Redundancy: the state of being no longer useful or the inclusion of extra components that are unnecessary.
If there’s one thing that drives me crazy in amateur/unedited/poorly-edited writing, it’s when the writer insults my intelligence by being redundant. I know it takes months and sometimes years to write a book. I know it’s important that the reader understands the characters, their motivations, their wants and needs. I’m convinced some writers and editors don’t realize it only takes a few hours to read a book.
Case in point:
I just finished a story that contained a side-character: an old busy-body woman who lived in the town. The main character ran into this woman in the first chapter. Let’s call her Mrs. Beeman.
Mrs. Beeman owned a cat that was unfortunately stuck in a tree and the main character got suckered into helping rescue said cat. For the next six hours, each and every time Mrs. Beeman’s name was mentioned, I had to stop the progression of the story so the writer could remind me who Mrs. Beeman was and force me to re-live her tragic cat incident.
“Mrs. Beeman, the woman whose cat was stuck in the tree, entered the room.”
“Mrs. Beeman, who Billy had helped early that day when her cat got stuck in a tree, stomped out of the room.
“Mrs. Beeman, yadda yadda cat yadda, sobbed.”
I am not stupid. I know who Mrs. Beeman is.
Keep in mind, unless you’ve penned a tome as lengthy as “War and Peace,” it will only take the reader a few hours to read it. We can and do remember the characters and the names. We don’t need to be reminded over and over of who a character is. And, if we do need to be reminded, then you did not make their entrance as grand as you should have. Write all the details of your characters at our very first meeting. Once the reader has a solid picture of who this person is, you don’t ever need to remind us again. Ever.
Give your reader credit for having at least an iota of intelligence. Do NOT remind them who Mrs. Beeman is or mention her stupid cat who has nothing to do with the story. We got it.
So, did you hear about the day Mrs. Beeman’s cat got stuck in the tree?
Good point, Lori. I imagine in the example you gave, someone pointed out they couldn’t remember who the old lady was on second mention. All they needed to do was draw her portrait completely on the first encounter. Also, dialogue could include her name a couple of times to really get it across.