Monday, May 2, 2016

R is for Repetition

Ana wonders whether words can be repeated in dialogue.

     Repeating words in narrative is lazy, boring writing. The English language is replete with vivid verbs that each have a nuance of note.
     In dialogue, though, is it lazy or boring to have characters echo each other? We do that in real life. And what about internal dialogue?

     I've posted a snippet from my WIP that elicited feedback this past weekend from my online crit group.  (Some were automatically generated by Autocrit.) I have bolded three sets of repetitions (bolded).
     Should I find a way to eliminate the repeated words?

This scene features the conspirators. The abducted heroine is locked in the attic.

           A vein in Peabody’s neck bulged above his stiff collar. “Miss Hawkins knows you paid me five hundred dollars.”

           “You’re bluffing.”
          “Remember the deranged beggar?” He pointed up toward the attic. “He works for your brother-in-law. I haven’t been able to find him, but his testimony would put the noose around your neck.”
            Turning her back while she absorbed this information, Candy opened her wardrobe door and fussed with her risqué outfits. Blade had caught her by surprise that day at the bank, but since then she’d played her part perfectly, traipsing through houses and planning his Society wedding.
            Blade was usually quite clever, but for some reason he refused to see that his cowgirl fiancée wanted no part of city life. She wanted to go home.
            Candy wanted Stormy to go home, too—and never look back.
            As for Peabody’s revelation? She’d simply paid him for finding this room. In any other accusation, it was his word against hers. With the Masters’ name behind her, the best lawyers in the state would be on her side. “Has Stormy drunk any tea?”
            “A full quart. She was thirsty when she came to.”

            “Came to?”
            Peabody explained.
            “Cripes.” She whirled around and seized his heavy walking stick. “You could have killed her by whacking her in the head. Is her chain fastened tight? Have you done everything else right?”


  1. The only repetition I really noticed was the name of Blade used quite closely together. In other areas (to me ) it re-enforced what was being said. - wanting to go home and Came to? I thought both those repeats necessary, adding to the tension.

  2. Everyone else will probably disagree with me though! :) as I'm a newbie writer.

  3. I don't consider any of those repetitions a problem.

  4. I agree with Carol. I'd put 'He' instead of the second Blade, too. The others are echoes of what has been said, which seems fine to me. You could change the second 'go home' to 'Candy wished Stormy would go, too,' - but I don't think it's necessary, as it's a natural repeat.
    I think the repeats every writer needs to check are the ones where the characters always seem to be smiling or sighing or nodding etc, or a repeat of the heroine's heart leaping or her pulse racing. I've been guilty of all these repeats!

  5. I think repetition is a good tool for clarification, emphasis, rhythm, and/or style if not over done.

    1. Good to know.
      These are the first dialogue repeats (I think). The story is near the black moment. Tensions are high.