Editing Tip #98 – Repetitive Patterns to Avoid

When it comes time to dust off the first draft of your story, after having left it for at least one month, there are certain things you will notice straight off:

Photo Credit: Pierre Andrews (via Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Pierre Andrews (via Creative Commons)

a) that you’re a genius (yeah!)

b) that you’re not a genius (damn!)

c) that you have genius-like tendencies but are basically normal.

Most of us will fall into that last category. One very ‘anti-writing genius’ thing we do in first drafts is fall into patterns. We have crutch words that crop up time and again (in one of my stories I loved the word ‘necessarily’ – it showed up over and over again throughout the entire book!) and we fall into a rhythm with how we begin sentences. It’s the latter I’d like to focus on today.

The Repetitive Use of Initial Pronouns…

He walked into the room and lifted the muzzle of the gun. He knew he shouldn’t be carrying a loaded weapon in such tight places; but hey, them’s the breaks sometimes. He checked for the second magazine in his back pocket. He took a deep breath and spun around the corner.

This is a decent little sequence of action and thought but what is keeping it from being one step better is the repetitive use of the pronoun “HE”. Each sentence is both grammatically and structurally correct – that’s not the issue here at all. You will intensify your reader’s engagement simply by changing up how you choose to start your sentences.

Johnny walked into the room and lifted the muzzle of the gun. He knew he shouldn’t be carrying a loaded weapon in such tight places; but hey, them’s the breaks sometimes. Reaching back, he checked for the second magazine in his jeans’ pocket. He took a deep breath and spun around the corner.

As you’ll notice swapping out ‘he’ for the protagonist’s name is a fast solution but if I’d used that trick again with the 3rd sentence I’d just be falling into a different, alternating, pattern of repetition. By starting with your verb (like reaching) and placing the pronoun immediately after to indicate who is doing the action you change the momentum of the sentence and the paragraph.

Now it’s your turn!

Happy Editing 😀


Creative PencilProfessional Editing for 1st time clients from $3.50/300 words for a “full edit” ~ query M.J. HERE.

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Categories: Editing

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