As a writer, one of the things I’m always on the lookout for is redundancies. I’m guilty of doing that, when the focus is on getting the words down for that scene or the dialogue. Afterwards, it’s a perfect time to read it through slowly and delete any words that tend to crop up in part of the story over and over again.
So I’m more than a little surprised when it appears in the published works of other authors. As an avid reader, I know it’s bound to happen occasionally. But numerous times in the same story have a tendency to throw me off. In some cases, it might be enough to make me give up on the book and move on.
Here’s an example from a book I picked up recently. I’ve never heard of the author before, but the premise on the back cover intrigued me. Without revealing his name or the title, here’s what tripped me up.
‘Washington nodded, saying nothing and got in the front seat of the car with John and Charlie. Kate, Phil and Jeremiah squeezed into the backseat. Charlie was up front with Washington and John.’
That third sentence is completely useless. There’s no need for it as it simply repeats information shared just above. Yet somehow the author and their editors didn’t delete it. That’s either laziness or a low level of professionalism. Sadly, this wasn’t the first nor the last bit of redundancy in the book. I didn’t read much more before setting it aside.
As Yogi Berra would say ‘It’s like déjà vu’ all over again.’
I was reminded the other day that in the southern hemisphere, it’s summer. That got me thinking about “Stealing Haven” the short story from “Once Upon a Summer” about Jamie Richmond’s vacation with her best friend Linda. The story also received a 5-star review last week, which mentioned the realistic relationship between the two.
In this scene, Jamie and Linda share their table at a crowded restaurant, with Jared and Randy.
Lunch was a very relaxed meal. The conversation ebbed and flowed over a number of topics, and we never got back to the break-in. As the last of the food was consumed, Jared’s phone chimed. He excused himself from the table and took the call. The waitress returned with the check. Despite our efforts, Randy insisted on paying.
“Really, it’s my pleasure. We don’t often get to share the company of two such lovely ladies. And I enjoyed hearing about things around Motown.”
Linda fluttered her fingers at him. “At least, let us return the favor. How about drinks this evening? Maybe around seven?”
Jared returned to the table. “Sorry about that. Got a call from the school. Somebody’s been messing around with one of the buses.”
“Vandalism?” I asked.
He shook his head and laughed. “Minor league stuff. Mischief. Someone pried open a window and snaked a hose inside, then cranked the faucet on. Janitor found it, but not before the water level was knee deep. Got go check it out.” Jared clapped Randy on the shoulder, then waved good-bye.
“He’s a good guy. Really gone out of his way to make me feel welcome here.” Randy stood. He focused his attention on me. Did I have something in my teeth? I ran my tongue over them inside my mouth. How odd.
“So, drinks around seven thirty?” she prompted.
“I know just the place.” From a pocket he pulled out a business card. He scrawled something on the back and passed me the card. “See you then. I’ve got to get back to the office.”
Linda reached over and snagged the business card. “Really, it’s a wonder you ever get laid, Jamie. That guy was practically drooling over you and you’re oblivious.”
“Why would he take a second look at me when you’re here?”
She flicked a crumb from her plate at me. “His eyes were only on you. I’m surprised he was able to eat his lunch.”
There were a couple of times when I noticed his gaze on me, but thought he was trying to be polite. I said as much. She laughed and pushed away from the table.
“You’re beautiful, Jamie.”
“Next to you, I look like a stick figure.”
She put an arm around my shoulders. “You’re hopeless. Let’s go back to the beach.”
Music this week comes from Van Morrison.