Back to doing the exercises in Ursula Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft book! Chapter 4 is about repetition and its power in storytelling. Thinking back to my English classes of yore, I remember being taught the opposite – to avoid repetition at all costs. One of my high school English teachers had this list of catchy “writing rules” and one of them was “NO PIZZA PIZZA” (after the overly prevalent Caesar’s Pizza commercial on TV) to remind us not to repeat ourselves. So it was refreshing to see Le Guin demonstrate how beautiful and useful repetition can be.
Part 1: Verbal Repetition
Write a paragraph of narrative (150 words) that includes at least three repetitions of a noun, verb, or adjective (a noticeable word, not an invisible one like was, said, did).
– Steering the Craft, Page 41
Le Guin says to read this one aloud or pass it around your writing group and see if others can pick out the repeated word without being told what it is…
“It was June in Joshua Tree National Park and it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit as soon as the sun rose at 6 am. The Park Service had closed most of the campgrounds, leaving only half of one open for the hard tack folks who still come – the night sky enthusiasts and the guitar strumming college friends. And at first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the closed campgrounds were abandoned, bathrooms and picnic tables dormant until winter. But wait quietly on the black asphalt road, and you’d see that the campground was not empty at all. It had become a city of jackrabbits. There were jackrabbits everywhere – all sizes and ages – black ear tips at different heights as they stood on paddle flat back legs and watched you. Jackrabbits under the picnic tables and on the paths. Jackrabbits in every bush and gathered about every faucet. Liquid brown eyes that followed you as you slowly walked the empty road. You had walked into the wrong joint; there was no doubt that this was Jackrabbit Town.”
Hope everyone is staying safe and sane in the heat and continued coronavirus lockdowns.