This is a rant post! Watch out!
Last year was a record for my reading, hands down, no question. I read more last year than in my lifetime. lol. As I read more, I am doing two things.
Reading is enjoyable, but as an author I also read to learn. Reading Indie, Traditional and Self-published books, I learned a few things this year.
- Things I should do
- Things I shouldn’t freaking do
This post is about one thing I want to remind you, as an author, not to do.
Stop repeating yourself so damn much!
I talked about this a little bit in my dialogue post but I’ve come across many books that have a habit of telling the same thing over and over again and it’s frustrating for sure. Here is an example:
“Oh, stop. You don’t have to call me King. Uncle Harry will do just fine.”
Oh, is King O’Nasses Jerry’s uncle? Mary thought.
YES HE IS!!!!!!
I just read that and I understood that when the King told Jerry to call him Uncle Harry, they must be related. Mary’s thought is REDUNDANT. Her thought may be there, in the characters mind, it’s probably shocking to see these two are related, sure, but the way it’s written is redundant.
Here is one more example:
A character has a huge emotional breakdown, which another character witness. They then go ask another character if they know what the hell is going on. This character knows why it’s happening and explains it to the second character. The second character then leaves the explaining character to reflect on the breakdown but instead of skipping the details of the emotional breakdown and just focusing on new revelations, the author writes this scene with a full replay of the emotional breakdown before moving on to the meat of the event which is: how does our character feel now that he knows why there was a breakdown in the first place!
The breakdown has already happened. It was vivid and memorable, so why do I need another paragraph, or god forbid, two paragraphs where I am reminded of it directly?
Boy, I guess you can see that this really annoys me. Lemme explain why:
First, don’t treat me like I’m stupid, or like I’m not paying attention.
When an author repeats the same information again and again, sometimes it’s because they don’t think we’ll remember something form the beginning of the book or something that’s important.
I understand that as an author, you feel you must help readers understand your work, but not through blind repetition.
A good reader WILL REMEMBER, or they will travel back in the book to figure it out. They wont be irritated to have to explore the book a little bit to see an important fact THEY may have missed. It’s much more annoying to have ideas beaten into your mind over and over again.
Second, there are a MILLION ways to give readers information again and none of them have to be redundant. When someone talks about something from the past, it doesn’t always have to be word for word. Humans often react differently to the same thing at different times. For instance, the person who was reflecting on the breakdown may be angry or irritated by the situation, they may not want to discuss it at all, so if someone asks them, they are going to avoid the subject. Another person might prefer to talk in secret about it, so IMPLYING that there was talk of the issue brings it back to us without being redundant.
The last reason that it irritates me so much is that as an author, the goal is to keep the readers attention.
Sooooo, why would repetition be a strategy to use in a novel? Outside of mind bending plots (with EXCELLENT payoffs), I can’t really think of a good reason that blatant repetition should ever be used in a book.
A majority of book structure systems move progressively. This means that stories start at A and ends at Z. It goes from 1 – 100. NO WHERE in these systems do they talk about mentioning the same thing again and again.
I guess the bigger point of my rant is that an authors job is to make their book memorable in as many places as possible. Sure, there will be some down time, but if you think something is important enough to repeat it, then make it more memorable and only mention it once.