Did I Already Say That?

Repetion

This week, our hound asked, “As you’re writing (on a new/current project), do you sometimes find yourself creating scenes / characters / dialog that sound VERY familiar? And after you stop and think, do you realize you’ve used them before in other stories? If so, do you continue on… or shift gears?”

Repetition is the key to success in education – I had to play my musical scales many, many times and spent endless hours repeating vocabulary when learning a foreign language – but in writing, it’s a red flag. Writing and trying to publish another author’s work is illegal (as well as unethical), and writing what you’ve already written is a signal that your pool of creativity is not deep.

I had to spend a lot of time thinking about this question as it relates to my writing. I couldn’t remember having repeated scenes and dialogue. But then, I haven’t written all that much. My book list doesn’t come anywhere close to that of  most NYT and USA Today best-sellers. And it seems that if I did make a habit of repeating myself, people who had read more than a few of my stories would have mentioned this, either to me or in a review. Characters from some of my books have made appearances in other books, but I’m certain our hound wasn’t referring to books in a series.

I decided to call my daughter, who’s read most of what I’ve written for publication. She’s also a seasoned editor, having worked in that capacity since her college days. The last time I described a project to my her, she said, “Mom, almost every heroine you’ve written has self-doubt. You need to come up with a different flaw for her internal conflict.” So I asked for her input on this topic, and she mentioned my penchant for using inner dialog to illustrate a character’s inner conflict. Apparently, the method I use to show what the he or she is thinking is something I need to vary.

When creating my characters I tend to have a picture in my mind of what he or she looks like. Often I have a specific person in mind as I’m writing, and that makes it easier for me to avoid repetition. For my most recent contemporary romance, the hero was modeled after the actor Mark Harmon and for the heroine I pictured the actress Jean Smart. For my most recent historical, I wanted someone not normally considered hero material. My husband often watches reruns of the TV show Home Improvement, and I decided Al Borland, played by actor Richard Karn, was the perfect model for James Benton. I haven’t kept track of all my characters and the people they’re based on, but I suppose that’s a project for a rainy day.

As for dialogue, I’m quite sure each story is unique enough that the same conversation wouldn’t appear in more than one book. But to answer the last part of the hound’s question, if it did, I would “shift gears” and re-do the scene. My husband will vouch for the fact that I don’t watch re-runs. If I’ve already seen a show I’ll leave the room and do something else, or put my headphones and work on a project. So I assume people won’t want to read the same scene or dialogue in more than one book.

Does repetition diminish your opinion of an author’s work?

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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20 Responses to Did I Already Say That?

  1. I have wondered how people who write a multitude of books, especially in a long-running series, manage to not repeat themselves, but many actually do. Barbara Cartland basically wrote the same book over and over throughout her very long career, (best-selling long career, I might add!)
    With all of the different types of writing which I get into, you’d think it would not be a problem, but, well, I will let you know on Friday.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, a lot of Cartland’s stories are alike. I imagine it would be difficult to come up with over 700 different plot lines! But she’s not the only one who seemed to write the same thing but with different names, and perhaps difference settings.

      Like

  2. pamelasthibodeaux says:

    Great post and very timely. As I go back through my current WIP i’m noticing repetitive phrases!
    Good luck and God’s blessings
    PamT

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I think we all have our favorite phrases. Sometimes I notice them, other times one of my reader friends will point them out, and then I have be aware and not use them so often! Thanks so much for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Salter says:

    hmmm. Guess I’ll have to think long and hard on this topic to come up with a Hound Day post.
    But, just to reply here to a portion of your post, let me say that I have no problem re-watching a movie or TV series episode… assuming I liked it the first time.
    My wife and I watch British TV shows a good bit. Often one of their crime dramas comes on again and I’ll watch the whole thing, if I don’t remember who-dunnit.
    But, in the case of crime dramas, if I already totally remember who did it and why… then I’m far less likely to re-watch that episode.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I’m sure you’ll have something to say, since you came up with the topic! I suppose I wouldn’t mind re-watching something once, if I liked it the first time. But hubby is into watching marathons of his two favorite shows, so I’ve already seen each episode at least a half dozen times!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Diana Lloyd says:

    This is a difficult question. I hope I don’t repeat dialogue, but I know there a repeated themes and situations in my books. I prefer to think of it as my “voice” rather than a flaw. When a reader pointed it out to me I was surprised as I thought it was quite subtle. Is this something I should change? Not sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I guess I don’t see a problem with a recurring theme. As you say, it could be your voice, your platform, or simply something you’re passionate about. I don’t think you need to worry about changing anything yet. If you’re still writing the same situations twenty books later, maybe so.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with Jeff here. I love to watch a good rerun, even if I do remember the ending. We have several sets of DVDs from TV programs we have enjoyed in the past. And over 100 movie DVDs we love to watch over and over. Same holds true with a good book. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Irish Heart, Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles, and so many more. No. Lines used again do not bother me if the setting is changed to give you a new feel. Settings used again are no problem, as long as something has changed.

    Let me ask this. How many times have you revisited the same place and it’s been a different situation? How many people do you see that remind you of someone else. How often have you heard comments made that someone else has made in the past?

    There are only so many words in the English language that you will use, and so many places you have first hand knowledge of. Also, there are just so many plots/themes to write about. Our job is to make them feel different. That’s where the skill comes in being an author. The characters in my four written stories go from Illinois, to Afghanistan, to Florida, to Mexico, to Minnesota, to Texas, with a few stops in between. I write about the same areas, but the scenes are different, even if I have the characters show up in the same places. It’s like life.

    What I’m saying is this. It’s okay to have similar scenes, comments, characters, as long as they are set in different ways so the reader doesn’t say, “Hey, she used that same wording (action, move) in ……….” Change a few words. Give it a new dressing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I agree, it’s our job to make each visit to a familiar place and time feel different. I guess it’s my personal preference to not watch or read things a second time. We used to have lots of DVDs and recorded shows, but I never watch them. Thanks for weighing in!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Diana Stout says:

    Great post. Lots of writing elements to think about regarding repetition. I’m thinking there are some authors I no longer read, loving their earlier work, but then the stores started sounded the same. Is that an issue for all writers despite the genre, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I used to read a lot of Diana Palmer and Danielle Steele, until I got tired of reading the same story, with only the names and locations different. Often, the hero was downright abusive. But I suppose after the first hundred books or so the ideas get recycled! Thanks for weighing in.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. so interesting, because our most complex characters are a part of ourselves. So of course, certain things will come out over and over. Plus your voice, or underlying personality is a factor in an author’s stories. I suppose the key here is awareness. What a great topic!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Good point, Kathy. Most of my characters, especially the female ones, have at least something in common with me. So it stands to reason that the same characteristics would show up again. Thanks so much for weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Alicia Dean says:

    Yes, repetition can impact my enjoyment of a book, but I do love rerurns. 🙂 I know that I have repetition in my books, and I count on others, critique partners and editors, to point it out. I don’t always notice in my own, but as an editor and critique partner, I often point it out in others’. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, things like this are so much easier to spot in other people’s work! I suppose it’s a bit like realizing you have something stuck to your teeth. Thanks so much for stopping in!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Diane Burton says:

    I’ve read most of your books, Patty, and never noticed the self-doubt issue. You’re right about some authors who write the same character in each book. I repeatedly use certain words (just is the worst) and phrases. My editor always points them out, but I’m trying to catch them first. lol Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had a line of dialogue in a manuscript I just finished that struck a chord in my memory. I actually did a search of my other books to see if I’d used it before. I’m getting better at spotting repetitive words and phrases, but I still miss some of them.
    And if I love a movie, I’ll watch it over and over, but there are very few of those!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Some famous authors have used repetition, but after awhile it gets boring.

    Like

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