Our assignment this month is: “Do you have any character habits or favorite words that always crop up in your writing?”
Well, yes. My current one is a great tendency to start sentences with “Well…”
But when I think back a bit, I remember that the first of my repeated words was “bit,” an immensely versatile little word. Please spend a bit of time, and list all its meanings you can think of.
Now that you have chewed over the question, and drilled down to its essence, you may see a little of what I mean.
I bit the bullet and improved my writing a bit, but then a beta reader pointed out my addiction to “just.” In the book she read for me, just about every second character used the word, and she could just not help but focus in on it. And I had to agree, this was a just assessment, so I did something about it.
But well, now I just need to do something about my bit of an addiction to “well.”
My characters don’t tend to overuse other common repetitions such as “Now…” and “See…” but I have often pointed them out to editing clients, or tolerantly sighed when reading a book for pleasure.
But does it matter?
Well, it does. Just think for a bit: what if all your characters spoke the same, and a bit worse, if they all spoke like you?
There is a second problem, just as important. We want the reader to focus on the message, the content of your writing, not the language. Well, I mean, I just know that you’ve been focusing in on all the bits and justs and wells. In this case, being cheeky, that’s why I put them there. But normally, anything that distracts from the content is counterproductive. This can be author intrusions, words or concepts likely to be unfamiliar to your reader, hard-to-believe claims given the reality you’ve created —- or repetitions of any kind.
Even in a short story, if one person has the habit of agreeing with “sure,” I’ll argue with the other characters until they buckle in and use another term. When quoting dialogue, it’s fine for somebody to start every second sentence with “well,” as long as this is a unique habit within the story.
Well, I’ll just repeat it one more time. Be a bit careful, and avoid repetitions.
Well, have I just convinced you to leave a bit of a comment? Now, stop sighing at me. See, I am not alone: go and visit these fellow conspirators: