Thursday, September 8, 2011

I died once.

When I was a kid, we discovered THE MOST ANNOYING THING. Repeating the same thing over and over and over. Then I came across a little ditty that was annoyance GOLD. I said this puppy over and over so many times! It was awesome. (Feel free to teach it to any kids you know.)

I'm going to show it to you in drawings, because drawing make things more fun, right?


Now imagine that repeated over and over. AWESOME, right? It totally was! Well... if you were the one saying it. Not so much if you were the one hearing it.

Repetition can be a great thing in a book. Like when it reinforces the theme or when you repeat a phrase to add emphasis.

But repetition can also be a really bad thing in a book. There's lots of repetition we have to look out for.

Like repeating those pet phrases we each have. Or pet words. Or pet body language or actions (raising eyebrows, shrugging, sighing, etc.).

On a paragraph or page level, having two sentences that say essentially the same thing.

Character types. When multiple characters share the same personality traits, appearance, quirks, likes and dislikes, the characters can feel flat, even if they are well developed.

Repeating conflict. I read a book recently that had conflict on every single page! It was great... except that each conflict was the same conflict. The MC got captured, then he'd find a way to escape. He'd gain a little ground, get a little closer to his goal, and get captured by someone else. He'd find a way to escape... and you get the picture.

When you explain too much. This SO EASY to do on a first draft! You want to make sure you convey everything. Make sure the reader REALLY GETS what is happening, and that's totally fine. But in revisions, remember to trust the reader. You're a reader. You know how we are. We're pretty good at picking up things, even when they are more subtle.

Repeating emotion. I read a book a year or two ago that people generally loved. There was a lot of the book that I loved, too, but there was something that kept it from being fabulous. A single emotion permeated the entire book. Everything was seen through the eyes of that ONE emotion. We never got a reprieve, and by the end, I was exhausted.

So as fun as it is to annoy your siblings when you're a kid, it's a good thing to never annoy your reader through repetition. Do you have a repetition pet peeve that drives you crazy whenever you see it? Do you have any you find yourself doing often?

Now go teach my little ditty to any kids you are frequently around. Come on. It'll be AWESOME.

27 comments:

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

thats the funniest thing I have ever seen, Im dying!

Cristina said...

ahhh, That's awesome.. the dying thing :)

Shell Flower said...

I picked up a similar annoying saying from my older siblings that we used to annoy our parents with, too. It was very close to yours, but we said, "I laughed and laughed 'til I thought I was going to die. Die? I did die, and they buried me in the sand, and boy did that sand tickle, I laughed and laughed 'til..." you get the picture. That was our Wisconsin version, I guess. LOL. I forgot all about that. I am certainly guilty of the repetition issue in my writing. Find and Replace can be a very helpful tool to spot words and phrases that get overused.

Kristine said...

Thanks for getting that stuck in my head again! As if growing up your little sister wasn't enough! Haha! Love ya!

J. A. Bennett said...

That is a hilarious ditty! I think repetition is the MOST annoying thing to me, yet I'm guilty of it, sigh. Great post!

Kelley said...

I've never heard of the dying thing...

I have words that I use too often. Luckily they're found in edits.

tammy said...

Was the repeating emotion in the book you read WHINING, perhaps?

Abby said...

This is great. I started reading a series with my brother several years ago. The books and writing were great, but as I got further into the series (which was like 10 books) I started to get annoyed. Everything was so dark and depressing and NOTHING good ever happened. I kept reading waiting for things to change, but alas... (kind of like the repeated capturing you talk of). I finally had to quit and I don't even know how it ends. O-well. I think the roller coaster effect in a book is better. Capture more than one emotion!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Read my books-- Dying?! I died once. :)

Cristina-- Makes you want to repeat it all day long, doesn't it?

Shell-- I LOVE your version! I've never heard anything like it outside of my own family before. I read your version to my kids. They loved it, too. Hopefully they don't kill me with it. ;)

Kristine-- Mwahaha! And when your kids get a little older, I'm totally teaching it to them. After all, what are big sisters for?

J.A.-- It's THE MOST annoying thing to me, too! In writing or in life. And yes. You can hate it and still accidentally do it, darn it.

Kelley-- I do, too. Some of them I don't even notice until someone points them out to me.

Tammy-- Why, I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about. Okay, no really. WHINING is by far the worst of all the repeating offenses. The one in my mind when I wrote this was a form of whining. (Good guess!) It was an "My life is crap. I want this." And then when she gets this, it's all "Wait. Maybe I didn't want this. I want this." Then, "Wait. My life is still crap. Maybe I actually wanted THIS." I get feeling like that. But for an entire book?!

Abby-- That's so frustrating! You should find someone to fill you in on how it ended. And I totally agree. Roller coaster is much better. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh, I am not teaching this to my son. He will say it, over and over and over again. Cute though, and love to pictures.

Lani Wendt Young said...

Excellent post. I love how you convey a writing 'tip' or point so creatively and clearly. Without confusing me. (too many children equals not enough non-foggy brain cells)
I gave my book TELESA to a great group of advance readers in prep to the online launch tomorrow - and one of the most useful feedback was from someone who said, "Theres a word that you keep using and I notice it on every page almost. It keeps coming up and i was thinking, maybe you might want to check a thesaurus and choose a different one?!"

Thank goodness for good readers lol because yes, we writers can be repetitive without even realizing it.

Jeff King said...

Thank the light my kids don’t know that song… and yes, repetitive things suck: especially in what I read.

Jessie Humphries said...

Where did you get the idea for this post???? Lol. Seriously, you are so dang creative.

Talei said...

Ha! So true! Fab pics and such a awesome points on downside of repetition - dying, whining, biting lip, shrugging and raising eyebrows... hmmm, I'm wondering if we're all thinking of the same books? ;-)

Happy writing!

Carrie Butler said...

Oh my goodness! You know what we always did? "Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell out, and who was left?"
"Repeat."
"Pete and Repeat were in a boat..."

*grins* What a fun post! I love the pictures. :)

Michael Offutt said...

Forty-two bottles of beer on the wall, forty-two bottles of beer...take one down pass it around and you have forty-one bottles of beer on the wall..."

Yeah, I can see how repetitive some things can get. This was actually one of the issues I had with Witch Song that were kind of disappointing. The girl in it just always gets captured, gets away, gets captured again.

CherylAnne Ham said...

My son has been singing "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, and this is how it goes..." (repeat indefinitely) He's right, it does get on everybody's nerves. LOL

Tara Tyler said...

i love your artwork!
it's like the endless reflection of 2 mirrors =)
nicely done!

linda said...

Never heard of that particular annoying ditty, but I love your drawings! :D

Peggy Eddleman said...

Jenny-- For the sake of your sanity, you probably shouldn't. :)

Lani-- Awww, thanks! And your story is hilarious! I'm so excited for you-- your book launch is TODAY!! Yay! Best of luck with it all!

Jeff-- I am SO right there with you. Repetitive things definitely suck!

Jessie-- You are now my favorite. :)

Talei-- Hmm. Maybe we are. Although repetition is SO EASY to do, I'd venture to say that every book has a problem with it to some extent. I guess some books' version of repetition rubs some people wrong and other people have bigger problems with other books.

Carrie-- Hahaha! I LOVED that one as a kid, too! I had completely forgotten about it. And I just taught it to my kids.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Michael-- Ahh! Another repetitive song I hadn't thought of!

CherylAnne-- I've never heard that one! I'm pretty grateful I haven't, though. I think the song's right. It'd totally get on my nerves. :)

Tara-- Awww! Thanks!

Linda-- Then I'm glad I got to be the one to introduce you to it. :) And thank you!

Richard said...

I like your drawings. You have a real talent there as well as a talent for writing.

Maeve Frazier said...

I love this! Great post!

Lynn(e) said...

James Frey is amazing with use of repition, it made A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard very strong books.

Danielle Steel (spelling?) on the other hand...her book Sisters...I was really disappointed with it. A lot of her repetion was "And then the sisters were sad" or some same sentiment.

It's amazing to see how different writers use different devices. Excellent post!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Richard & Maeve-- Awww! Thanks! You guys are too sweet!

Lynn(e)-- There is definitely a lot to learn from other writers! Repetition can be used to strengthen anything, or it can be used to annoy. Definitely better to strengthen than annoy. :)

Carterista said...

I'm WAY glad you didn't ACTUALLY die once. Also, I think this post is WAY cool. Haha. (Inside joke-get it?

Peggy Eddleman said...

Carterista-- I am WAY glad, too. And btw, whenever I comment on one of your comments from now on, I plan to use WAY. Why? Because it's WAY cool. ;)