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  1. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    How do you feel about repetition?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ozzy, Apr 18, 2015.

    How do you feel, as a reader, about repetition. I don't mean using the same word over and over. I have the beginning and ending of most of my chapters ending with a two sentences that are almost identical. It's like a mantra for my MC, to remember who he is and where he came from. He feels lost, confused and it helps him recall the importance of his 'quest'. Does this turn you off to a story?
     
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  2. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Depending on the number of chapters, it could quickly grow tiresome, especially both beginning and ending. With something like this, less is definitely more.
     
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  3. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    It isn't every chapter, and I'm trying very hard to limit it. I have deleted a lot, and I try to put it only after the really important parts. I won't know if too much is actually too much until after it's completed and I read it through. Some of my chapters are a little shorter than the others, or nothing HUGE happens, so that's where I start taking them out.
     
  4. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    This wouldn't bother me - I would find that it keeps me asking questions and wanting to read more. You will find with this kind of question there is no definitive answer.

    The kind of repetition that does put me off, is the kind where a character recaps over their day and tells me - in their own voice - what I've just read them doing. That, IMHO, is time and paper wasting.
     
  5. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    Okay, thank you. I'm trying to make them almost like revelations to the character, after the 'mantra' idea is played. At first, it's like "This is me, this is what is going on" then it's more like "This is me, and holy crap, this hit me like a ton of bricks."
     
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  6. thirdwind

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If it's done correctly (i.e., well written), it wouldn't bother me at all. In fact, it could even improve the piece. I realize this is a vague answer, but hopefully it helps.
     
  7. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I was younger, I used too like using a specific, unique phrase to describe something - a character's eyes, for example. Then, at another point, I'd use the same phrase to describe something else, like a frozen waterfall. I was trying to get the reader to make the connection between the character's eyes and the ice without saying, "So-and-so had icy eyes" or something obvious like that. It's a technique I still like to use every once in a while, but I have to watch it - I can't repeat the phrase too often, or it looks like an affectation.
     
  8. wellthatsnice

    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Depends why you are doing it. I think it will bug readers, but that could be your intent. If your MC is OCD it would be a great way to set a book tone. The character can't get out of his own head, even when he tells his story...then he has growth and he doesn't end the chapter like that. Then something bad happens he blames himself and relapses, ending the book with that now infamous line.

    Chills
     
  9. sprirj

    sprirj Contributing Member

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    It's something I like to use in my writing. My own stories have a particular flow and rhythm, and the repetition is like a chorus in a song.

    Used well, great examples are the book 'fight club' and the film 'the big lebowski'
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not inherently bad, but I think that you'll have to be very, very careful to avoid looking like you're trying to be profound or wise or inspirational or educational, but failing. Since success at those things is unreliable, try to make sure it doesn't even look like you're shooting for those goals.
     
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  11. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    I don't think that's how it looks, but I obviously won't really know until I have more than my mom read it.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It escapes me now, but wasn't there a famous book where the phrase "...and so it goes," kept getting repeated?
     
  13. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five. It's used whenever there's a death, and for some other reasons.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's it. I knew I was just reading about it the other day.
     
  15. A.J. Pruitt

    A.J. Pruitt Member

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    *******************************************************
    Ozzy; you have actually hit on a topic that has been, is and will be argued strenuously for a hundred years into our future. There are two sides to repetitious wording and/or phrasing that can be argued as acceptable or not acceptable. In a book titled "I Didn't Listen" by Henri Shear, the phrase "I didn't listen again," was repeated time and time again, usually at the end of each chapter. The first person protagonist was referring to his own advice to himself whenever he got into trouble because not paying heed to his own advice. This repetitive phrase was also his last dying words as he lay dying in a gutter. The repetitive phrase fit the storyline so it was acceptable.

    In most instances however, repetitive sentences mean that the author is repeating information in a narrative that has previously been given. The reader already has the information so it does not require being repeated. It adds nothing to the advancement to the story or article.

    When I worked at Woman's Day Magazine as an editor, eighty percent of the non-solicited submissions we received were plagued with repetitive sentences. These sentences were, of course, lined through and sent back to the author. My general notation to the author was, "if you remove this sentence, would it remove anything from the story?"

    The other side of acceptable repetition was in a self-help manual I edited for a fellow in Vancouver, BC. He kept repeating the word "repetitious" or "repetition" over and over again. The acceptable reason for which he was using the word, he wanted to point out the problem of repetitious activities or meeting agendas. In the last sentence of the manual he asked the question, "Are you sick and tired of seeing the word repetition, well if that's the case can you can imagine how interesting repetitious meetings would be to your members?" The author used that single word repeatedly to hammer home the point that the shear boredom of repetition can and will kill a group faster than all the other problems put together.

    In conclusion, I do not believe that repetition should be eliminated in all circumstances just to follow a stringent grammatical rule. If the repetitious phrase or word plays an important roll in the story, it should be accepted as one of those "well yeah, in this case, it's acceptable" rules.

    AJ
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
  16. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    @A.J. Pruitt, this is a beautiful answer! It really helps guide me in the right direction! I appreciate it.
     
  17. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I only use repeat sentences if it comes from character voice. If the it's a character trait to repeat something, I use it.
     
  18. VirtuallyRealistic

    VirtuallyRealistic Active Member

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    In reference to this, I know George R.R. Martin used repetitious sentences from the characters voice frequently (More so in the two most recent novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series). A lot of fans complained, and I too found it fairly annoying. He was overdoing it; almost every other page he would repeat the same phrase/sentence, always from the characters inner voice.

    So, I would say limit your use of repetition, but I think if done right (In the fashion you have described) it could be very effective. I think beginning and end is a bit overkill, but maybe switching it up between the two, and having chapters in between that lack it entirely would be good.
     
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  19. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think after the first few instances, I'd just skip over the repeated lines.

    However, they could be used to great effect if, for example, after the event of the chapter the line has now taken on a new meaning, or a richer, deeper meaning that wasn't there before.

    For example, this isn't quite the same thing you're doing but I'm reminded of it, so I'll share anyway. In the manga All You Need is Kill (the one that inspired the Tom Cruise blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow), there was a conversation where the 2 MCs are simply staring out into the ocean and the girl, Rita, says how she loves the blue sky. Then, at the end - and from here I'll put it in spoiler tags cus it concerns the ending:

    At the end, as Rita's dying after the final battle with the male MC, the guy asks, "So why did you choose a red armour?" Because nobody else's armour's red. Rita replied: "I hate red."

    I never quite understood what the author was trying to convey there, I must say, but combined with the way it happened, the artwork that set the scene, I could sense a deeper meaning behind the line. It made me wanna read and reread that simple line.

    Now, if you did something similar every time your mantra is repeated - that would be very interesting. Every time it's repeated, it gives a little more insight based on what's happened before in the chapter, or perhaps takes on a drastically different meaning than what the reader assumed it meant before. A little like that simple line from the manga - a line that should have no deeper meaning at all, but when put into the context that it's in, suddenly takes on much depth.
     
  20. Lea`Brooks

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, it depends on why you do it. In Hunger Games (can't remember which book.. Mockingjay maybe?) Katniss is struggling with (basically) PTSD. So her therapist gives her a mantra. "I am Katniss Everdeen. My mother is so and so. This happened. Then this happened. But I'm okay." And while she didn't do it a lot, it happened a couple times. I personally loved it. I thought it really tapped into the inner turmoil of Katniss and made me feel with her.

    Then in the movie Momento.. The story is about a guy with short-term memory loss. So every time he "wakes up," he says, "What am I doing?" As you can imagine, it happened many times. Again, I loved that. Granted, this is probably entirely different from your story. lol But I think if there's a good reason for the mantra, helps your character to focus or remember or something, then I'd use it. Don't overuse it! Maybe sometimes instead of saying the whole phrase, you could just say, "He repeated his mantra as he'd done so many times before." So it's implied he said it, but it isn't said.

    Good luck!
     
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  21. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, mantras in fiction aren't exactly new. I mean - the most purchased book in the world after The Bible is "Atlas Shrugged" - which revolves around the repeated question "Who is John Galt?". (We can talk later about what people think of Ayn Rand :p)

    I don' repeat a lot of words but I repeat a lot of images on purpose (or at least have a plan to if I can ever get past this one piece that's taking forever to write). In my case those would be either clues (I keep showing you the photocopier for a reason) or symbolism (You really should keep track of the random blonde college student who shows up in the background - she's an analogue for society). Of course there are bad repetition like anything else - I've noticed that I repeat the same event structure in three or four chapters and that can't be good.
     
  22. Gloria Sythe

    Gloria Sythe Member

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    I am going to go out on a limb here and say that, even though grammatical rule frowns or preaches against repetition, it can also be used as a powerful tool in a story. A.J. Pruitt's answer to the thread is very convincing. .......In conclusion, I do not believe that repetition should be eliminated in all circumstances just to follow a stringent grammatical rule. If the repetitious phrase or word plays an important roll in the story, it should be accepted as one of those "well yeah, in this case, it's acceptable" rules.".........

    While studying English an uni, our English professor was of the old school of thought that one should never venture from the rules of written grammar. My thought would be, "if we are trying to convey a strong thought in a story, using a repetitive word or phrase that enhances a character's personality or enhances a critical point of the story," I will step off the path of grammatical rules.
     

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