Once Again

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From the pithy, wonderful guide, Steering the Craft, by Ursula K. Le Guin:

“Again I am inclined to fault journalists and schoolteachers, however well meaning, for declaring it a sin to say the same word twice, driving people to the thesaurus in desperate searches for farfetched substitutes.

“Repetition can indeed be awkward when a word is emphasized for no reason: ‘He was studying in his study. The book he was studying was Plato.’ This kind of thing comes of not listening to one’s writing (and from the long thinking-pauses that occur while writing, so that you’ve forgotten the last sentence when you start a new one.) Everybody does it. It’s easy to fix in revision by finding a synonym or different phrasing: ‘He was in his study, reading Plato and making notes,’ or whatever.

“But to make a rule ‘never use the same word twice in one paragraph,’ or to state flatly that repetition is to be avoided, is to throw away one of the most valuable tools or narrative prose. Repetition of words. of phrases, o images; repetition of things said; near-repetition of events; echoes, reflections, variations: from the grandmother telling a folktale to the most sophisticated novelist, all narrators use these devices, and the skillful use of them is a very great part of the power of prose.

“Prose can’t rhyme and chime and repeat a beat as poetry can, or if it does it had better be subtler about it than this sentence. The rhythms of prose — and repetition is the central means of achieving rhythm — are usually hidden or obscure, not obvious. They may be long and large, involving the whole shape of a story, the whole course of events in a novel: so large they’re hard to see, like the shape of the mountains when you’re driving on a mountain road. But the mountains are there.”

What a wonderful description of rhythm in writing and the power of repetition! Something to ponder and apply as we all write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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