Wednesday, September 08, 2010

WNW: Department of Redundancy Department

Sometimes when I go over a first draft, I run into hilarious problems like dangling modifiers, inconsistencies, and repetition.

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.

An example:

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?

Commonly different?
(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.

26 comments:

Krista said...

simply effortless
loudly shouting

And one I've use before:

Quietly tip-toed

intricately effortless
softly shouting

ungainly tip-toed? I don't know, I'm picturing Chevy Chase crashing into a Christmas tree.
Fun exercise, Annette!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

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! =)

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

PS. The hard part isn't thinking of two redundant words, it's thinking of one that's a noun!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

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:

scorching heat
scorching cold

explosive burst
soft burst

Annette Lyon said...

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!

T said...

Amazingly Stunning...

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!

Sue said...

deceitful lie
credible lie

ignoble thief
honorable thief

willing volunteer
unwilling volunteer

painful surgery
non-invasive surgery

burning fire
ice-cold fire

faithful friend
faithless friend

Rebecca said...

Cool post!

Hard contest. I'm sick and having trouble thinking. . .

How about:

Bright sun
Dim sun

Frozen ice
Thawed ice

That's all I can handle now, I think! :D

Sadie said...

Monumental Monument
Tiny Monument

Colossal giant
miniature giant

Lugubrious sadness
Happy sadness

kbrebes said...

mute storyteller
vivacious storyteller

sentimental tearjerker?

lying talebearer?

Fun, difficult, time-consuming!

Rebecca said...

I'm on a weather kick:

wet rain
dry rain

Aaaand now for something completely different:

completely different
partially different

good, old-fashioned cry
bad, new-fangled cry

all powerful

Dan said...

How about these:

negative disagreement
green lime
ridgid straightness
transparent clarity
oversize muʻumuʻu
angled slope
sheer mesh

Debbie / Cranberry Fries said...

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.

Heidi said...

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.

Sadie said...

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. ;)

coercive persuasion

Hmmm... would the counter be

submissive persuasion???

This is fun I've been thinking about it all day

Annette Lyon said...

I'm haunting people as they draft their posts! That cracks me up, Sadie! :D

Scott said...

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.

Steph said...

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.

Tactical planning?
Imprudent planning?

Tactfully polite
Selfishly polite
Tactfully rude
Selfishly kind

Icy refrigerator
Tepid refrigerator

I am having too much fun with this, but I should probably go to bed. Thanks for giving my brain cells something entertaining. :)

Annette Lyon said...

Scott, Thanks for the inspiration! ("Practicing chocoholic"--love it.)

Steph--Fantastic list! I especially love the chess one. Eager pawn/lazy game. Awesome.

annie valentine said...

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.

LisAway said...

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.

Jessica G. said...

I haven't read all the comments so this might have been used...I edited this one out recently: pretty beautiful.

Jessica G. said...

And then of course, there's: pretty ugly.

Jessica G. said...

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)
bitter kindness

heavy weight
heavy ethereality

nimble agility
nimble inertia

And I'll stop posting comments, now...

Lisa said...

Hey Annette,
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

Mel said...

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

1.

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