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  1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Who Repeats Words the Best

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by John Calligan, Nov 16, 2018.

    For example:

    Every Christmas, Mike would hang the lights, and Mike would cut a tree, and Mike would cook a fancy dinner. But this Christmas was different. Mike would not hang the lights, and Mike would not cut a tree, and Mike would not cook a fancy dinner, for on this Christmas...

    Sorry

    Anyway, I’ve been seeing stuff in this form all over the place online, and I’m wondering what the deal is with it. I get that repetition can sound profound, but right now I’m encountering it like it is in style.

    Where is it coming from? Who does it best? Is it just me?
     
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  2. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I've only encountered it very rarely and I've only ever used it once because I think it's the kind of technique which can quickly undermine itself the more it's used. When I used it, I only used the name three times, and it was in the context of someone who had just made love to her partner, and everything about her partner was amazing to her in that moment. So I picked three aspects about her partner and used the name those three times to bring home the feeling that for her, in that time, her whole world was her partner. I think it worked okay. But that was the only instance I have ever used it.
     
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  3. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    It's been around for awhile. The Greeks called it anaphora. You use the same words to start near sentences or phrases.

    We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be . . .

    I want to shake off the dust of this one-horse town. I want to explore the world. I want to watch TV in a different time zone. I want to visit strange, exotic malls. I’m sick of eating hoagies! I want a grinder, a sub, a foot-long hero! I want to LIVE, Marge! Won’t you let me live? Won’t you, please?​

    If the ideal in writing is arrhythmical, the anaphora breaks the form by emphasizing a deliberate cadence. It's meant to sound like a litany, like a prayer in church. It's speaking through bullet point emphasis, and that shows your character's conviction. Of course you don't want to overuse it. That would be doubly bad since anaphora is already excess by definition. In certain writing and it can really call too much attention to itself, so you might have use it subtly. I'll bet there's more places where it fails than succeeds, but when it works, it really works well.
     
  4. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    I agree with Seven Crowns. Trainspotting did this well. It speaks of "choose life". In your example it's not done well because it speaks of "Mike". Who cares about Mike and his mundane tasks, especially from the very start? I'm not saying that it's your writing, I understand you use it as an example to explain your thought and I also agree with you that it's used many times unfavorably. Instead of a strong statement, it comes off as a rant - let's say - Mike would like to make. "Mike this, Mike that". Overly dramatic for nothing.
     
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  5. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Great observation.

    Also, it is my writing. I was trying to come up with the most inane example to showcase it.
     
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  6. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    Em... At least I was perfectly sincere! To the point of rawness...
    I too use it mundanely sometimes without realising it. :superagree:
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I sorta liked the start of your example, because it is effective. However, continuing the repetition and restating everything in the negative starts to become annoying. I have no idea what you were wanting to convey here, but how about something like: ...Every Christmas, Mike would hang the lights, and Mike would cut a tree, and Mike would cook a fancy dinner. But this Christmas was going to be different. As this Christmas drew near, Mike decided he was tired of people taking his work for granted, ...and etc.
     
  8. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    It wasn't serious writing. I was trying to come up with the most archetypical example of this thing I keep reading, because I'm running into it so much. It feels like a fashion.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I got that it wasn't an excerpt from your current WIP or anything. I was trying to show that repetition can be really effective ...but not if it's overused. It's like spelling 'banana.' You've got to know when to stop.
     
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  10. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    It's not only about using the exact same words, but also about repeating impressions, even sublimally. It reinforces the idea you want to give. When you break that pattern by e.g. deliberately inserting a 'not', it creates a very strong opposition and rivets the readers' attention.

    Somewhere I've read an article that talked about that the repeat is best used in threes. Can't remember where I've read it, though.
     
  12. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    e E. cummings
     
  13. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Personally, I don't see such repetition as much more than a cheap device. More often than not it doesn't work very well. Now that I read with a critical eye, I've since discovered that Joseph Conrad uses the effect ad nauseam in Heart of Darkness. I'll use the effect within dialogue, but that's pretty much it, and never more than a three-beat.

    “Enzo sees the captain dancing a jig like a string-puppet, but there’s naught he can do for a dead man. The crew see it too, but before they can lose heart, my brother, he yells, ‘Keep on, men!’ Enzo knows the cause is lost and frantically looks for the first mate through the rain and spray. He spots him at the helm, holding fast to the ship’s wheel. He runs across the deck and grabs the man hard, fearin’ he’ll be swept off. Just as Enzo thinks the first mate has lost his brass, the man points off the stern to where the horizon should be. Enzo turns and can’t believe what his eyes are seein’; the horizon, the sun, the whole bloody universe blotted out from the sky. Then, in horror, he realizes what has the first mate transfixed — coming their way is a wave as big as a mountain!”
     
  14. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Glad to see you've returned!

    You may think that not enough of us appreciate your writing, but I certainly do. It was your short piece, 'Fortunata' that I used as inspiration for a seafaring yarn that Mabel regales her two new friends with around the campfire. Fortunata convinced me that the tale had to be told in first person, though my WIP is Third Person Omniscient. It led to some of my best writing yet! What was originally planned as a short interlude, just a tale-of-the-sea turned into the centerpiece of the chapter in which the three girls begin to bond in friendship.

    A little snippet from Mabel's tale of her brother and his harrowing adventure aboard the good ship Pandora... and I do use a three-beat repeat.:)
    __________________________________

    “Enzo sets off with lantern in hand and makes his way through the wet and gloom, down one passageway after another, till he comes upon the first of the crew. It’s the ship’s cook, and a fine fiddler too, a jolly fellow, lying flat on his back, neck broken and eyes gawking up at paradise. My brother steps over the man when he hears a voice in the dark. There’s no mistaking to whom the voice belongs. It’s Gabriel, the cabin boy, a lad of just thirteen years. Enzo shines his lantern on the boy, who’s sitting up pretty as you please on a pile of ropes and grappling hooks, and jabbering on about how proud his mum will be when he returns home with coins in his pocket and stories to tell. But the boy won’t be going home and telling stories, you see, ’cause his belly’s split wide and his guts are spilling out.”

    Mabel paused, the twinkle in her eye gone. “What I’m going to tell you isn’t pleasant and must stay between us. Do you two swear you’ll not breathe a word of it to anyone?”

    They murmured that yes, they wouldn’t tell a soul, and wondered what all of a sudden had the rough-and-tumble girl so troubled.

    “So then Enzo kneels down,” Mabel continued, “takes his kerchief and drapes it over the lad’s gaping wound. The boy is scared, so my brother tries to comfort him. ‘Gabriel, listen to me, you’ve nothing to fear now. What do you wish me to tell your mother?’ At first the boy is confused, but then he lowers his head and whimpers, ‘Tell my mum I’m sorry. Tell her I died doing something brave, will you?’ Enzo is nearly overcome. There’s no hope for the lad. The end is near. Gabriel looks up, pleading, ‘Enzo, please, it hurts real bad.’ My brother, he can bear it no longer and tells the boy, ‘Your mother will be proud that her son was the best among men. That for many a lonely day we sailed across the milky seas and that you ne’er looked back, ne’er feared, ne’er cried.’ Enzo covers Gabriel’s eyes, then takes his rigging knife and slits the boy’s throat from ear to ear. The whimpering stops.”

    Mabel pulled her blanket tight around her and looked to the girls. “Do either of you know if God will forgive Enzo?”
     
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  15. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    Unintentionally, nagging was conveyed. If you imagine it as a monologue from Mike, speaking of himself in 3rd person and basically complaining how he's the only one in the house that has to do everything, then getting all snarky and rubbing it in that this year Mike is not going to lift his finger and be as lazy as everybody else :D
     
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  16. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    I have no idea how old this thread is, but I had to quote this. You're brilliant, Jannert, and everything you do I love. Never stop being you.

    @OP: Personally, I absolutely love anaphora. I'm not a 'so-er', I don't overuse 'anyway' in my writing, but my god do I have a problem with parallelism and anaphora. Nobody else seems to like it as much as me, which means I'm probably going to have to rewrite half my narration when I'm done with my novel, but it definitely has a use and purpose.
    As with all parts of a sentence, punctuation, and formatting, overuse is worse than use. Don't be me. Be sensible. :)
     
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I giggled out loud :supergrin:
     
  18. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    It's a technique that I have used sparingly, usually to convey boredom or confusion. But it does work. My father was an auctioneer, and his first rule about the auction cry was "Don't sing'em to sleep." Which is to say break up the cadence and you get a more profitable result.
     
  19. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I've seen it from a number of authors, and sometimes use it myself, but as far as modern writers go Tom King uses it a ton. Most of the time he makes it work, but the times it doesn't are really grating.
     
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  20. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    "No Friend"--Paramore



    Lyrics:
    These old letters from years ago
    I felt it was leading to a

    When I wrote this
    I may have been finally able to address how it feels

    Another brick-red room, another black-top town
    Another misspelled band burning their own houses down
    Another pine-box tune to fill the cemetery day
    Another star, a touch of orange over purgatory gray

    Another thorny field to scatter fruitless seed
    Another song that runs too long, God knows no one needs
    More misguided ghosts, more transparent hands
    To drop a nickel in our basket and we'll do our riot dance

    Beneath another burning sky, behind our painted lips
    In scares of catatonic smile-covered ankle-bitten ships
    So throw your pedestal of stone in the forgetful sea
    As protection from the paper-thin perfection you project on me

    When this repetition ends behind the window shades
    A semi-conscious sorrow sleeping in the bed I've made
    That most unrestful bed, that most original of sins
    And you'll say that's what I get when I let ambitions win again

    I'd hate to let you down so I'll let the waters rise
    And drown my dull reflection in the naive expectation in your eyes
    Back in a cast bit-part, back when I felt most free
    I had a butcher's heart and no one thought they knew me

    So before the regiment resumes, before the dreaded sun appears
    My driver's waiting, so let's make one point crystal clear:
    You see a flood-lit form, I see a shirt design
    I'm no savior of yours and you're no friend of mine

    You're no friend of mine
    You're no friend of mine
    I'm no savior of yours and you're no friend of mine
    You see a flood-lit form
    I see a shirt design
    I'm no savior of yours and you're no friend of mine

    I see myself in the reflection of people's eyes
    Realizing what they see may not be even close to the image I see in myself
    And I hate I might actually be more afraid to let myself down
    I feel like they know the story
    I saw a bear floating in the river and thought it was a fur coat
    Twelve years ago I stood on the shore
    Jump in and grab the coat
    And the river is rushing toward a waterfall
    And my friend stood at the shore and shouted to let go of the coat and swim back to land
    I let go of the coat but the coat won't let go of me

    In any case please let me know if there's more I can give you
    If nothing comes of it, then just know we are grateful

    Songwriters: Aaron Weiss / Hayley Nichole Williams / Taylor York
    No Friend lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

    Sometimes I think repetitive lines in prose can have a musical quality, and I bet when the author reads it aloud, it sounds good, but when it is read on the page by someone else it just stick out. Sometimes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  21. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    I used it in my poetry because it emphasizes (at least for me) the annoyance of being stuck. The repetitiveness of a person's actions that you're in a bad relationship with.
     
  22. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    About a third of the way through the 7th chapter of “The Wheel of Osheim,” Mark Lawrence breaks into some repetition when a character goes hypothermic and remembers old battles. It’s really effective.
     
  23. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Or raises tension and expectations through repetition before the change. It can underline the chance a lot.
     
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  24. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    You know, it occurred to me the other day, as much as I do love to repeat myself, one of my favorite characters in my book never uses the same adjective or verb twice. I put easily twice as much effort into her sentences as I do anyone else's, simply because she wouldn't stand for anything less.
     
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