Redundancy is boring. Self help books and how to books all address this problem.
As a writer, editor and reader, I can say that almost nothing bothers me more than repeated words or phrases... almost nothing. My own typos are the real bane of my existence. Yet, redundancy makes me sigh with disappointment and stop reading.
Last summer I read a book, rather, started to read a book, and ended up donating it to a used book store. The problem was in the way the story was written. The author had no descriptive writing ability at all.
The character named in that book is changed, as are the sentences, so no clue exists to point a finger at any particular writer’s prose. Who knows? Maybe that author is a great writer but had a terrible editor. In any case, certain errors should be noted to bring attention to a bad habit many writers must overcome.
The problem I found with redundancy in this book was that several paragraphs in a row started something like:
Rory got in his car and sped away.
Rory found her in the second row.
Rory was about to make it clear....
Rory was angry that....
Four paragraphs in a row started off with the man’s name. That’s blatant error. It’s not descriptive writing and is certainly boring, disrupts the flow of the story and makes it seem juvenile. Not good for an adult plot.
Sadly, I later learned this writer did not read self help books or how to books on writing.
These same errors repeated in several more chapters, some using other character’s names. I flipped through the pages and saw many instances.
This type writing is not developed and doesn’t show descriptive writing in the action. It’s the narrator telling what a viewer might see moment by moment and that’s not what makes for excitement to keep the story flowing smoothly and quickly.
Rory got into his car and sped away could more descriptively be written as: The car’s interior was hot from sitting in the heat of the glaring afternoon sun. Rory climbed in but never felt the hot seat and searing steering wheel. He was angry.
Rory found her in the second row. could better be written as: The theatre was full to capacity. She always sat down front. Rory found her in the second row.
Rory was about to make it clear... could be built up like this: Karen was going to be surprised when she saw him. He motioned sharply to her from the aisle and she bolted upright in her seat. She’d have to come with him. He was going to make it clear....
Rory was angry that.... does not need to be stated in the story because we see his anger in his actions and how he approaches Karen.
Unnoticed repetition happens when straight forward telling by the story narrator occurs. This narrator had not felt anything that was going on in the story; had not been able to be the characters, and couldn’t let the characters write the story themselves because the narrator couldn’t get into the minds of the characters.
When writing happens from this perspective, how much descriptive writing could a reader expect to find?
When re-reading your prose to see how it sounds, also look to see how it appears on the page. Some redundancies also occur with the use of “I” when writing in first person. Any word or name can be repeated too many times, but lacks polish when used to start more than two paragraphs in succession.Self help books and how to books all tout this very abused problem.
Redundancy can also be spotted by the writer if they will read their prose out loud. Many ways exist to spot these errors and correct them with descriptive writing.