One of the problems I’ve noticed when I’m writing “Liminal Rites” is that, especially on days when I’m not feeling too inspired, I can easily end up starting quite a few sentences in a repetitive way (usually with “I” or “It”).
This is annoying for me, as a writer, and it is probably annoying for you too. Strangely, I don’t have this problem with non-fiction articles, but when I got back into writing longer pieces of fiction again, it seems to have re-appeared.
This problem seems to be more of an issue with first-person narration than third person narration, but I thought that I’d list a few of the techniques I’ve used to either prevent it or to at least make it less obvious in case anyone else has the same issue with their fiction.
This is still something I’m working out at the moment, so this list isn’t really a very long or comprehensive list, but I hope that it is useful nonetheless.
1) Come up with a few stock phrases: Yes, this just covers up the problem slightly – but one way to make repetitive sentence openings less obvious is to come up with lots of “stock phrases” for beginning your sentences when you aren’t feeling inspired.
For example, in “Liminal Rites”, I sometimes have a habit of starting sentences with things like “Finally, I….”, “Rosie turned to me and said…”, “I just…”, “She just..” etc…
Whilst coming up with a few stock sentence openings to rely on is still repetitive – if you have a lot of them, then your readers probably aren’t going to notice that much (unless you mention it in a blog article..) or mind too much. Or at least it will be less annoying than just having one or two repetitive ways to open a sentence.
2) Describe things: Start your next paragraph or sentence with a description of something or somewhere. Provided that your description is relevant to the story, keeps the story moving and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the narrative – then adding a well-placed description can be a great way of avoiding repetitive sentence openings.
3) Sometimes it’s ok: If you’re writing a story from a first-person perspective, then you are probably going to use the word “I” a lot anyway. It is part of the format. So, don’t worry if you start a reasonable number of sentences with “I”. But if more than about half (at most) of your sentences start with “I”, then it might be an idea to try something else.
4) Use dialogue: This is a great way to break up some repetitive narration – after all, most people don’t start every sentence in the same way when they are talking.
However, if like me, dialogue isn’t one of your strengths – then this can be a slightly difficult way of getting around repetitive sentence openings. Even so, adding dialogue is still a technique which worth trying.
5) Take a break and chill out: Sometimes using repetitive sentence openings is just a sign that you’re not really feeling that energetic or enthusiastic. If that is the case, then just take a break from your story (either to do something else creative, something relaxing or whatever etc..) until you’re feeling more enthusiastic about it again.
If you’re writing your story on a schedule (eg: if it’s an episodic story), then creating a chapter buffer is an absolutely essential thing to do, so that you can take a break when you aren’t feeling inspired.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂