Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cliche or Coincidence?

Last weekend the kids and I went to see the newest Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker movie: Did You Hear About The Morgans.

It was a cute romantic comedy if rather predictable. I thought Mary Steenburgen was more macho than Hugh, however, for what it's worth.

As a writer, I wondered why he used the same line in this movie that he also used in Bridget Jones Diary.

Remember when Hugh and Bridget (Renee Zellweger) spent their holiday together in the country and they were having fun in the canoe? Hugh was being so serious and started quoting a filthy limerick, "There once was a man from Nantucket..."

It was cute in the first movie he did it in, but it was odd when a different character in a different movie played by the same actor recited the same thing. Hugh must have ad-libbed. That or the same writer penned both scripts.

That made me think, do we as writers sometimes fall in lust with the same words, the same phrases and use them in our different books? I hope not, but I wonder if I may have been guilty in some of my earlier works.

I certainly don't want my hero in Book B to sound like my hero in Book G. I don't want to regurgitate the same stories or the same characters. I doubt readers want to waste their time or money reading a carbon copy of a previous story. I don't.

Of course, coincidences happen. Cliches are alive and well.

Somehow, this "coincidence" seemed sloppy to me. It dragged me out of the movie for a few minutes.

Luckily, I haven't noticed this often. And I don't want to start noticing it in future.

Have you noticed this in any books or movies?

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Unknown said...

I haven't noticed this yet and I certainly hope I'm not doing it in my books.

Unknown said...

I have noticed that some authors have favorite words and phrases. One book I read about two years ago, the hero and heroine kept having "rueful" smiles and glances. Over and over and over in the same book, not even in different ones. At least it wasn't the same dialogue. I've noticed other author, too, have their favorite words they use a lot.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

I actually just caught myself doing that recently, LOL. I guess subconsciously we figure "hey it was a good line the first time around!" *G* Fortunately, it wasn't dialogue.

I do notice when authors do it, though, especially when it's over and over in the same book. Pulls me out every time.

And yes, I'd heard that Hugh ad-libbed that line in Bridget Jones' Diary, so it's probably not a surprise that if he was ad-libbing again, he'd think of it. I can't get irritated with Hugh, though, he's too darn funny.

Unknown said...

I don't know if I was irritated when Hugh did the same line again but it did drag me out of the present story, back into the other story. I was irritated with the book I read that everything was "rueful".

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Ashley, I've noticed this in some best sellers- they use the same words over and over. It becomes like a trade mark. I think the best complement I received from a reader is "all your books are so different." :)

Unknown said...

My editors and critique partners tell me right away if I repeat words. I'm trying hard not to, particularly not in dialogue.

Molly Daniels said...

I caught one author using 'imprint' over and over in the same book, and I've recently discovered two phrases I've repeated. I think because I wrote the scenes in the same year, I didn't catch it right away. Also, one of the phrases is something my SU used to say to me quite a bit. I think maybe it ingrained itself into my subconscious!

Unknown said...

I think it's easy to get tripped up by using the same words and phrases in a book or even in the span of a few different books. I'm reading a book now where I can totally see the author coming through in the characters, because they all use the same phrase. It makes me think it's one the author uses a lot in real life. One thing I specifically ask my critique group to look for is if I repeat a lot of the same words and phrases. So far, so good!

Regina Carlysle said...

I KNOW I do it. It's not intentional but lots of the expressions my characters use are things I often say in real life. Guess it just kind of carries over.

Unknown said...

It's easy to do. Some of my critique partners have been really good at catching what they call "echoes". My editors point out some they've missed.

I have come to associate certain authors with certain phrases, however.

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