1. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Referring to the same thing repeatedly

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by animenagai, May 13, 2015.

    OK, so sometimes when I'm writing a story, there'll be something important -- an object -- that the story'll focus on for a paragraph or more. Take this excerpt from the novel-ish-thing I've been writing. Notice where I talk about the crystal:


    They left me tied like a pig; but just when they stepped around the boulders, Lauren clicked her fingers and a portal dropped something on the rope I was dangling on. It was a crystal. By my feet? Really? You know it’s a bad day when even salvation comes with a catch. I bent over slowly, but the rigid rope stopped me from reaching my legs. I decided to bring the jewel to me. I twitched my foot forward, restraining myself so the crystal wouldn’t fall out. It hardly moved. I wiggled harder. Nothing — so I jerked my feet away from me. The crystal slipped towards my feet as planned but when I swung back on the branch the jewel rebounded and fell, slowly. I stretched my body downwards and out towards my lifeline. It bounced off my teeth and onto my neck. I closed in on it with my chin and swung around in relief. Alright, now the rope. It’d been a long time since I used mana. I thought back to my lessons with Zazam. I could feel the crystal heating up, like a warm bath after a rough mission. I focused on it.

    My concentration was broken by some high-pitched chatter and a pat on the face. It was a tribe of hoarding monkeys. The small chimps all wore crowns and necklaces made of shiny things they found — forks, screws, bits of armour, anything they could pinch. One of them pointed at my crystal enthusiastically and the others cheered. They tried to push it out.


    “Oh no you don’t!” is what I wanted to say, but only mumbles came out of my awkward jaw. The chimps screeched and threw their arms in a tantrum. One of them came up to me, scratched my nose, before another jumped on my face and yanked me around with its limbs. I wanted to headbutt them so bad. Something pulled my hair back, punched the jewel towards my throat and I coughed on the furry belly of the chimp as the crystal fell out. They hoisted up their spoils and marched off. The nose-scratcher turned and threw an acorn at me for good measure. I rocked around flushed and angry.

    I didn't want to say 'crystal' again and again, so I used other words like 'jewel' or 'the prize'. But sometimes, in longer examples of this, I just end up using a handful of words again and again. It's not much better. So my questions are:

    A. Is this a problem? I mean, the crystal's pretty important here after all. Can I get away with repetition here?

    B. What's better, repeating one word or a bunch of words that refer to the same thing?

    C. If it is a problem, how do I get around it?

    Thanks!

    PS. Hope my writing was alright there. I'm still editing :)
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi animegai,

    Gosh, there are a lot of mentions of a crystal! I've highlighted them all in light blue to see it a little more clearly. I'd have suggested replacing "crystal" with "it", but you've already done that. In fact, too much for clarity in my opinion - see the comments in dark blue.

    To be honest, I think that you can get away with the repetition - as you say, it's central to this passage, and you need the reader to be able to follow where you're going.

    You've only varied between crystal and jewel, as far as I can see, and that - IMO - is enough. A third visit to the thesaurus is only going to come up with something a little less accurate, and is going to take the reader away from the story to laugh at your need to use many and varied words.

     
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  3. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    I thought it read fine. When I was reading I just glazed over the repetition, mainly because I really liked the passage!
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your biggest problem doesn't seem to be the crystal. Your biggest problem is actually making it make sense... the crystal was by his feet and then it was on his neck? He was carefully inching his feet forward so the crystal wouldn't fall out... fall out of where? I thought it was by his feet. And where the heck did the crystal even come from!? The portal, I suppose, but it's not clear.

    If I were you, I'd pay more attention to the sequence of action and how you describe that. The crystal repetition is fine. But the scene as a whole was more than confusing.
     
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  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'm with Mckk on this...

    You say "They left me tied like a pig..." How does one tie a pig? Do you mean hands together and feet together, with a pole thrust through to make it easier to carry?
     
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  6. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Pig-tied is by definition the opposite of hog-tied. Pig tied means on your back, legs and ankles tied, then legs and ankles bound together.

    Just FYI a hogtie is where your arms and legs are bound behind your back.
     
  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What @Mckk said. The scene was difficult to follow. I could imagine something, but I don't think I saw the character do it the way you, in your head, saw him do it. So yeah, I'd work on the action-reaction, the sequence of things, and not be overly concerned with the repetition of crystal. You can use jewel if need be, and especially watch out what you refer to with the multiple it's. That was probably the hardest part for me to follow, to which preceding noun the given it referred to.

    For what it's worth, pig-tied is clear enough for me.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Legs and ankles tied, then tied together...? o_O

    Yeah I know what hog-tied is. However, I totally did not translate "tied like a pig" with being "hog-tied". Tied like a pig could be anything! It could simply mean you've been captured like an animal and tied up, and doesn't have to refer to a particular way of being tied.

    But if the character was hog-tied, then his feet would be up in the air. How the heck then can the crystal "land by his feet"!? o_O At best it would land "by his knees". And that also means his feet would be in the air, utterly immobilised - what on earth then has the character been inching forward and jerking backwards? With your feet linked to your wrists, you can't "jerk" anything - that's the beauty of being hog-tied - you quite literally cannot move.

    So if you're right re the hog-tie, then the scene makes even less sense...

    But it can't be a hog-tie, because the passage says, "I bent over slowly, but the rigid rope stopped me from reaching my legs."

    You cannot bend when you're on your stomach on the ground with all your limbs pulled behind you. And you cannot reach anything at all in a hog-tie. The whole idea of the rope going taut and preventing the character from "reaching my legs" tells me somehow his hands are suspended rather than behind his back, and he's probably standing because he's trying to bend. This would follow better with how the crystal landed "by his feet".

    But now in a standing position - seriously, what's the crystal falling "out of" and how the hell did it end up on his neck, and then in his mouth, when he can't bend low enough to even touch his hands to his thighs!?

    EDIT: Sorry just reread your post and realised you said hog-tied is the opposite to pig-tied. But if you're on your back with your limbs tied, presumably stretched upwards since you're on your back - all of my above queries re the character's position and sequence of events remain... Feet would still be in the air, meaning the crystal cannot possibly land by his feet and inching his feet would make zero difference to reaching the crystal. The most logical position given how things are described is still with the character in a standing position, I think.
     
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  9. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    Your questions A: Is this a problem?

    No, I didn't think you over did it with the word crystal. It seemed okay to me.

    You referred to it as various nouns, and you referred to it as it relates to other characters, "the prize." I think there's one other way you could refer to it, and that is by it's appearance or sensation. You did mention it heating up, so you could refer to it's warm quality, the "warm lump under my chin" or what have you.

    B. What's better, repeating one word or a bunch of words that refer to the same thing?

    A bunch of words.

    C. If it is a problem, how do I get around it?

    It can be a problem, but I didn't think your example was a problem. You varied it sufficiently.

    I have trouble repeating the same nouns repeatedly too. Although my problem is mostly with people's names, and this is some of what I've learned on the topic.

    Talking about people's (and objects') physical appearances, gestures, actions, and sensations (how someone/something smells, tastes, sounds, feels), is the strongest way of labeling things.

    Next comes how that person or thing relates to the characters. "That idiot who stole my credit card." "That piece of junk that keeps breaking on me." You used "prize" and "spoils" which was good. To the monkeys that's what this object was.

    And lastly calling people by their proper names. Mrs. Smith, Suzanne, the jewel, the crystal. You can usually throw in nicknames, etc., in there as well. If there are too many names at the beginning of a book, I gloss over them. I need more description. A name by itself is mostly meaningless which is why adding in appearances, sensations, etc. helps a lot.

    Also you can change your description of things as they evolve. A character might start out with a "shiny new cup" but by the end of the story it's a "broken pile of ceramic." A "crisp, hot-off-the-press newspaper" is now a "crumpled pile of pages." Changing the object makes it interesting. "The newspaper, the newspaper, the newspaper" would get very monotonous after a while.
     
  10. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Thanks guys! The 'tied like a pig stuff' was my bad -- this is only an excerpt of the larger chapter (as you would've guessed), and I left out the earlier descriptions :/. I just copied and pasted the stuff I thought was repetitive, for the sake of brevity. In a rush now. I'll edit this later.
     
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  11. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I did not notice the repetition of the word, "crystal". There was enough movement and action to distract me. :agreed:

    Also: people tend to not read words. They read patterns. I am especially guilty of this when it comes to names where the author is being too clever by far and my brain refuses to even attempt to pronounce someone's name. Y'vvsgur indeed.

    When you write, "crystal", any description (whether provided by the author or the reader's imagination) would tend to be attached to --,-'-' (the basic shape of the word crystal) and that's what you see / read as you read the word "crystal" - the colour and texture of the item. For me it was a light purple coloured, multi-faceted gem about the size of a large grape.

    You did not ask, but I would agree with the comments above. I found the description "pig tied" somewhat insufficient to describe his state and could not picture in my mind how the protagonist was arranged. The movement of the crystal then seemed awkward / illogical and caused constant reframing of the scene in my mind. It distracted from the story and prevented the immersion I was seeking.

    HTH and good luck with your world :D
     
  12. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Alright, I reread what I wrote. You guys didn't get enough context, so that made things harder to follow. However, I did clean things up more after everyone gave their wonderful feedback, so thanks for that! I don't feel comfortable leaving this thread without showing the updated version, so here it is. There are still things that are unexplained, but that's because this is chapter 5 in a longer story (and not all of chapter 5 either). Hopefully it's clearer now.


    If I could kill them I would. The fantasy kept me company at least. My arms and legs were tied; I could hardly breathe under all the firewood, stuck in a wagon sliding through the smooth portal-world. I was overcome by anger and released a long chain of verbal assaults to the traitors outside. How did I let this happen? Why did I choose — no, it’s them. Yes, it’s definitely them. Their half-baked ideas will destroy us all.

    The wagon must’ve left the empty world and onto a bumpy road. The slopes and bends of travel tossed everything around, pushing me into unseeable corners. Countless hours passed with my eyes closed, stopping the splinters from falling through my eyelids. I couldn’t sleep. Lauren made a joke with someone outside and jumped on the wagon. My body cracked. Brant slapped the wagon so hard I thought the giant was still alive.


    All I could do was listen. My enemies were enemies of the crown and my only weapon was information. Brant was the shielded man. I figured he was a senior member of the Duke’s forces by the way everyone spoke to him. Lauren seemed less intimidating. She made small talk with everyone, including a few japes to the ‘load of cargo’ she was sitting on. What an angel. I didn’t buy it. I saw her behead a giant with the twist of a wrist. She was the biggest threat of them all.

    The wagon stopped so I poked my ear out, right before everything tilted and I tumbled out, face first on to the dirt. Heth and Zazam picked me up before I could squirm away. We were still in the mountains, though probably not the same mountains. The place was covered in what my uncle called ‘stacks’ — massive, flat mushrooms that grew on top of each other to form the shape of trees. They carried me to the biggest stack as I fought back to no avail. With the rope around my ankles, they hung me upside-down on a mushroom branch. It was frustratingly strong. My captors looked at me like a painting being hanged. Lauren jabbed my bruised ribs with one finger.

    “We can’t have you crawling away now.” said Lauren. “Not that you could do much either way.”

    What cheek. I threw my shoulder at her instinctively but stayed silent. There was no point talking anymore. Heth and Brant set up tents by pinning cloth on low branches. The only way out of this secluded area was through a narrow path hidden by unrooted ferns. These soldiers were careful.

    “I’m going to get supplies.” said Brant. “Before we get to the city.”

    “I’ll go too.” said Heth. A glimmering jewel shone from the edge of his pockets.

    “Loading up’s a good idea.” said Lauren. “You all go ahead, I’ll watch the fort.” They did as they were told.

    Lauren sat cross-legged in front of me with her hands on one knee. She was more like a mother matchmaking for her daughter than a soldier watching guard. The soft-spoken titan looked at me silently for a while.

    “You don’t have anything to say?” said Lauren.

    “I have plenty of words for you, believe me.” I said. “But so what? You won’t say shit.”

    “Oh, you’ll be surprised.” said Lauren, her smile now more devious than charming.

    “ … Humour me.”

    “I’ll tell you how to break free.”

    I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. Lauren opened her palm and a portal cut through the air. Rope dropped into her hands.

    “This is snake-charmers’ rope. Don’t even try to rip it, that’s not how Aerian vines work.” She pulled out a knife and tugged the rope to demonstrate. “Buuuut, if you just work some juice in there…” She ran the mana light down the rope and the ends started to split and untangle. In a matter of seconds the rope fell into strands. “Now wasn’t that eas—“ she threw her head around her shoulders and quickly dropped the rope into the portal. Brunt pushed the ferns aside and was heading straight towards us. He wasn’t happy.

    “What is it, deary?” said Lauren.

    “What do you think?” said Brant.

    “Need me for anything?”

    “Landslide. Dry as a bloody desert and we still get a landslide. Get us through it.”

    “And I thought you boys could do everything. How would you survive without me?” said Lauren with a wink and a giggle. They left, but just when they stepped around the boulders, Lauren clicked her fingers and a portal dropped something on the rope around my feet. It was a crystal. By my feet? Really? You know it’s a bad day when even salvation comes with a catch. I tried bending my body upwards, but the rigid rope stopped me from reaching my legs. I decided to bring the jewel between my shoes. I twitched my foot a little, restraining myself so the crystal wouldn’t fly out too far. It hardly moved. I wiggled harder. Nothing — so I jerked my feet even harder and the crystal shifted towards my feet but then rebounded and fell off. It dropped slowly.

    I made a snap decision, stretched my body downwards and out towards my lifeline. The gem bounced off my teeth and onto my neck. I closed in on it with my chin and swung around in relief. Alright, now the rope. It’d been a long time since I used mana. I thought back to my lessons with Zazam. I could feel the crystal heating up, like a warm bath after a rough mission. I focused on the warmth.

    My concentration was broken by some high-pitched chatter and a pat on the face. It was a tribe of hoarding monkeys. The small chimps all wore crowns and necklaces made of shiny things they found — forks, screws, bits of armour, anything they could pinch. One of them pointed at my crystal enthusiastically and the others cheered. They tried to push it out.


    “Oh no you don’t!” is what I wanted to say, but only mumbles came out. The chimps screeched and threw their arms in a tantrum. One of them came up to me, scratched my nose, before another jumped on my face and yanked me around with its limbs. I wanted to headbutt them so bad. Something pulled my hair back, punched the jewel towards my throat and I coughed on the furry belly of the chimp as the crystal fell out. They hoisted up their prize and marched off. The nose-scratcher turned and threw an acorn at me for good measure. I rocked around flushed and angry.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, the re-write has more context and makes more sense. I had no problem with the repetition of 'crystal.' Knowing what it is and where it is is crucial to this scene, so I'd say don't get fancy with changing what you call it.

    One typo ...you said 'breath' in the first line. What you meant was 'breathe.'
     
  14. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Started reading, must run, will return. Saw this

    I could hardly breath under the all the firewood

    (and breath[e] as suggested by jannert)
     
  15. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Typos will be the death of me :/
     

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