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CAWriter
06-26-2011, 09:05 PM
I don't think of myself as a particularly critical reader, and when I'm reading for fun (as opposed to editing a project) I really am not looking for weaknesses, but I keep seeing something in books that bugs me, and I wonder if it's just me.

When using a particular phrase to describe a facial expression, or the taste of a food, or a feeling in the pit of the (character's) stomach, would you use the same words in more than one instance in the story, or would you try to find a different way to express it in subsequent chapters?

bglashbrooks
06-26-2011, 09:50 PM
It depends on how frequently I needed to express it. Also, people do have stock phrases, even mental ones, that they use repeatedly. If the character says/thinks it, I'll use it pretty consistently.

If it's not something particular to that character, I'll try to mix things up a bit, but I wouldn't obsess over it. And in edits, if any stood out to me, then I'd revise the best I could.

HTH

scarletpeaches
06-26-2011, 09:53 PM
I try to mix things up as much as possible without the text drawing attention to itself.

Every author has pet phrases, and when they pop up too often, they become cliched. Writing that draws attention to itself spoils the story.

SaraFMC
06-26-2011, 10:18 PM
I think if the reader is noticing it, it's been used too much. Unless the author is intentionally reminding the reader of the earlier incident.

I'm just finishing a good novel that has a few problems of this kind, however. She describes someone brushing rain off her coat, and a sentence later, describes the same person as wearing her hair closely brushed behind her ears. It was distracting, and wouldn't have taken much effort to fix. The book is very good otherwise, and mostly well written, but a few times I have wished she had a better editor (or had done better editing herself). I might also note that it is out of print.

AmsterdamAssassin
06-26-2011, 10:52 PM
I was reminded by a bta reader that after a telephone conversation, my characters often 'broke the connection'. She suggested using 'replaced the receiver' or 'hung up the phone', but the problem is that most of the telephone conversations were made on cell phones... and cell phones are not 'hung up' and don't have a separate 'receiver' so I had to check all the conversations and checked carefully how to rephrase 'breaking the connection'...

Kenra Daniels
06-27-2011, 12:31 AM
I was reminded by a bta reader that after a telephone conversation, my characters often 'broke the connection'. She suggested using 'replaced the receiver' or 'hung up the phone', but the problem is that most of the telephone conversations were made on cell phones... and cell phones are not 'hung up' and don't have a separate 'receiver' so I had to check all the conversations and checked carefully how to rephrase 'breaking the connection'...

I use "ended the call" that way, for the same reason. Damn cell phones. :D

I have certain stock phrases I tend to over use, so I have to be careful with them. Someone mentioned not being concerned with over use if it occurs in the character's thoughts or speech. I agree to a certain extent. I might have a character who uses a particular phrase a couple of times, but I still don't want them to use it enough to annoy the reader.

The exception might be where I need to illustrate a character trait. The know it all who constantly corrects his peers might preface all his explanations with "Actually...". Then once the trait is established, I would use it only often enough to remind the reader of the trait.

AmsterdamAssassin
06-27-2011, 01:17 AM
Ended the call. That's a good one to alternate with breaking the connection. Now I just need a couple more of those...

scarletpeaches
06-27-2011, 01:20 AM
Slid the phone shut, snapped the phone shut, hit the 'end call' button...

Goldenleaves
06-27-2011, 01:21 AM
Removed the battery? Stamped on the phone? Gently dropped the phone in the coffee pot?

AmsterdamAssassin
06-27-2011, 01:39 AM
:D

CAWriter
06-27-2011, 02:10 AM
I try to mix things up as much as possible without the text drawing attention to itself.

Every author has pet phrases, and when they pop up too often, they become cliched. Writing that draws attention to itself spoils the story.

This sums up what I was thinking. In all cases these were descriptive phrases (think, "grinned slyly, "tummy rumbled," "out of this world,"). None of those are the exact phrases used. In fact, it seemed like the author made an effort to come up with an original way to say it, but once it's been used once it isn't original in subsequent passages--especially not when it relates to other characters.

I guess I appreciate a nice turn of phrase, so I do notice when it gets turned again and again.

Soccer Mom
06-27-2011, 02:48 AM
My editor is great at spotting these. She just highlights them for me now. When I see a manuscript come back to me with a bunch of yellow on it, I know I was a bad girl with my pet phrases.

benbradley
06-27-2011, 02:55 AM
I was reminded by a bta reader that after a telephone conversation, my characters often 'broke the connection'. She suggested using 'replaced the receiver' or 'hung up the phone', but the problem is that most of the telephone conversations were made on cell phones... and cell phones are not 'hung up' and don't have a separate 'receiver' so I had to check all the conversations and checked carefully how to rephrase 'breaking the connection'...
The phrase "hung up" is still used, just as "dialing the phone" is still used even though most people haven't had rotary dial phones since the 1970's. It may technically be an obsolete term but such terms tend to, uh, hang on.

And you can also show/imply the call ending with dialog, such as:
"Goodbye."

Christine N.
06-27-2011, 04:36 AM
I notice when an author uses an unusual word more than, say, twice in a novel. One book I read used the word 'nascent' frequently. It's not an everyday word, so I noticed it and it jumped out at me in every instance.

A beta reader pointed out that in my finished wip (not contracted or agented but done), I used the word 'macabre' several times. Okay, three times in 105,000 words. Not a lot, but she noticed it.

Booted the phone across the parking lot? Hey, my cell phone makes a beep when the call ends, maybe you can use that?

Libbie
06-27-2011, 07:14 AM
Ooh...good question! I think it totally depends on two things: 1) the overall tone of the book and 2) your style as a writer.

I have certainly read books where phrases have been repeated here and there, and it has been marvelous. Due to the book's atmosphere or theme and the writer's sense of rhythm and flow it's been awesome. I've also read books where it feels like an editing mistake because that kind of poetic repetition just doesn't feel like "them," you know?


I don't think of myself as a particularly critical reader, and when I'm reading for fun (as opposed to editing a project) I really am not looking for weaknesses, but I keep seeing something in books that bugs me, and I wonder if it's just me.

When using a particular phrase to describe a facial expression, or the taste of a food, or a feeling in the pit of the (character's) stomach, would you use the same words in more than one instance in the story, or would you try to find a different way to express it in subsequent chapters?

Jonathan Dalar
06-27-2011, 09:54 AM
I think a lot of it depends on the type of word being used and the overall tone of the novel, and the tone of the novel, as Libbie mentioned.

Any word is likely to be repeated in the course of a novel. Any word is likely to be overused. I know I'm a flaming culprit there. I do it all the time despite my best efforts otherwise. I'll read my own stuff and say, "Damn! How can I keep repeating that friggin' word over and over and over again!?"

(Sh)it happens. It happens to every novelist out there. The key is recognition. Once you've recognized the problem, you're halfway there. All that's left is coming up with imaginative ways to say the same thing without sounding stupid.

AmsterdamAssassin
06-27-2011, 11:02 AM
I read this book once, and every chapter ended with "And so it goes..." :D

seun
06-27-2011, 12:53 PM
My wife points out my pet phrases to me although I'm better than I was at noticing them before she reads the ms.

It's not so much a phrase as a descriptive thing - I often mention where people are in relation to each other if there are more than two people in a scene.

Libbie
06-27-2011, 06:39 PM
Yeah...one of my usual beta readers is not a writer herself, but she has a super-fantastic brain for catching things like repeated words or even repeated imagery that's worded in different ways. she just flags them all for me and I can go through and keep them if they were intentional or change them if they weren't. Most of the time they are intentional (I love repetition when it's done right) but sometimes they're a surprise to me! :)

brainstorm77
06-27-2011, 06:53 PM
My editor is great at spotting these. She just highlights them for me now. When I see a manuscript come back to me with a bunch of yellow on it, I know I was a bad girl with my pet phrases.

This. I remind myself to keep an eye out for them in future writings.

CheG
06-27-2011, 08:53 PM
Ugg, I have sooo many of these! My only hope is to get them all out of my system on draft 1 and come up with better during the edits. Sometimes I think I have to use them just to get through a manuscript. If I stopped and tried to think of better at every single turn of phrase my brain would melt. That is what rewrites are for.

Phaeal
06-27-2011, 09:03 PM
I think (hope) I'm more aware of repeated physical reactions than the reader will be. In the current WIP, I find a lot of galloping heartbeats. I think I'll have some of them be merely cantering. ;)

Lisa von Lempke
06-30-2011, 10:57 PM
I repeat myself an awful lot. But then, who else should I repeat?