On redundancy, and also on repeating yourself

Jul 09

See what I did with the title there? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

So lately, I’ve become aware of my general tendency to write with redundancy. I’ll write something that physically describes a character, or outline some habit or tradition in the world I’ve created, or offer some description of a scene, and then a page later, I’ll repeat it. This leads to incredibly ineffective pacing, because I’m spending so much time trying to remind the reader of what so-and-so looks like, or the fact that in this world, X works like Y. Of course, when I recognize that I’ve done this, I go back and change it (most of the time), but the fact that I continue to feel the need to continue writing this way is bothersome to me.

For example, on one page, I might mention something about the color of the main character’s skin, how it’s tan and covered with freckles because she’s spends so much time in the sun. Then, in the next chapter, I’ll describe the difference between her skin tone and her brother’s, explaining how they barely even look related because he’s so pale in comparison. Necessary? Hardly. Readers will probably remember what I originally said, and even if they don’t, it’s hardly a pressing plot point.

In my mind, the details of the world I’ve crafted and the characters that I’ve written are concrete, but still fluid. I’ve established a lot about the way this world works, but I know that there’s still a lot of room for change and revision. So is it that I continue to repeat myself unnecessarily whilst writing because I am trying to establish these facts for myself? Or does it stem more from not trusting my (future, potential, current nonexistent) readers to remember certain details. While yes, it is a fact that there are some stupid readers out there (prime example: those who threw a total (racist) hissy fit over the characters of Rue and Thresh from The Hunger Games being black in the movie. Guys, seriously. Suzanne Collins literally described them as having “dark brown skin”. They’re black. Get over it.), but I know I shouldn’t be assuming that my readers won’t be smart enough to piece together the details of this world without constantly needing to be reminded.

I read on a list of top mistakes that new writers make (one of many that I’ve read, actually) that being redundant is a general issue for a lot of new writers. Knowing is half the battle, as always, so hopefully in future revisions and edits I’ll be able to eliminate them without detracting from the setting, continuity, or comprehension of the book. In general, I’m optimistic that just trying to be aware of my proclivity for doing this will stop me from doing it as frequently.

One comment

  1. I think it’s worth doing- precisely for reasons like what happened with Hunger Games. Also, I believe that it DOES help to reiterate a little so the characters become more real and easy to picture for the reader- given that, I agree about not going on and on and on about the same features or descriptors (eg. 50 Shades on Christian’s smile, his eyes, Ana’s smell, etc.) because then it gets boring.

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