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Memoir Writing Tiny Tip #13: When Repetition is Warranted

by Matilda Butler on August 22, 2017

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #241 – Memoir Writing Tiny Tip – Matilda Butler



Memoir Writing Tiny Tip #13

As I’ve mentioned before, I love audiobooks. I find that listening allows me to focus on aspects of writing that might not be as obvious if I were reading. My mind processes the words differently.

When I listened to the most recent Lee Child (Jack Reacher) story, I was struck by his use of repeated paragraphs. Like most writers, I try not to use the same word in a sentence or paragraph, especially when it is easy to add a different nuance through word variation. There are a number of times when some form of word repetition is called for as a rhetorical device as in antanaclasis, conduplicatio, anaphora, anadiplosis, etc. But whole paragraphs? I’d never encountered that before.

This caused me to consider a Memoir Writing Tiny Tip for you.

1. Assume you describe a person in some detail. The first time you use the paragraph, your intent is to introduce the person to the reader.

2. Think about a second time you might want to use the same paragraph. You are reinstating the person and making her or him more vital, more real. Given the arc of your story, the second use of the descriptive paragraph may “seem” different because the reader has additional information. The type of clothing, the particular perfume, the nervous tick or calm demeanor will all reinforce the role of the person in your memoir.

3. Now, consider a third time you might use the same paragraph. Maybe near the end of your story? Maybe the first use was introductory and the final use is more reflective or more of a remembrance rather than an active look at the person.

Each use of the same paragraph (or even a couple of short paragraphs) needs to allow the reader to feel that she understands the person more, is going deeper into that person.

This tiny tip isn’t for everyone. But it is an unusual idea and just might give you a way to develop a person. Of course, the repeated paragraph doesn’t have to be a physical description. It could be a pivotal action that has changed your life. Appropriate use of repetition could help your reader see its influence on you. I put this concept out for your consideration. See if it just might help you write your memoir with more power.


How This Tiny Tip Series Started

The idea for a series of short writing tips came to me while reading the program notes for a chamber music concert. I realized that many (well, ok, most) of my blog articles get to be long and often require you to do certain things — like write from prompts I’ve provided. And while I will continue with this type of longer article because I think they are of value, I realized that sometimes as writers we just want a little bit of information or a small new idea or a thought stated differently. We don’t have a lot of time.

That’s the concept behind each Tiny Tip. Just a nugget to give you something to think about as you go through your busy day.

Enjoy.

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