Not long ago I read a novel in which one of the male characters had long eyelashes. In the author’s first description of the character, we heard about the long eyelashes. Later, we heard about them again in dialogue. In fact, we heard so much about the long eyelashes on this character, I was ready to scream.
We write in intervals. As for me, I write 500 words a
day. That’s about 2 pages. But, a reader might read three chapters in a day. That reader will pick up on more redundancies than I will as the writer. So, how can we go about eliminating the redundancy in our writing to make sure our readers don’t scream at us in frustration!
As writers sometimes we believe our readers won’t remember things. We think we must tell them over and over. Not true! They have memories like elephants. Many a reader will correct us when we make a mistake. Once you tell the reader what someone looks like, a mental image forms in their minds. There’s no need to tell them again and again.
Tip #2: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again (not to be accused of being redundant)
That helps me more than anything else to catch redundancies. Suddenly I’ll realize, I said the same thing several pages back. Reading it to myself doesn’t have the same impact.
Even in the early stages of a draft, a set of new eyes on your work can pick up redundancies. If the new reader says, “I didn’t know he had long eyelashes,” well… you’ll need to say it again.
Not only do we make errors in redundancy when we describe our characters, but often we do so when we describe the major events. For example in my newest manuscript, there’s something hidden under the frame of a painting. My characters are all talking about this. Do I really need them all talking about this hidden item? Maybe not. I plan to go through the manuscript to make sure I haven’t driven my readers crazy.
Sometimes we get so hung up on what we have written, that we can’t bring ourselves to hit delete. Believe me. Your editor will hit that button with relish. I’ve often deleted something I really wanted to keep, just to see how it might sound when gone. Geez. It sounds so much better.
What tips do you have to keep readers from tossing your book across the room?
Sherrie Miranda says
Thanks, Joan! These are great tips & I hope new writers heed them.
As I mentioned on LI, I thought it strange the 1st time I read of a male character with long lashes. For the writer to repeat that several times, I have to suspect that s/he is a novice.
I am curious. How was the rest of the book. To me, it would be a sign that the ms was not well-edited (or possibly not edited at all). I think i would probably stop reading. So did you read til the end?
Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
Joan Curtis says
Hi Sherri, I did read the book to the end. The rest of the book was good so I stuck with it (eyelashes and all). And, yes, the book was edited. Unfortunately we can’t count on our editors to catch everything. We, writers, have to do so much!! Finding that balance of letting readers know what they need but not overdoing it is quite a challenge.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post and thanks so much for stopping by!