Posted by S.E. Sinkhorn | Friday, April 9, 2010
Today's Tune: Tightrope
IT’S A TRAP! entries are posts in which I discuss newbie writing mistakes that seem like a good idea at the time, but usually end in burning wreckage. I’ve made many of these mistakes myself and thankfully learned from them, but I needed a few years and wake-up calls to recognize them for what they were.
DISCLAIMER: there are aaaaalways exceptions. The topics discussed herein are not always mistakes. But most of the time they are *shifty eyes*
Overdescription & Repetition: IT’S A TRAP!
Okay, before I get started on today's post, I have to say GO WATCH THE VIDEO I POSTED AT THE TOP OF THIS POST, SRSLY. And watch the video for "Many Moons" while you're at it. Janelle Monae is awesome.
AHEM. What was I saying? I was saying something. There was a thing I was going to say.
I know I'm not alone in that I occasionally want to really hammer my point home. Unfortunately, it's very easy to get into the rut of relying on repetition and overdescription. If you find yourself saying the same thing in slightly different ways, you're in danger. Likewise, if you feel the need to repeat for the sixth time in three chapters that your protagonist's love interest has the most amazing ice blue eyes, you're also in the danger zone.
This is fluff and filler, folks. Trust your readers. They don't need to be reminded every other chapter that your protagonist is a spunky redhead. If you've already mentioned that she's a spunky redhead, they know. They also don't need the additional reminders sprinkled throughout the work that her hair is made of fiery strands of molten lava red cherry candy apple ruby blood. Be mindful not to overdo it, lest you come off as shallow or annoying.
I know this is a bad habit of mine. I want to be absolutely sure my point is crystal clear, so I end up saying the same thing several different ways. I do it in my fiction, I do it in essays or articles, and I do it in blog posts. I'm fairly certain I've done it in this post already. It's only natural that we writers want to paint our scene as accurately as we possibly can, but that doesn't mean we need to think up 800 different ways to say "the trees were tall and green; emerald and towering were the trees."
Have faith. Faith in your ability as a writer to get your point across without beating it to death, and faith in your readers to retain the facts they need to know. Read over several pages of your work. Do you find yourself going over and over the way something or someone looks? Do you tend to repeat yourself, albeit with different words? Trim that fat. Trust yourself!
Your get what I'm saying, right? Of course you do; you're awesome :D
How many instances of repetition did you find in this post?
OH HEY, WHAT'S THIS? DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG 8-BIT VIDEO GAME?