Being a writer is a game of constant growth. Authors are always learning, growing, and expanding their knowledge in developing their craft. One of the more common issues I see (and more than deal with myself) is overwriting. Overwriting encompasses a number of problems, but today I'm thinking more along the lines of redundancy.
To understand how to fix a problem, you first have to learn to identify it.
re·dun·dan·cy [ri-duhn-duhn-see] noun, plural re·dun·dan·cies.
1. the state of being redundant.
2. superfluous repetition or overlapping, especially of words.
3. a redundant thing, part, or amount; superfluity.
In other words, redundancy is saying the same thing in different way or adding words that aren't needed. Not only does this lengthen your work unnecessarily, it makes for a tedious and frustrating read.
What are some examples of overwriting through redundancies?
First, there are what I like to call, my 'doh' moments:
* I shrugged my shoulders. Well, yeah. Unless you have some double-jointed hips or something, what else are you going to shrug? You don't lose anything by cutting my shoulders, and your story will only read stronger for snipping the excess.
* My heart pounded inside my chest. If you aren't on an operating table with your ribs cracked open (or maybe in a freaky horror novel), your heart can't beat anywhere else. Remove the superfluous words.
Trust me when I say, we ALL do this at some point in our writing journey. It's a learning process.
Next, there's stating the obvious through reiterating a thought or emotion.There are several redundancies in the following sentence. Can you identify them?
"I hate those flying monkeys!" Mark yelled in anger.
1) The use of an exclamation mark. Given the context of a scene, an exclamation mark should be enough in itself to show excitement, anger, or fear. This would be a great time for an action should you need to identify which character is speaking.
Say it better: "I hate those flying monkeys!" Mark slammed his fist against the shed.
2) The use of the word yelled. Yelling (in general) is an obvious sign of anger. There are circumstances, however, where yelling doesn't always mean aggression. This is the time to choose a better word for clarity's sake.
Say it better: "I hate those flying monkeys," Mark growled.
So, now you know! Look carefully at each sentence you write and consider redundancies.