A new radio station decides to play one song for its first day on the air. It plays the R.E.M song, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) all day. Over and over again. My roommate and I are washing our cars and we leave the station on. I don’t know why it doesn’t fry our nerves. We sing along as best we can and dance in the driveway.
“Leonard Bernstein!” It’s the one part we always get right.
I feel like I’m repeating myself. Writing, writing, writing… hard, hard, hard… Really, do we need another wannabe writer complaining? Just get to it already!
Then there is the writing itself. I see images over and over again in my stories. New characters, new plots, but somethings never change. I don’t even realize it half the time and I think I’m describing something new. Maybe the inside of my own head needs a good wash.
What images do you repeat in your writing? What gestures do your characters tend to make? What particular turns of phrase are said too often? Is this repetition always bad?
(Just note that while I like R.E.M well-enough, I’m not a huge fan. You can though listen to the song here.)
4 thoughts on “It’s the End of World…”
You know, in a weird way, sometimes I think repetition in characters can add some depth. People do that in real life, so if you wanted true-to-life characters, they’d have some repetition too. Everyone has (or is!) a relative that tells the same stories at every reunion.
The things that you see over and over again? Maybe that’s just your unique writer’s voice coming through. In a hundred years, historians will know which work belonged to you because of those things. 🙂
I don’t know if repetition is always a bad thing. Some believe a person has to hear something six times before it sticks. I don’t know if that’s true or not in writing, but I do know this: If we’re writing about night, we’re going to use the word “night”. It’s going to happen. Of the hundreds of thousands — one estimate says a million! — words in our language, each writer has only so many they can keep in their head.
Some have more than others. Some can repeat less than others. In the end, we will always have some repetition in our writing.
I think trying to fight for new metaphors and similes is a life-long struggle; finding fresh new ways to describe the same old thing only goes so far, can only go on so long, with each of us. It doesn’t make us less as writers, in my opinion, but it does give us new bars for which to reach.
The Missus’s adviser/mentor in her grad-school/creative-writing years had a phrase he used: “fearless repetition.” This was a good thing. It’s when a writer intentionally kicks away the conventional wisdom, which says not to repeat yourself — kicks it away, and sort of bends the repetition to advantage. (Think of the opening lines of Tale of Two Cities, for instance.) Like anything else it can be overdone, sure, but it’s not inherently a bad thing (as both DarcsFalcon and DarcKnyt just said).
Some things become trademarks of someone’s writing — maybe they (almost) always write stories in present tense and/or second person, say. Do this often enough and it almost parodies itself. Then there are recurring characters spread across multiple otherwise disconnected, non-series works — that can seem lazy, in the wrong hands, or comforting and reassuring, in the right ones…
Don’t you hate hearing, “It depends”? 🙂
I’m very conscious of my habit of writing “y’know,” “like, well,” and “uh…” in blog posts and, uh… like, well, like blog comments and stuff, y’know? I think I probably talk that way, too. But it’s weird to find myself sometimes going back and actually adding that sort of flourish to sentences which maybe don’t “need” it in any sense which counts (usually in a passage which sounds too pretentious, something which happens far too often and so is, I guess, another of those annoying repetitive habits — ha). But I fight it constantly in “real” writing, in characters’ dialogue and such.
P.S. (Off-topic) Sounds like an interesting kids’-books conference coming up in your neighborhood… (Meet Nathan!) You ever think of doing a kids’ book?