1. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Repeating words in Poetry and Stories

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Leaka, Dec 18, 2008.

    I have always found this interesting in reviewing everyone says you repeated clouds three times in this poem, how about changing clouds to something else. But a lot of the time in poetry I find they don't do this.
    So, why do people say not to repeat words, when words are repeated in other poems all the time?
    What is your take on this?
    The same thing with stories as well, you read some of them and they repeat words.
    An example would to look at Hemmingways stories for repeating words.
    And an example of repeating words in poetry would the Lovesonge of Alfred J. Prufrock by T.S. Elliot.
    Example of Prufrock:
    "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzles on the window-panes"
     
  2. Asuran
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    Asuran Member

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    Repetition of words is very emphatic in poetry. Very descriptive in prose - either of the narrator or the character; because the brain wants to flow through the reading, repeating a word makes it think back and pause a bit. For prose however, the technique should be used very sparingly.

    The above is just my opinion, of course.
     
  3. ArckAngel
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    ArckAngel Member

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    Well, in my opinion when poetry is done well, everything done in it is for a reason. Poetry is basically pros condensed. It can tell the same story in 80 pages of pros with 8 lines. So every word must be chosen carefully. Repitation can be a very useful tool if that word has importance. It can also be a stylistic thing.
    As far as repeating words, or even phrases Woolf does it all the time in 'To The Lighthouse.' And each time it's to emphasize what those lines mean.
     
  4. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    Often words can be repeated to slow down the reading of a poem if repeated like
    "and time went slow
    slow
    slow"

    But, a lot of times in "amateur" poetry words are repeated not for effect but for lack of a better word. When someone repeats a word like "I" or "she" for example, a lot of times these words can be worked around to keep the poem from being tiring and repetitive. I usually only say not to repeat words if I can not find a purpose for it.
     
  5. Spearnymph
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    Spearnymph Member

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    I, for one, don't particularly like reading things where repetition is avoided in a forced manner. For example, some people are of the opinion that the word "said" should be minimized. Other people, including me, think that "said" feels natural and focuses on the dialogue. Of course, I think "said" should be replaced by something more expressive, when there is need for it. If it's not used just for the sake of not using it, it can get jarring.

    Along those lines, I don't agree with having to use a different word every time. It's really up to the writer. I agree with Asuran about how repetition can be very effective in poetry or prose. I wouldn't say "do not repeat" as a rule. I think only the author can judge whether the repetition is due to weakness in expression, but it can be intended in several ways - style, emphasis, flow, mood etc.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there must always be a good reason for repeating a word in either poetry or prose...

    imo, if it's not done on purpose for a very good reason and doing so doesn't make sense to the readers, then the repeat should be changed to something else...
     
  7. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    I think I remember hearing about someone who wrote a whole story, or something, using the same set number of words. (I apologize that I really can't remember details, it was a long time ago that I heard about it.)

    I think it was to prove a point that using the same words isn't always a bad thing, and that sometimes people can get carried away trying to use fancy words that mean the same thing.

    I don't have a problem with reading repeating words, so long as it doesn't get awkward.
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    It's up to the writer what words they want to use. Sometimes repetition is a good thing. Sometimes it's not. You'll get twenty different people telling you twenty different things. Go with what sounds best to you.

    Repetition is bad when it's done because the writer has a limited knowledge of appropriate words to use; sometimes it's best to stretch one's horizons. On the other hand, avoiding repetition by using "fancy" words can be just as irritating to the reader. From your example, "clouds" is something that doesn't easily lend itself to an alternate word that means the exact same thing and is in common usage, so you'd probably be best going with just "clouds." However, if you can find a way to minimize repeating it (for example, can you simply omit one of the usages, rather than change it, without affecting the meaning of the poem?), that can help.

    Long post short, unless it's done for a specific purpose (and some stories and poems do make a point of repeating things for this reason--I get the feeling that "Prufrock" poem is an example), try not to repeat yourself too much, but try not to go out of your way to avoid it if repetition is necessary. It's your call.
     
  9. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Many times I will have characters repeat familiar words in their dialog. I feel it adds a certain sense of realism. We all become enamored with certain words, so my characters should as well.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think the real question should be WHY you repeated a word or phrase. A repeated word or phrase can emphasize it, and become an anchor point that ties different parts of the poem together.

    But other times, the repetition may simply mean the poet didn't consider, or couldn't think of, alternatives. The poet may not have even realized that the word was overused.

    I like purposeful repetition, as long as it isn't overdone. There was a recent poem on the site that began every line with the same short word. I don't remember what the word was, but it was a deliberate choice by the writer. But reading it, I felt like a baby seal being clubbed repeatedly with that single word. It wasn't really effective, at least not for me. It was just annoying. I never responded on that thread, but several other members did, so I know I wasn't alone in that perception.

    Another option is to almost repeat a phrase repetition with slight but important variations. That structure provides a framework that points to those differences with a great flashing neon sign. It can be tremendously effective, or it can be just another big hammer.
     
  11. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I like my poetry to have repeated words, not because I can't think of any other word, but because its the one and only word that emphasizes my emotions or my thoughts clearly.
    To change that word would be changing how I feel or how I think.
    I like repeating my words.
    Stories are okay with repeated words, but I prefer poetry with repeating words. I think it invokes a time and place an sequence of thoughts with just one word.
    I write how I think and I write how I feel at that moment in time.
    I like my emotions and my thoughts to be a stain that is never cleaned away.
    [Okay bad metaphor, but you get my point]
     
  12. hawkedup
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    hawkedup Member

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    Not much I see that I can add to this conversation, but I’ll provide my thoughts on the matter without being too… repetitive.

    These are a few cases when I think you should NOT use repetition:
    - If it distracts from what the poem is supposed to be.
    - If the word being repeated is overly simplistic.
    - If the author simply has a lackluster vocabulary.
    - If there is no obvious reason for the repetition.
    - If the repetition is forced.

    Many amateur poets (in my experience) called on their over abundance of repetition generally fall into making excuses like: “It was intentional. Repetition is okay in poetry.” An imperative thing one must realize while facing the problem of redundancy and repetition is that intention is meaningless. Repetition of a word—just as alliteration, rhyming or not rhyming, stanza length, syllables per line—must have a REASON or a PURPOSE that adds to the poem itself. Just because an author intended to repeat a word doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.

    Emotions and thoughts are very intricate and complex things and I can’t imagine that they would be in any way limited to a single word. It is for this reason that I don’t think you should get into the habit of making this excuse. If you like to use repetition in your poetry, that is fine, but to use it because it is the only word you can think of to emphasize an emotion or thought? Eh... I'm sure you can think of others. Or use a thesaurus.

    Perhaps if you provided an example of a specific instance?
     
  13. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    Add:
    The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe is a great example of good repetition.
     
  14. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my opinion, thesauruses are generally bad news. If the word isn't part of your normal vocabulary, it might not flow well with your general voice.

    On the other hand, I do agree to some extent that repetition is a dangerous beast. There are times when it can be very effective, but merely "to pound home the point", or "because I don't have a better word" rarely suffices to justify its use.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Rather, repetition can be the gathering hand which collects blossoms into a bouquet.
     
  16. Spearnymph
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    Spearnymph Member

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    A thesaurus is a good way to help you improve your vocabulary, as long as you aren't just replacing words without thought. I guess when there is no other one word that suffices, several words could be used? We can't keep relying on a single right word to do all the work for us.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    IF you use the thesaurus only to find words, and then become thoroughly familiar with the word before trying to use it in your writing. Unfortunately, even a dictionary is generally poor at conveying the finer connotations of a word, the subtle nuances that can make a seemingly better word laughable in actual context.

    Word of the Day articles can often be better ways to build vocabulary. Alas, even our own WotD feature is deficient in that regard. We had a similar Word of the Day as part of our Toastmaster meetings, but when peoplr try to fit the word into the speeches, they too often stretch the word well beyond its boundaries.

    I subscribe to a Spanish WotD feature, even though my knowledge of the core language is still pretty meager. But what it DOES do is use the word idiomatically, which helps me learn the meaning of the words I'm able to retain better than I do through the ordinary language lessons.

    In English, finding the word actually used, and used well, in a number of contexts will enrich your vocabulary far better than learning it from the thesaurus-plus-dictionary.

    I do use a thesaurus - but only to remind me of the words I already know that might better fit my context.
     
  18. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Dictionary would be better.
    Sometimes there are words I just love the sound of when it comes to dictionaries.

    In the emotion thing, there could be a single word that could reflect an emotion.
    Emotions may be complex, but they are also very hard to express and maybe as you feel that one feeling only one word can come to you.
    Maybe only one word as you enter this realm of feeling is the only word that can come to you.
    Sometimes emotions are bound to just one word.
     
  19. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    Example?...I mean I can see one word really fitting you but when crafting a poem there are ways to emphasize one line more than the others and repetition isn't the only method. Personally I think that most of being "bound to" something doesn't mean you should repeat it, and saying only word fits it is a little "lazy" for lack of a better word, and I mean no offense but really.
     
  20. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Its not lazy.
    Its the moment and time when I am feeling one thing and cannot explain it any better.
    Explaining my emotions is hard and one word seems to fit that clumsy awkward part of me.
    Take for example I don't love, I can't really manifest something cause that isn't what I am feeling at the moment.
    But if my heart was fluttering and springing forth I would use those two words a lot.
    Only because that is the only way I can explain my emotion at that moment in time.
    And I rather not go back and change it because that is changing the emotion that you felt.
    To say that you have to change it because repeating a word emotionally is lazy is rude.
    That is how you felt and it should remain the way you felt.
     
  21. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used it lightly, and I kinda knew you would say it was "rude" lol.
    To be honest I think you've just made up your mind about his that you have feelings that are confined to one word, which is ok we all have emotions specific to us but there are ways to express emotion- not just through one word. Its obvious you have "shut down", to me atleast, because honestly I presented my post nicely and I;ve learned that everyone will take offense to anything said. So really I kinda see your point but poetry doesn't have to be pure emotion so repeating the same word doesn't add much to it, it sorta just..is there. But hey, we all have our opinions.
     
  22. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    My poetry is pure emotion.
    That is the only time I write poetry when I feel.
    And if you have ever read Poe's poem Annabel Lee, he repeats a lot of words in there and it works well.
    At least to me.
     
  23. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a huge fan of Annabel Lee, and the way Poe uses repetition in all his poems is amazing, which I stated earlier in the thread when I mentioned "The Bells" by Poe. But my point is, repeating words is great when used for a point, and its great that your poetry is all emotion, but not all of it is and I think your making the target area for the topic so incredibly small that only you can "be right" here.
     
  24. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    No, I just want people to see the other side instead of sitting here and calling people lazy just because they repeated a few words.
    Because they aren't.
     
  25. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok in my post I had said that wasn't the word I was looking for and dwelling on it is just completely unnecessary, dodging the actual point of posts and just sticking with one minor part of it is really quite tiresome.
     

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