Is there an echo in here?

An echo happens when you use the same or similar word too close together. This is something you want to avoid doing whenever possible. When you are tempted to use the same word twice, think of ways to reword or restructure the surrounding sentences.

Example 1 (echo)

I surveyed the café, noticing that two strangers had sat down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They did not seem like the type that frequented coffee houses, especially not a vintage cafe like this.

See the echo here. The word cafe is used twice in close proximity.

Example 2 (revised)

I surveyed the café, noticing two strange men sitting down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They looked too clean cut, definitely not the type who would frequent a vintage place like this.

Sometimes a little reword does the trick.

Now, the biggest culprit of the infamous echo happens when we write what a character is doing.

In first person, it comes out I, I, I, I, I.
In third person, it comes out he/she, he/she, he/she.

It is so easy to fall into the, I or He/She trap. You're probably saying, "well, how the hell am I going to tell you he did something without saying he?" The trick is to reword and rework sentences to that you stretch out the gaps between words so that the reader doesn't hear it.

Let's look at some examples.

Example 1 -First person

I knew it was inadvisable to walk around the streets alone at night, but I did not have a car so I was forced to do it anyway. I carried my keychain of pepper spray, for defense, just in case I ran into anyone dangerous. I naively believed in its ability to protect me from any attacker.

Do you see all the I's? It's like an annoying drum beat after a while.

Example 2 - Revised First person

It was inadvisable to walk the streets alone at night. I knew this but didn't have a car, so there was no other choice. For defense, I carried a key chain of pepper spray, naively believing in its ability to protect me from any attacker.

Sometimes a little reworking helps to remove unnecessary I's.

Example 3 -Third Person

Sasha downed her drink. She winced as the liquid burned her throat. A warmth was building in her stomach. Two shots down in less than twenty minutes. She knew she needed to pace herself or this night wasn’t going to go very far. She knew Tequila was a dangerous alcohol. She'd heard stories of people doing crazy things when they drank a little too much of it. She made a quick mental note, not to have another drink for a while.

See all the she's?

Example 4 - Revised Third Person

Sasha downed her drink, wincing as the liquid burned the back of her throat. A warmth slowly built in her stomach. Two shots down in less than twenty minutes. Sasha knew she needed to pace herself or this night wouldn't go very far. Tequila was a dangerous alcohol. She'd heard stories of the crazy things people had done after drinking too much. Setting the glass down, she made a mental note not to have another drink for a while.

Mixing in her, with she, and the character's name helps to smooth out the echo. You will never completely avoid it, but by reworking the sentences you can make it a little less noticeable.

Comments

Deb@RGRamblings said…
Great examples! I love the process of removing the echoes from my work, challenging and very satisfying.
Jm Diaz said…
I'm a stickler for echoes. I see them and hear them more often than I should and I really hate myself when I catch them in my writing. Great Post! :)

Oh, and I got the book. Thank you SO very much! I've been going over it for the last couple of things. Real good stuff there. So, again.. Thank you!
Hey, Katie! These are great! Thanks!
Susan R. Mills said…
Echoes drive me crazy. It's something that stands out to me in everything I read. When I find them in my own work, I want to pull my hair out.
quixotic said…
Glad these tips are helpful! I'll keep them coming.

JM, I'm so happy you like the book. It was quite the page turner when I bought it. Great advice in there too.
V. S said…
I happen to love echoes. I always laugh when I hear mine.

These tips were great!
Great examples. My crit buddies are great at catching the ones I inevitably miss.
Jessica said…
I'm always looking at my 'she's. LOL Trying to vary the sentence, etc. Great post Katie! I love that you have so many examples. Very helpful. :-)
L.T. Elliot said…
You're good. My crit group and I have been talking about the "I" thing lately and I was just wondering how I could broach it. I'm totally linking your blog!
quixotic said…
Thanks for linking L.T.

Most of this advice comes from all the beatings I've taken over the last year in crit groups. =) I'm happy to pass along these helpful tips and tricks.
tara4002003 said…
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