Over the past few months I’ve read quite a few books by the same author. Most of these books are part of a series. One of the many things I enjoy about reading a series is the continuity. When a book refers to a previous event or character not present in the current book. I also enjoy being able to pick up a book in a series and already know the characters. I’m familiar with the setting, the personality of the characters and the general tone of the book. It’s akin to putting on a warm coat on a snowy day. It feels good all over and for that moment it’s almost as if nothing can ruin your mood.
That is….(dun dun dun)…until the repetition goes beyond the aforementioned elements. One of the things that most annoys me in books is when an author reuses the same phrase or word to describe an action or event that occurs frequently. Would you like an example? Oh, I have several!
The Uglies Quartet by Scott Westerfeld – “purchase”
The majority of traveling done in these books are on hover boards, (think Back to the Future II with a thin scientific explanation as to how the board works). During the main character’s daring escapades to and from her home she uses the hoverboard, often “gaining purchase” on the board with her feet. I completely understand the definition and use of the word but after four books you would think a published author could expand his repertoire.
The Private Series by Kate Brian – “klatch” and “confab”
Private is about cliques. Groups of cool girls, uncool girls, rich girls and one poor girl. Kate Brian does a fairly good job in the first few books using a variety of words to describe the characters congregating, talking and general socialization. Somewhere around 1/4 of the way through the series she starts to reuse “klatch” to describe a group of people and “confab” to describe a conversation.
She uses it over and over and over…(and over). Klatch is not a word you hear in everyday conversation, at least not where I’m from, but I know the meaning of the word. When it was first used I applauded Brian for using a word that most teens would either not know or recognize from a school assigned vocabulary list and I quickly felt like she was beating a dead horse.
“Confab” is the other word I found Kate Brian using quite often. Now, while I know what the word means I decided to look it up to get a better understanding of its origin and definition. Merriam-Webster defines confab as:
con-fab, n. a chat, discussion or conference
No rocket science here, confab isn’t a word you’d hear in day-to-day conversation but Kate Brian manages to work it her books several times for each novel. Arrrrg.
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell – skittle
This is the straw that broke the camel’s back and inspired this post. I read The Carrie Diarieslast night because of the new CW television show based on the prequel book to Sex and the City. Bushnell uses “skittle” or a tense of the word seven times. Seven times in a 400 page young adult book. She uses the word to describe when items clatter and/or slide across a surface, e.g., the lipstick skittled across the floor, and I watched the contents of my purse skittle across the table. Now these examples are not direct quotes as I cannot bring myself to read through the book to find direct quotes.
For the love of literature, use different (distinguishable, diverse, other, mixed, several, sundry, various, alternative, divergent) words!
What are your thoughts? Does the repetitive use of words in novels drive you crazy, or am I crazy?