, so the general public may not mind redundancy as much as we do.

Nicole Ducleroir said...

Agreed! When I'm reading and a fact or description I've already come across pops in again in the narrative, it sticks out like its words were printed in neon ink. Now, that said, you and I live in the same region of the U.S. So if you say the heat is so hot to me, I'm just going to nod my head, bleary-eyed, and reply, I know, the heat shouldn't be this hot in Spring!

Donna Hole said...

My first drafts are sorta me plotting out the novel, and I do have a tendency to repeat phrases and words. I catch most of them in the first round of edits - but yeah, I do rely on a critiquer to point them out. I have a tendency to "read" it as I envisioned, not as it actually is written.

.......dhole

Anne Gallagher said...

Alex -- No, I have to say, you're pretty good with descriptions.

Linda -- No one believes me when I say that about the dirt down here. It's just so dirty!

Cynthia -- Sometimes it's so hard to see the redundancy.

Stina -- I think that's my biggest problem, I read fast and skip over the stuff I already know!

Betty -- I keep thinking somehow my readers will miss the point.

Sarah -- I know. It's the point that sticks in your own head.

Johanna -- Writing a novel takes such a long time, you're right in that we forget what we've already said.

Susan -- I think I know which one you're talking about. Drives me crazy!

Nicole -- It is SOOO hot down here now. I can't believe it's only spring.

Donna -- What a great phrase -- I tend to read it as envisioned, not how I actually wrote it!! I'm guilty of that as well.

jabblog said...

Good points, Anne. I remember a book I read where one character kept rolling her eyes. It cropped up so often I was really irritated by it and it got in the way of the story.

Eric W. Trant said...

This is why the critique advice is to first let your work sit, and then read through it fast.

Repetition is also a crutch. If you are having trouble moving onto the next paragraph, you can repeat the last one.

It's an easy thing to catch, but it is difficult to let go of a beautiful phrase.

Furthermore, there's a catch-22 here. Sometimes you really, really want to make a point!

- Eric

Jayne said...

Good point. What I hate is when I use the same word twice in the same paragraph and it takes ages to spot it - and then when I do it's like how on earth did I not see it before?!

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm guilty of the repeated word used too many times close together. (same paragraph)

It happens when I don't preview first. My eyes don't see the repetition until it's too late. . .

Creepy Query Girl said...

LOL, I tend to be reduntant when it comes to plot events and how the MC is 'feeling' - reiterating over and over how angry/happy/sad they were about (insert plot device here). Great post!

Liza said...

Oh yes, I'm guilty of whole paragraphs, even pages of redundancies. Thankfully, it has recently been pointed out to me! Again and again and again. Oops. That's redundant, isn't it?

Al said...

One exception to that rule could be to have character that speaks that way. Assuming of course you didn't over do it.

Jacqueline Howett said...

So, how many different ways can you say, she smiled, or he smiled without saying grin?