Case in point. In my critique group, we have a person who has an English major background. She takes her red pen and underlines places where I’ve reused a word in a paragraph or (heaven forbid!) the same sentence. So, I’ve been diligently removing repetitive words from my manuscripts for years now. Except in places where I’ve meant to do it. That’s when I put my foot down. (Speaking of putting your foot down, that’s a cliché to avoid, but that’s a topic for another post.)
Turns out, putting my foot down when I intentionally reused a word or phrase was the correct response. Repetition can be a powerful tool in writing. It creates cadence and flow. And, if you were just zooming along through the story, using the same phrase over and over will draw your attention to the sentence and make you aware that something is about to happen. Something that involves those particular words. It’s a common enough device, used by poets, orators, songwriters and, lo and behold, great writers. Here’s an example: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." (Benjamin Franklin)
My English major red-pen toting friend is still correct in pointing out my overuse of some words. The repetition of words and phrases loses its power if sloppily applied. But when you want to highlight or ratchet up the tension, it’s definitely a tool to pull from your arsenal of writing techniques.
I’d say the cost of the workshop was money well spent.