Shh … do you have a secret?

Linda’s blog July 19th

We all have secrets. It may just be a secret passion for honeycomb ice-cream or a secret fantasy about a film star, or it could be a really big, important, life-changing secret. Are you using secrets in your writing?

The big story involving secrets that immediately came to my mind was Secrets and Lies, the iconic 1996 film starring Brenda Blethyn. She harbours a secret for many years that eventually comes out, and this picture is the moment she realises exactly what happened all those years ago – even she didn’t know the whole truth. I’m not giving anything away in case you haven’t seen the film, but for those of you who have, you’ll remember, particularly for that time, it was quite a surprise!

Secrets abound in novels. My favourites are Maxim de Winter’s secret in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and the wife in the attic in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Why should we use secrets in our writing?

  • They are part of a character’s personality
  • They can, and usually do, create conflict
  • They can be the central theme or a sub-plot
  • They create suspense and tension
  • They capture the reader’s curiosity

So why do people keep secrets?

  • If it’s their own secret, it could be out of a fear of being judged, embarrassed, humiliated, outcast, blackmailed, arrested. Or they could just not want other people to know – a control/power mechanism.
  • If it’s other people’s secrets, it could be to take and keep control of others (as in blackmailing), or it could be to keep other people in ignorance of something they may not like.

There are different ways of using secrets in fiction:

  1. Where the reader knows from the start what the secret is, who holds the secret and who it will affect should it come out
  2. Where no-one knows there’s a secret until quite late in the story, and then it comes as a surprise/shock (Rebecca)
  3. Where the secret is the main theme eg a secret plot to blow up the Pentagon

Secrets, as with many other writing devices, can get hackneyed and cliched. Beware: the wife who thinks her husband and best friend are having an affair; they’re really planning a surprise party for her.

Illegitimate babies are another quite common secret but if written well, can provide wonderful stories. Philomena tells the true story of a mother (Judi Dench) who keeps the secret of her illegitimate baby for fifty years until she is approached by a journalist who wants to write her story and find her son.

Objects can play a part in secrets eg diaries, photos, sealed envelopes, a stack of hidden money, a hidden gun, a locked room, a key, a letter or postcard, an unexpected gift.

Some of the things that people keep secret include addictions, failures, weaknesses, crushes, ambitions, embarrassments, plans, relationships, unusual or illegal activities.

Part two of writing about secrets is the emotional fallout when the secret is revealed. The surprise 50th birthday party might be just what the recipient wanted, or hated. An illegitimate baby might divide a family or bring people closer together. A hidden stash of money might solve problems or create resentment.

And finally, can your character keep a secret? Do they make a judgement as to how serious it is? A bit of gossip that will get around eventually. Or something that they’d really rather not have known, and which puts them in a difficult situation. If someone tells them they are being abused, what can or will they do? What are the consequences either way?

Have a go at including a secret in your next story.

Please do post a comment, especially if you can think of other novels or films where secrets play a major part.

Happy writing.

Linda

Are you sitting TOO comfortably?

 

Linda’s blog July 13th

Are you and your characters just too comfortable? I know it’s a lovely feeling, being comfortable. For me, it’s settling into a comfy chair, with a glass of something, a few nibbles and either a book or a TV programme. Or it’s getting together with family or friends that you are – well – comfortable with: easy conversation, shared memories, old jokes.

However, comfortable doesn’t make for exciting reading. Your characters cannot be comfortable. There’s no story in comfortable.

CONFLICT, at the heart of all stories, doesn’t have to be bombs, car chases and arguments. Just take your character out of their comfort zone and there’s your conflict.

A good exercise on this topic is to list where and when YOU feel uncomfortable, anxious or awkward. My list goes something like: the dentist; hospitals; going to an interview; going somewhere completely new; being late for an appointment; stuck in traffic; being faced with an unexpected bill; witnessing other people arguing.

Any of those situations could be the starting point of CONFLICT in a story.

We are basically creatures of habit. Anything out of the ordinary, away from our daily routine, and we can feel uncomfortable. On occasions, we seek out new experiences, for holidays, fun, for a bit of a change. But unexpected changes can leave us feeling out-of-sorts. So if our bus/train/lift doesn’t arrive on time, we feel anxious. If our partner/child isn’t home when we get back, uncomfortable might quickly change to concern and then panic. If we get to work to find we’ve been allocated a new team, desk or office, we might easily feel uncomfortable and uneasy.

Try taking your next character out of their comfort zone and see where the conflict leads ….

Getting out of your comfort zone can also apply to your type of writing. If you usually write short stories, why not try an article? Or a poem? If you’ve never written a 500-word flash fiction story, why not give it a go? Venturing out of our own routines and genres is a useful exercise: it gives us a break from what we usually do, and it can open up completely new opportunities that we didn’t realise were there for us.

Do have a go at this week’s writing prompts. Click here.

Have a great week.

Happy Writing!

Linda

 

 

No shortage of words!

July 6th Linda’s blogDinkus pic

Words and numbers

I love finding new words. My latest is DINKUS. Yes, it’s a real word! I can’t find it in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) but it is in plenty of others. If you want to know what it means and how it’s used, please click here to read this week’s article on Section Breaks.

Discovering that word made me start thinking about how many words there are in the English language and how many we as individuals actually know and use.  

  • According to a 2010 report by Harvard University and Google, there are more than 1 million words in the English language. These include derivatives (eg quick, quicker, quickest, quickly) and archaic words that are no longer in use.
  • The figure that is generally accepted, after an OED study in 1989, is there are more than 170,000 English words in current use, with new words being added every year.
  • And to dispel a major myth, men and women talk as much as each other, both using more than 16,000 words every day. And that’s out of a total vocabulary of between 20 and 35,000 per person.
  • One-year-olds, apparently, can recognise around 50 words. At three years old, they have a vocabulary of a thousand words, and between 4 and 8 years old, that increases to between 5 and 10,000.
  • Shakespeare is said to have invented between 25 and 30,000 unique words. But remember, many hadn’t been written down before he came along
  • Various organisations produce WORD OF THE YEAR lists. (The Germans invented this back in 1971). Collins English Dictionary named these their WOTY from 2013: geek, photobomb, binge-watch, Brexit, fake news, single-use and, in 2019, climate strike.
  • English is the most widely used language in the world with 1,132 million speakers; followed by Mandarin Chinese (1,117m), Hindi (615m) and Spanish (534m).

So, there are plenty of words there: all we have to do is find an entertaining way of putting them together. To misquote the wonderful Eric Morecambe, “I am using all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order!”

If you’d like to relive that brilliant sketch with Andre Preview, click here.

Happy writing.

Linda

 

 

Your writing success

June 29th blog

We’re halfway through the year now and what a strange six months it’s been. I can’t help wondering what the second six months are going to be like, especially as the news of the moment is a possible second lockdown for the city of Leicester.

How have your writing habits changed since March? I’ve been able to get on with one of my 2020 projects, but family matters have meant that’s only been possible in fits and starts. I’m not beating myself up about the ones I haven’t been able to even start – life gets in the way for all of us.

Even so, plenty of writers I know have been keeping up their writing output with considerable success.

It’s up to you how you define success. But these are what I would include:

  • Regular writing
  • Finishing stories or articles or flash fiction or a prompt
  • Getting short-listed in a competition or two
  • Winning a competition
  • Getting on with chapters of a novel
  • Editing and re-writing stories for an anthology
  • Editing and re-drafting a novel
  • Self-publishing a short story compilation
  • Getting published in a magazine
  • Zoom attending writers’ group meetings
  • Helping a writing buddy

It’s usually at this time of year that I recap with members of my writing groups what their New Year Resolutions were. Most of the time they’re on track. Some need gentle reminders. But if you made some back in January, why not check up on them and see how you’re doing? I find it’s quite motivating, and sets me up for the next six months.

Pricey writing courses

I’ve noticed in recent months that I’m receiving quite a lot of emails and Facebook posts about Writing Courses. Some are free (which I wrote about back in April) while others are quite pricey. Until you sign up and pay up, you have no idea exactly what they’re offering and how useful it’ll be. I recently saw one that was advertised at $197, that’s £110. With their “special offer”, I bought it for £30. There’s a lot of material which I’m going through day by day but, as yet, I have very little idea who it’s aimed at. There’s some very basic advice which is fine for absolute beginners. But then they get quite technical and advanced but with little substance and few examples. I’ll keep going and let you know what I think at the end. At the moment, though, £30 seems about right!

Binge watching

I think I may have mentioned before that I’ve been binge-watching old TV series from all over the world – British drama, Scandi noir, American crime, Australian soaps. Each time I tell myself I’m not going to watch the whole 8 series of 20 episodes each! But then I get hooked.

Why? It’s definitely NOT the plots, the car chases, the shoot-outs and the dangling over a ravine on the end of a rope (Rescue Special Ops, in case you’re interested). It’s the CHARACTERS: their strengths and weaknesses, their love lives, their family relationships, how they react to different situations, the way they change, even from episode to episode. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking about my characters in terms of a TV series or block-busting film! And that’s our job as writers – getting the visual image down on paper. Have the film shot in your head and identify what really makes that character tick. That’s what we need to read about.

And remember my ONLY writing rule: when you have a success, CELEBRATE!

Happy Writing.

Linda

How many is a crowd?

June 22nd blog

Minor characters – how many and how important?

One question that comes up from time to time in my writing groups is How many minor characters should my story/novel have? As so often in writing, there are no hard and fast rules, just a few guidelines.

With beginners, there is a tendency to have too many minor characters. The reasons I’m given: Oh, but when the story moves to a different setting, I have to introduce other people. Or But I’m trying to be realistic and give them work colleagues, friends and family.          

I do sympathise. But you’re hardly going to write even a novel with all the people on your  Christmas card list. Realism can be taken too far!

In the book The 38 most common fiction writing mistakes, Jack M.Bickham says: It’s not unusual for the fledging novelist to introduce that doorman in chapter one, a cabdriver in chapter two, a TV reporter and a yard person in chapter three – and a dozen more bit players by halfway through the book. But the simplest novel is complex enough and nobody (neither the writer nor the reader!) wants to need a printed programme to keep track of all the minor parts.”

Characters in stories tend to fall into one of three groups:

  • Major characters: your protagonist, your antagonist, maybe one or two others, maybe other point-of-view characters. These are the ones for whom you create detailed character profiles.
  • Minor characters 1: those on the next level down in order of importance to the story.
  • Minor characters 2 – Incidentals: everyday characters, including shopkeepers, waitresses, bartenders.

Whenever you think of introducing a minor character, you should consider what role they are playing or what purpose they have in your story.

  • Will they actively be helping to move the plot forward?
  • Will they contribute to the protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) decision-making?
  • Will they act as a foil to highlight the strengths or weaknesses of the protagonist?

Minor characters still need to be fully rounded, realistic personalities in their own right. But they must never overshadow your main characters. You shouldn’t use them as a point-of-view character ie getting into their heads. They should not be the ones that are making things happen – that’s the job of your protagonist. And they should not be the ones that the reader starts to care about – that too is just for your protagonist.

Sarah Waters points out that all characters will have their own backstories as they are, in their own worlds, of importance. Respect your characters, even the ­minor ones. In art, as in life, everyone is the hero of their own particular story; it is worth thinking about what your minor characters’ stories are, even though they may intersect only slightly with your protagonist’s.”

That means you should be aware of your minor characters as whole personalities but that their particular back-stories, experiences, histories, traits, hobbies etc are not to be included in your story, unless they have some bearing on it.

They don’t need a name

Depending on how important your minor characters are, you do not, always, have to name them. I once read a writer friend’s 18th century romance which opened with a highwayman being chased by a Customs and Exciseman. Both characters were given names and the reader was party to both their thoughts. It was a well-written opening scene, with plenty of suspense and tension, and I was looking forward to a developing relationship between the two men. Only in the second chapter did I realise the highwayman was the protagonist and not until the end did I find out that the Customs and Excise man never reappeared!

If you name a character, you are setting up the expectation that they are going to be an on-going, integral part of the story. If they’re not, then you don’t need names. And that’s the same for what I’ve called Minor Characters 2 – Incidentals. Certainly in a novel there will be tens, if not hundreds, of other people involved in the story: friends, family and work colleagues as mentioned above; walking companions, fellow hobbyists, neighbours, members of a platoon, squadron or regiment; fellow school-teachers or pupils. You cannot give them all names – it will just be totally confusing to your readers.

Finish a first draft

I’ve heard it said by established writers that, quite often, they need to write a first draft before deciding on whether they can justify all their minor characters. Do they all serve a purpose? Can you cut one out completely and not miss them? Or can two minor characters be made into one? 

A tip I’d like to pass on is to keep a check on how often all your characters appear in your novel. Yes, it’s a chart and I know some people fight against using such aids😊 But it’s actually quite useful in just listing your scenes or chapters and making a note of every character who appears in each section. It will show you quite clearly if you are “losing” a character (major or minor) for too long, or if you are using one particular minor character too much. Just a suggestion.

Of course, some stories demand a lot of characters and there’s no getting away from naming them. A prime example of this are historical novels. These may often use either a list – Dramatis Personae – at the beginning of the book, or even a family tree to assist readers in identifying all the characters and their relationship to each other.

Finally, there’s just one other device I’ve found with regard to minor characters – draw a Mindmap or spidergram. Put your protagonist in the middle, your other main characters are then attached to your protagonist and your minor characters outside that. If your minor characters aren’t connected, are they worth their place? 

Have a good week.

Happy Writing.

Linda

 

Real life stories

Linda’s blog June 15th

I’ve read that quite a number of people are keeping diaries during the Coronavirus lockdown. It is, after all, an unprecedented happening in our lifetime, one that will become part of our history. If you are writing a diary, your thoughts and observations will undoubtedly be of interest to family and friends in the future. If you are thinking of writing a short story, or even a novel, set during the lockdown, then make sure you have a STORY to tell.

Lockdown is the BACKGROUND or SETTING to any stories.

  • We’ve all been missing special people: having to wave to grandchildren through a window; not being able to visit sick relatives in hospital or care home; separated from partners; not able to enjoy a meal out with friends.
  • Many people will have lost their jobs, be furloughed, or have their income cut.
  • We can all commiserate about shopping experiences – long queues, empty shelves, one-way systems around the supermarket, online shopping.

All these incidents will make our fiction ring true – real life. But that’s not enough: stories are about A PERSON who wants SOMETHING, faces CHALLENGES and, by the end, HAS CHANGED.

By the end of lockdown, we might all realise what is really important to us – perhaps family over job; savings rather than holidays; friends rather than acquaintances; talking rather than TV. And, of course, apart from losing loved ones, there will be distressing outcomes: marriages that aren’t worth saving; relationships that aren’t working; jobs that aren’t satisfying; friends who aren’t who you thought they were. These are the sort of CHANGES that must figure in your stories: if your protagonist doesn’t change, there is no point to the story.

This process of change is called the CHARACTER ARC. It maps the change in the protagonist’s personality throughout your story. It’s not about plot and action; it’s an internal, personal development. That only happens when your protagonist is faced with challenges (problems, difficulties etc) and their strengths, skills, weaknesses and flaws are tested.  What decisions your protagonist makes will determine what happens physically but, more importantly, what happens to them internally, as a person.

Scarlett O’Hara starts Gone with the Wind as a fickle young woman who wants Ashley Wilkes. She ends the story, having lost two husbands and Ashley, a stronger woman, determined to save Tara through her own efforts.

Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice overcomes her mistaken first impressions of Darcy to find happiness.

Bilbo Baggins, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and Ebeneezer Scrooge are other examples of fictitious characters who change through the course of their stories. Some are epics, their characters developing over many books and films. But even in short stories, make sure your main character CHANGES.

As lockdown rules are eased, please do stay safe and healthy.

And keep writing!

Linda

 

A Change in the Weather

We’ve had a few changes here in Britain the last few weeks: summer temperatures, days of unending sunshine, then grey clouds and storms and a temptation to put the central heating back on! We’re great at talking about the weather – a very British trait, we are led to believe. But how good are we at writing about the weather?

I don’t mean a meaningless conversation. Yes, that’s real life but, as we know, real life has to be made readable.

Weather in fiction should be used actively ie it should do one or more of the following:

  1. Enhance the mood of your story. Gothic Literature is full of weather: storms, dark clouds, rain and fog which really help in creating suspense, horror and terror.
  2. Add to the setting of your story. A forest in the sunshine presents a totally different background to a forest in a storm or fog.
  3. Help develop and show your character’s personality. Is your protagonist astraphobic? (A fear of thunder and lightning.) If she has to go outside to save the day, how will she behave if a storm suddenly breaks?
  4. Impact the plot. A group of mountain walkers are trapped in a hut by a sudden snowstorm.

When writing about the weather, be careful:

Don’t let the weather take over your story. Always have your characters lead the action, reacting to the weather.
Don’t start a story or chapter with a description of the weather. Your characters must do that.
Be aware that there are quite a few weather cliches: the calm before the storm; raining cats and dogs; as right as rain; it never rains but pours. Once in a while they can be used in conversation, or as a title. Otherwise, avoid. 

Weather can also be used in a metaphorical sense eg the sun smiled on us all day. When it is used like this, this Figure of Speech (or Literary Device) is known as PATHETIC FALLACY. If you’d like to read more about this, then take a look at this week’s article here.

A bit of organisation

I had a visitor this week who spent some time filling in a form on his laptop. I felt it would be rude to leave him on his own, as he occasionally asked me a question, so I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs until I decided to look through the emails on my tablet. There were over a thousand, some going back to 2016! So I started deleting, and that was a job that took me the rest of the afternoon. I went through all my emails, received and sent, on my tablet, phone and desktop computer. I’m now aiming to keep just a week’s worth in each section. A bit like those old pieces of paper we all used to get through the post: the best rule? Answer, then file or delete.

Please pass it on

This blog, the prompts and articles, are for anyone who is interested in writing. Please do pass the website details onto whoever you’d like to. If they want to FOLLOW the blog (and receive an email every time there’s a new posting), just click the FOLLOW button on the right and fill in your email address. You’ll receive an email which you must respond to and then you’ll be on the regular list.

If you want to copy and paste anything on the website, for yourself, for use in a writers’ group or for your writing buddy, then please do so. Just don’t put it on any other websites, please!

Hard sell to come!

I’m still working on my Let’s Get Writing Book which I hope will be out later in the year. That’s when the hard sell comes in😊 Until then, please keep reading, writing and sending me comments, critiques and queries.

Best wishes and happy writing.

Linda

A Writing Habit

Linda’s Blog June 1st

After a few life glitches at home, I hope I’m back to a regular Monday morning blog post.

I’ve heard from quite a few writers in recent weeks who have felt disappointed, upset and even guilty that they haven’t been able to get down to writing during the lockdown.

“I thought it would be easy,” said one. “I can’t go out, I can’t see anyone, I’ve done all the jobs around the house, but I just can’t get writing! It’s so frustrating!”

I can certainly sympathise, and I don’t think that particular writer is on her own. What do they say about getting a job done? Give it to a busy person! They are the ones who are organised enough to squeeze in whatever needs doing! However, when we have so much more time on our hands, there isn’t always the impetus to write. One of my writing groups meets monthly and there is always one person (sometimes two) who write their homework at 5 o’clock, two hours before the next meeting. If that’s how they do it, and I love what they write, then that’s fine.

But for many writers, a regular writing habit is highly recommended. You don’t, of course, have to create an award-winning short story every time you sit down at the computer. When you get that idea, that’s great. But until then, just keep practising. That’s what writing prompts are for. Whether you write for five minutes, ten minutes, half a page, 500 words – whatever. That’s establishing a writing routine. So, when the great idea does strike, you are ready to run with it.

Another of my fellow writers makes a list every six weeks of what competitions she’s going to enter or what magazines she’s going to write for. I have to say she is a very prolific writer and, as such, has had a fantastic few years of winning prizes, getting short-listed, performing and being performed. Her output and her energy leave me breathless. She’s a success because she writes regularly, listens to feedback and is willing to edit, edit and edit.

New ideas

I myself decided to do a weekly blog during lockdown as I knew it would MAKE  me write each week and keep me coming up with ideas. So that when lockdown is eventually eased and we can meet in person again, I’ll be in the swing. And by writing this blog, I’ve come up with ideas for my other writing projects and even some new ones.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve not started the next block-buster novel yet. Take it slowly – try some of the prompt ideas on this website, or you can just Google writing prompts and you’ll have hundreds at your fingertips. Many a good story has come out of a writing prompt. You really have nothing to lose, just a really great writing habit to gain.

This week there’s also an article on Make Your Readers Care. Click here.

And for the writing prompts, click here.

Happy Writing.

Linda

Give ’em a hard time!

Linda’s Blog May 28th 2020

Rarely, if ever, in life does everything go smoothly all the time. If it did, then our stories would be so boring. Life and stories are all about how we cope with adversity: problems, challenges, barriers, troubles, difficulties, setbacks. There may well be a happy ending, but only after the protagonist overcomes the problems.

A character’s true personality only comes out when they face adversity. You must give your protagonist challenges so the reader can see how they react, what they are made of, who they really are.barriers

The problems your character faces do not, necessarily, have to be major challenges. You can leave those to James Bond – bombs, guns, fires, car chases. Real-life problems tend to be on a smaller scale but can still bother your protagonist.

I’ve had a couple of THOSE days recently: nothing earth-shattering, but a series of difficulties that I just had to deal with and carry on – something I’m sure we’ve all experienced. The plastic connector sheared off the hose reel, the dishwasher broke two glasses (my faulty stacking, probably), I kept get putting on hold by our local hospital, I mislaid my credit card (found later), I cut out a pattern piece the wrong way round and didn’t have enough fabric to cut another … I’ll stop there and you can fill in your own!

The more pressure you put on a character, the more they reveal about themselves and the more your readers will be able to identify with them. And the problems your character faces should be connected to what they want, their goal.

So, you should let your readers know, as early as possible in your story:

  • What your protagonist wants
  • Why they want it
  • What is standing in their way (problems)
  • What are the consequences should they fail (ie what’s at stake)

If you include these four elements early on, you will hook your readers into empathising with your main character and then keep their interest going, either throughout the next 1000 words or the next 36 chapters. For the longer stories, problems will be repeated, probably several times over, and the stakes will be upped to increase tension and suspense.

Whether it’s bombs or broken glasses, make sure you make your protagonist work for their happy ending.

Have a good week – problem-free, hopefully.

Happy Writing.

Linda

Let me repeat that!

Linda’s blog May 18th

 Apologies – two days late. 

Following on from last week’s foray into editing, I thought I’d address another aspect this week – that of repetition.

When it’s intentional and well-written, repetition can add enormously to your writing voice and style. But used accidentally, it can be annoying to the reader, stop the flow of the piece and, basically, shows that the author hasn’t taken the time and trouble to check through their writing. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve often read stories where the characters are well-drawn and the plot keeps me reading but I am put off when the same word – noun, verb, adjective – is used not just twice but repeatedly so.

There are several ways around this problem and the one I recommend is:

  • READ IT OUT ALOUDGiving a speech

I don’t mean mumble it as you read it through. I mean sit or stand up and read it as though you had an audience, as a performance. This way, not only will you pick up repetitions, but it’s more than likely you will hear badly-constructed sentences, see typographical errors, spot grammar and spelling mistakes and, hopefully, pick up on plot holes.

  • A SECOND OPINION

A different pair of eyes is always a good idea when you reach the editing stage. It’s all too easy for the author to read what they thought they had written, what they had intended to write, not seeing what is actually there. If another person is happy to read your work out loud, then you’ll have a double-check.

  • A SOFTWARE PROGRAMME

There are computer programmes available that will analyse your writing and produce a report that tells you how often you’ve used certain words. I’ve found one free programme that is easy to install and use: textfixer.com. Once installed, go to Text Tools, then Word Frequency Counter. Copy and paste your story into the box, press the button and you’ll get a list of your most commonly used words.

If you already know which words you use too often and need to find them, then Microsoft Word has a facility to do this. Remember my editor who discovered my too-frequent use of ‘but’? I could then use MS Word’s Find facility to go through deleting or altering.

Those are my suggestions for the accidental use of repetition. The deliberate use of repetition is to be encouraged, in the right place, and in the right way. Repetition of words or phrases can be used to

  • create emphasis,
  • direct the reader’s attention to a particular sentence,
  • aid in persuading the reader to take particular note of something,
  • create a rhythm and mood to your writing.

There are quite a number of figures of speech relating to repetition. Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Alliteration

The same letter or sound at the beginning of successive or nearby words. Two of the best-known examples are Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers and Veni, vidi, vici. And Shakespeare was fond of alliteration: From forth the fatal loins of these two foes; A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.

  1. Anaphora

The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity …

Winston Churchill’s speech: … we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields …

  1. Antimetabole

Where words from the first half of a sentence are repeated, in reverse, at the end of the sentence. Socrates: East to live, not live to eat. John F.Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

  1. Assonance

Two or more words, close together, with the repetition of their vowel sounds. Pink Floyd: Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground.

  1. Epistrophe

Repetition of a word at the end of successive clauses or sentences. Lyndon B Johnson: There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem. 1 Corinthians 13: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

  1. Polysyndeton

Repetition of conjunctions in a list for emphasis eg For breakfast he ate bacon and egg and sausages and beans and black pudding and mushrooms and beans and toast!

At the risk of repeating myself, always check your writing for unintentional repetitions but also have a go at using repetition to enhance your writing style.

Have a good week.

Happy Writing.

Linda