Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fighting PPP (Pedantic, Plodding Prose) Rule Number Three: Remove repeated analogies and metaphors

Sometimes you are so inspired by an image you unconsciously use it to describe a setting more than once.  Perhaps there is an aspect of your character’s personality that reminds you of a past memory so you refer to it multiple times.  These things happen. 

However, a repeated analogy or metaphor will give the reader pause, perhaps even cause them to go back to re-read an early part of the book.  Anything which takes the reader out of the moment, and forces them to think about the writing, and not the story, is PPP.  Part of careful line editing includes searching out these repeated metaphors or analogies, and using them just once in the novel.

“I noticed the words ‘Patchwork quilt’ were used three times in the first three chapters.” – Mike from

Mike was right.  In the original draft of SEEING MAGIC, I’d referred to a patchwork quilt three times in the first three chapters.

In chapter one:
“The pilot droned on about the meal they were about to start serving and the movie which was to follow breakfast but I stopped listening.  The red canyon turned into green forest and then back into another patchwork quilt of farmland.  Then we flew over a cloudbank and there was nothing further to see except my own reflection.”

In chapter two:
“I decided pajamas were an unnecessary luxury.  After stripping off my shoes and jeans and bra, I collapsed onto it.  I pulled a soft patchwork quilt made out of many pieces of flannel and sighing, fell into a dreamless sleep.”

In chapter three:
“After running through my nighttime routine and changing into some pajamas I settled down in the small antique armchair Aunt Rose had placed in the corner of her bedroom.  It had a small table and a floor lamp stationed on either side so it was the perfect place to curl up with a good book.  She had even supplied another old patchwork quilt as a throw.”

After consolidating chapters per step one of Battling PPP, I ended up with one reference to a patchwork quilt at the end of chapter one:
“Opting against pajamas, I collapsed onto it, pulled a soft patchwork quilt made out of many pieces of flannel over me, and sighing, fell into a dreamless sleep.”

I removed the word ‘patchwork’ from the scene in chapter two so it read as follows:
“She had even supplied another old quilt as a throw.”

By eliminating the repeated image of the patchwork quilt, I maintained the flow of the story, instead of allowing the reader to get hung up on the image of a patchwork quilt.  It’s just another step in battling pedantic, plodding prose.

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