Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#1
I know the answer is "use synonyms", but the fact is that I'm already using them to address my main character. However, some people here have made me notice that I'm doing it wrong.

Speaking of my story, the name of the mc hasn't been revealed yet, thus I'm referring to them (it's a non-binary character) by their job, which is mercenary. 

To avoid repeating this word everytime I mention them, I found 7 synonyms for 'mercenary': merc, private contractor, hireling, hired blade, soldier (a bit unsure on this one), sellsword and also sword fighter, for they wield a sword. 

I incorporated all the 7 words in my work, but that move backfired on me because it confused the people I mentioned above and made them think there were several characters instead of one (even though I must say that they have directly jump to one of my latest chapters to give me some advices on a particular scene).

So what do you think I should do to not let future readers fall into this trap? Should I reduce the number of synonyms or do something else? Thank you in advance.

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#2
Step one - choose 2, max. 3, of the 7 jobs (I vote for mercenary and sellsword). Step two - change the way you write your sentences. Instead of "The mercenary felt the wind blowing" write "The wind blew". Instead of writing "They felt the teeth sinking into their flesh, penetrating to the bone." write "Sharp teeth sunk into flesh, gnawing and penetrating to the bone." Do you see the difference? You have more options than the MC doing all the deeds, feeling all the feels, and musing all the musings. This is a good way to avoid repetition. 

As an example, here is a chapter of my work where the name of the MC is mentioned for the first time and actively used in the narration rather late. Instead, I use he, man, and the knight to describe him. I hope that it will be of some use and inspiration: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/33058/the-beast-and-the-swallow/chapter/506124/2-the-night-of-the-banquet

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#3
I dealt with a similar problem in What Was Lost Outside Time - the difference being that I was avoiding any use of personal pronouns, instead of any use of names, for any character whatsoever.  The answer is mostly "Restructure your sentences".  It can feel awkward at first, but as you get practice at it, you'll find ways to make it flow mostly-naturally.

You could also switch to a first person perspective to avoid the problem entirely.

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#4

Ariana Wrote: Step one - choose 2, max. 3, of the 7 jobs (I vote for mercenary and sellsword). Step two - change the way you write your sentences. Instead of "The mercenary felt the wind blowing" write "The wind blew". Instead of writing "They felt the teeth sinking into their flesh, penetrating to the bone." write "Sharp teeth sunk into flesh, gnawing and penetrating to the bone." Do you see the difference? You have more options than the MC doing all the deeds, feeling all the feels, and musing all the musings. This is a good way to avoid repetition.
Thank you Ariana! I didn't consider restructuring my sentences as a way to solve the repetition problem, even though I had already done it in a past chapter where I used the flame enveloping the merc's sword as subject instead of the main character. In fact it helped me avoid repeating the pronoun "they" three times in the same phrase. I'll tale your suggestion of only choosing 2 ways to address the mc (mercenary and sellsword) + their name once it is revealed. I should probably take some time off and stop updating the fiction to rewrite some scenes. Thank you again for letting me realize such a simple thing.  

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#5

AdirianSoan Wrote: I dealt with a similar problem in What Was Lost Outside Time - the difference being that I was avoiding any use of personal pronouns, instead of any use of names, for any character whatsoever.  The answer is mostly "Restructure your sentences".  It can feel awkward at first, but as you get practice at it, you'll find ways to make it flow mostly-naturally.

You could also switch to a first person perspective to avoid the problem entirely.
Yeah, that is also what Ariana said before you. I will examine my story again and edit the parts more problematic. About the first point of view, I don't think I will use it, both for personal preference and for the possibility of other characters' pov in future chapter. Anyway thanks for the thought!

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#7

Mad Wrote: I'd recommend just choosing one descriptor and sticking with that. Instead of thinking of it as a descriptor, just think of it as a name. Would you be upset about using the name of a MC 20 times in a chapter? Probably not. So don't worry about repeating the thing you're using in lieu of a name.
This was going to be my suggestion as well. If it were me, I'd just say "The Mercenary" (whether it's capitalized or not is up to you) every few times (where you would put the name normally) with "they" in between those times.

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#8

Schratze Wrote: but the fact is that I'm already using them to address my main character.
As others have said, I'm going to say, please no, don't do this. Call the characters by their name / whatever their reference is.


Ariana Vivoni's advice is exactly what I was going to suggest for rearranging the subjects of sentences!

Between those two things that many people have said, that's you answer.

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#10
So... here's my thought. I think that the 'avoid repetition' advice that gets handed out is actually kinda bad advice. I don't know what you read, but so much of my favorite fiction uses repetitive descriptions over and over without apology. In Butcher's Dresden Files, nearly every character has one or two descriptions that will always come out - for example you'll never run into Marcone without hearing about his eyels like faded bills. Or in Chrysalis you get never ending references to the ant's business district. 

And even if we're not talking about character tags, repetition is powerful. Google "repetition in writing" and you'll get gobs of articles explaining how awesome it can be - here's a good example.

I think the key is to be deliberate. If you're being repetitive you should be aware of it and work with it. If you've got a repetitive word, find its rhythm and make it slide into the paragraphs. Or let it repeat a bunch while you're establishing a scene and then let it vanish. 

Don't be afraid of repetition, just be aware of repetition. 

Re: How do I cleverly avoid repetitions?

#11
Repetition per se is not the issue. Repeating noteworthy words too often too close to each other is what makes it sound repetitive. That's why we use pronouns rather than the person's name every single time. 

There is some very useful advice in this blog post on writing for audiobooks. The author is very good at writing for audio, to the point that it becomes very easy for the narrators to know how to read the book for the intended effect. Just skip over all the audiobook-specific stuff and pay attention to what he says about dialog, tags, and so on.