Monday, April 25, 2011

Angela James of Carina Press Brings Up a Good Point About Repetition

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am taking an online course all about self-editing with Angela James of Carina Press.  Many of her posts are insightful and thought-provoking, to say the least, but one idea has been mullin' around in my brain since I read about it on Saturday (playing catch up).

Ms. James brought up a writer's tendency to repeat character actions.  For instance, do your character shrug their shoulders (what else are they going to shrug?) all the time or raise their eyebrows, right and left in the story?  I caught a few instances of that in my short story Into the Fire, but I'm sure I have certain "writer's tics" as Angela James calls them.

But for me, it brought up a point I've wondered about.  Two authors, who I highly respect, use a particular action in every book.  At some point in one author's books, the hero and heroine will kiss so passionately, their teeth will bang together, and in the other author's books, the heroine's heart will "pinch" with feeling at some time in the story.  So, my question is this:  is this repetition on purpose?  Is it a "writer's tic?"  Or is it something like a trademark? 

I don't have the answers, but to be honest with you, I always look for that action and get a little excited when I find it, so I'm not saying it's a bad thing.  I have to admit I was thrown off a little at first when the action popped up in another book by the author, but I wasn't disappointed in the author's lack of variety.  Matter of fact, the strange thing was, I felt a certain kinship with the author, like there was a secret between the author and her regular readers.

So, IMHO, repetition of actions isn't always that bad, if done in the right way.  What do you think?

Happy Writing!


Jennifer Jakes said...

Hmmm. Good question. I know I have a few "tics" I repeat, but I can't say I do it on purpose. Now I'm wondering if the big name writers do it absently or on purpose.
Either way, glad to know it doesn't you. It doesn't bother me as long as it's not in every paragraph, but you never know how other readers feel.
Great post!

Elke Feuer said...

Hi Cherie,

Great topic! I remember an author, can't remember who, that said it's not a bad thing for your characters to have little quirks: things they say or do that make them unique. If done right, it will make the characters endearing or annoying (if that is what you're going for). It's how you manage it, so it doesn't become too repetitive.

My character's have a tendency to run their fingers through their hair when frustrated. Okay for one, not so great for both, or so I've been told. :-)

Jannine Gallant said...

Repetative mannerisms seem okay to me if the character isn't doing it on every other page. Don't we all have little things we do regularly that reflect our personality? Now if every character in the story is shrugging like mad or raising eyebrows if would definitely be odd! Interesting post. I'll have to look for repeat quirks in favorite authors.

JM said...

Hmmm, never really thought about that. I guess I do have recurrent themes in some of my stories, but I haven't noticed any tics, per se. Although, do you ever notice those kinds of things in your writing? No. It's why we have critique partners.
Darn it Cherie, now I'm gonna have to go read my stuff. You've got me worried.;-~
Just kidding. I will be looking now though.
Great site, by the way. Love the colors. It really pops!