One common repitition problem in first drafts is writers repeating themselves by trying too hard to abide by the adage of "show, not tell."
So they do both: they tell something, then show it. Or vice versa: show it, then recap it by telling what we just saw. I'm guilty of this myself and must weed out repetition from early drafts.
Sue cried. Plump tears fells down her cheeks as racking sobs wrenched from her throat.
Do we really need to state that Sue cried? The tears and sobs sort of make that self-explanatory, no?
You might think that's an over-the-top exaggeration, but it's surprisingly easily for redundancies like that to slip in, even when they sound obvious and funny when they're pointed out.
Hence our friend: revision!
The other day, I stumbled across a fun blog post that viewed redundancy in a way I hadn't thought of before: using adjectives and nouns together that say the same thing.
The post is by Scott over at Slice of Diction. He made a list of 30 redundant adjective-noun word pairs. Check out the post link above for the full list.
Here are a couple of my favorites he came up with, each of which make me snicker and go, "As opposed to . . .?"
- amorous romance
- contentious dispute
- cryptic mystery
- insane lunacy
- rural countryside
- stupid idiot
- uniquely different
My gut reaction (after laughing) was to think of the flip side: A cool writing exercise would be to find unexpected adjectives, ones that are counter to the noun you put them next to. That could change the meaning or image in surprising and really cool ways.
(Okay, so there's also the point that a writer shouldn't over-use adjectives. Note to self: use adjectives only when needed. Make the most out of your writing toolbox.)
Using some of Scott's words, instead the obvious amorous romance, what about a tempestuous romance?
Or a brilliant idiot?
A peaceful dispute?
(Reminds me of the "non-conformists" I went to high school with. They refused to conform . . . by wearing black eyeliner, black duster coats, and hair that required Aqua Net to defy gravity. They all looked the same by non-conforming?)
Story and character ideas are already popping up for me simply by thinking of new, unexpected word pairs.
Just for fun, let's have another contest!
Think of adjective-noun redundancy word pairs.
In the comments, throw out your best repetitive word pair (be sure it's adjective + noun).
Bonus entries for then changing up your redundant word pair by putting in a new adjective to make the pair counter to the original meaning. Enter as many times as you want.
The winner gets a Utah Truffles chocolate bar along with a ballpoint pen that celebrates the upcoming release of Chocolate Never Faileth, (less than a month away . . . woot!).
The pen has green polka dots and the words: Money talks, but chocolate sings.
The winning entry and runners up will be posted here for us all to admire.
And one I've use before:
ungainly tip-toed? I don't know, I'm picturing Chevy Chase crashing into a Christmas tree.
Fun exercise, Annette!
K, I think this contest takes too much brain power. My brain doesn't work in high gear! I'm low and slow.
Can you choose a different contest that doesn't require me to think?
Thanks a bunch! =)
PS. The hard part isn't thinking of two redundant words, it's thinking of one that's a noun!
Annette, this is something I've asked Melissa (we're currently having a discussion about redundancies!) I would appreciate if you could let me know what you think on both counts:
1) Are anaphoras considered redundant?
I've also learned that you can 'show' how a MC is feeling before you 'tell'. IE:
2) Melissa trudged through the door, sweat hot rivulets on her cheeks. Her lungs burned tight, her legs shivered knots, her heart thumped loud. She was exhausted.
Here's my entry:
Elizabeth, I think you just hit on a new WNW post idea!
Short answer: Not all redundancy is bad. Sometimes it's needed for emphasis. Anaphoras are a good example, depending on the type. If used well--and not overused-they can be effective stylistic devices.
More on another post!
becomes "simply stunning" (which just feels like a cop-out)
or "amazingly dull/amazingly routine?"
'meh... I'd have to give the chocolate away to someone else anyway... my brain isn't up to this yet today!
Hard contest. I'm sick and having trouble thinking. . .
That's all I can handle now, I think! :D
Fun, difficult, time-consuming!
I'm on a weather kick:
Aaaand now for something completely different:
good, old-fashioned cry
bad, new-fangled cry
How about these:
Ah, now that school is in I have a minute to read blogs. :) I love your header, I haven't seen this new one.
I'm excited to revise my stuff. I've been writing all summer and have maybe 40 or 50 K but I haven't reread at all. I was just hoping to get a bunch of stuff out before I tried to fix things.
Normally this would be right down my alley but I am sick with a fever today so the brainbox is broken. I do have to take exception to "uniquely different" being on the list. There are the normal ways of being different, the abnormal ways of being different and then there ARE the unique ways of being different. I've seen them all. I even live with some of them.
I just used this in a blogpost... and I couldn't help but thing Annette would cringe... but I had to use it anyway because I loved the sound of it. ;)
Hmmm... would the counter be
This is fun I've been thinking about it all day
I'm haunting people as they draft their posts! That cracks me up, Sadie! :D
This is awesome Annette. Reading this and the comments put the biggest smile on my face. And I have to give it up to your prize because I'm a practicing chocoholic. I've really enjoyed reading all the other takes on this idea of redundancy. And now I'm thinking in my head of counter ideas to my original list...Things that make you go hmmm.
Ah, I think this is overused- crimson blood
What would pale blood look like?
a black night
a resplendent night
Effulgent rays of light
Inert rays of light
He was an unwitting pawn in their tactical game of chess.
He was an eager pawn in their lazy game of chess.
I am having too much fun with this, but I should probably go to bed. Thanks for giving my brain cells something entertaining. :)
Scott, Thanks for the inspiration! ("Practicing chocoholic"--love it.)
Steph--Fantastic list! I especially love the chess one. Eager pawn/lazy game. Awesome.
I don't even want to know how often I do this. I also cry a lot these days, frequent wet tears that roll down my salty damp cheeks.
I was gonna say annoyingly bothersome but I looked it up and that's not an adjective and a noun but an adverb and an adjective. I'm awesome.
I haven't read all the comments so this might have been used...I edited this one out recently: pretty beautiful.
And beautiful is not actually a noun...yeah, I'm not into paying attention to rules lately.
bitter grudge (which I will have against the winner)
And I'll stop posting comments, now...
Here are a few I played with. "reflective mirror" really? Should go without saying, unless you are a vampire and have not reflection. "sighted vision", "senseless nonsense" "frozen ice" because otherwise it would be water, and "fearless courage". Thanks for the exercise. Now time to get my butt in chair for my own blog and other writing. -Lisa
Wow... When I looked this over as I was reading it, I thought in my mind--this should easily be not at all difficult for me, since I'm often told all the time that I sometimes tend to talk with people in a way of communicating that has made me famously well-known for always repeating myself & restating things unnecessarily. It would be hilariously funny, if I didn't think it was entirely and falsely untrue.
---Anyway, here are my submitted entries for the redundancy contest competition:
1. Loquacious chatterbox (loquacious quiet-type?)
2. Annoying pest (delightful pest?)
3. Unforgettable memories
4. Suddenly startled
5. Silent quietude
6. Sleeping slumber
7. Hopeless despair
8. Angry rage
9. Blank emptiness
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