The Department Of Redundancy Department

At my writing group meeting last week, I had the other two group members read Chapter One of my new WIP entitled PULL. And one of them had a comment that really opened my eyes to a major weakness of mine as a writer: redundancy.

And it’s not the obvious kind, either. No, no. This is the sneaky kind of redundancy that wears black clothes at night and stays concealed in the shrubbery, watching and waiting to catch you unawares so it can roll your house before you have a chance to call the police.

What? That didn’t make sense? Well, I don’t know what you expected. Unless you’re new around here, in which case . . . I’m sorry.

Anyway, let’s play a little game. See if you can find the redundancy in this section of my WIP:

*

“How is it possible that you need all this junk for one summer?” my brother Paul groaned as we lugged our bags onto the train.

“Um, hello, it’s an entire season,” I retorted. “And just because you can survive that long with four outfits and one pair of shoes doesn’t mean everybody else can.” 

*

Did you find it? If so, congratulations–you are WAY sharper than me! The weakness in this dialogue is the word “retorted.” Why? Because we can hear the girl’s tone in her words. We can tell by the way she talks that she’s retorting. I don’t need to explain to the reader how she’s talking; I’ve just shown them.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, try this one:

*

He opened his mouth like he was about to make another cutting remark about my tendency to over-pack (I see it as being well-prepared; don’t know what’s so wrong with that), but before he could say a word, my dad’s crisp British voice cut through the air. 

“Paul, please help your sister. It’s not her fault she’s addicted to fashion.”

I turned to him with a grateful smile. “Thanks, Dad.”

*

What do you think? Did you catch this one?

The redundant word here is “grateful.” Why is it redundant? Because the next thing the girl says is “Thanks.” If I use the word “thanks,” then I don’t have to explain that her smile was grateful. Her gratitude is obvious in her words.

Let’s do another one, just for kicks.

*

“Doesn’t matter how many times you make the trip, jet lag’s always a monster. Right, Becks?” He gave my weary mother, whose actual name is Becky, a tender peck on the cheek.

“Absolutely,” she agreed, shouldering her purse. “And we’ve got to stay awake all day if we want to have a normal sleep cycle anytime soon.” 

*

Oh, I bet you got it this time, didn’t you?

If she says “absolutely,” then I don’t need to specify that she agreed. It’s obvious.

Do you have any sneaky weaknesses as a writer? What are they, and how have you fixed them?

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15 thoughts on “The Department Of Redundancy Department

  1. Vickie Margene says:

    Take a look at Stephen King’s “On Writing” sometime. I used some of his ideas with my senior class, especially the ones on adverbs in dialogue. It’s a book, not an article, but I couldn’t figure out how to use italics….

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Haha! I have that book and have looked through it several times, but have never read it cover to cover. I guess I should!

  2. Alexandra Shostak says:

    HAHA WOW I was so bad at this! I got the last one right. THE EASY ONE! You know, I think I might do this redundancy thing, too.

    One of my weaknesses is repetition. Not necessarily of words, though. I do that repeating sentence structure or repeating clause structure thing all the time. And sometimes I never use the word and, instead just putting in a million commas. Other times I begin half my sentences with And. It’s like the displaced ands from the clauses with lists went and migrated to the beginnings of sentences. They were upset. They felt so rejected they wanted to be FIRST.

    Clearly my brain can’t make up its mind.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Gotta hate it when your conjunctions start migrating all over the place! Dumb grammar. Why can’t we just have grammar anarchy? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about any of this stuff!

  3. Karen Hooper says:

    “Sadly,” I said with dismay, “I only spotted one.”

    Ha! Can you find the redundancy in mine?
    Man, how do we miss this stuff. My poor CPs.

    Awesome eye opener!

      1. Anne Riley says:

        LOL don’t worry about it, whenever you read my stuff, you’ll find the same things!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      You know, I think it’s really easy to miss unless you are specifically looking for it! It’s the kind of thing I always thought added to my writing, but as it turns out, it takes away from it. Gotta let the reader hear your character’s voice instead of telling them how the character sounds!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Man, I bet they salted dirty words into your grass, too. Ugh! PS – still gonna order some stuff from you!

  4. Heather McCorkle says:

    Ah yes, that is one of my sneaky weaknesses that I’m working on weeding out. It’s easier once we realize we’re doing it. But the problem is, I still do it! Ugh.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      It is sooooo hard to catch, isn’t it? I’m just glad my friend made me aware of what I was doing!

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