Aug 23, 2013

Echoes in Writing

by Marsha Ward

In writing, there are two kinds of echoes. One is clumsy writing, but the other is awesome.

The "frowned on" kind of echoes are repeated words or phrases. Sometimes they are clich├ęs. Sometimes they are simply overused. Do you refer to a "wild woman" or a "just recompense" too many times in your work? How about that word "just"? Is it a pet? Can you eliminate it three-quarters of the time?

Like that.

The other echo is a more ghostly and resonant kind, something that is spread out a lot farther, perhaps over a body of work, like a novel series. It is a sometimes unintentional, but uncanny bit of writing that reminds me of my very closely-held theory of the origin of ideas.

I have come to agree with the saying, "there are no coincidences," especially when I make discoveries of echoes in my body of work. Yesterday I was editing a scene in my current work-in-progress, Gone For a Soldier, when I realized that Rulon Owen had acquired a certain skill set in that time that was echoed in Spinster's Folly. Was I led to choose a certain odd job for him to perform when he needed to earn a couple of bucks? Perhaps.

Continuing my editing brought me to the discovery of a second echo. Does anyone remember the name of Hannah Bingham's husband in Trail of Storms? Yeah, Robert Fletcher. As I wrote a scene a few months ago, I needed a throw-away name for a tavern. What did I use? Fletcher's. I didn't even realize I had written down that name until I edited the scene.

Coincidence? I think not.

We can lay echoes in deliberately, of course. A line or two in Gone For a Soldier establishes the root of the reputation James Owen enjoys as a good horseman in later novels. It's a very little thing, but it adds depth to the overall story.

Whether this type of echo in writing comes from pure inspiration, happenstance, or deliberation, it can resonate with the reader and bring them back for more rich writing.


  1. I love this information. I wish I could have a little mini Marsha sitting on my shoulder while I write...Love, love, love!

    1. LOL! Thanks, Kari! I don't think I've lost enough weight to do that job, so blog posts will have to suffice.

  2. Very informative as usual. Thank you for posting.

  3. Great advice! Thanks, Marsha. Something to think about.


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.