Writing exercise: Repetition

Issa Dioume posted another writing exercise from the great Ursula. This one, to write 150 words using at least three repetitions of key words appealed to me. It’s exactly 150 words with quite a lot of repeated words.


Pigeons litter the sky as cartons litter the pavement and cars litter the kerbs. She takes out her phone and checks the time. He’s late. He’s usually late, doesn’t seem to care if he keeps her hanging about in unsavoury places like this tatty square full of life’s litter and grubby pigeons. There’s a fountain somewhere, across the cobbles. Not that you can see the cobbles for the cars. She’d like to see the street sweepers come along with hefty brooms and sweep them away, like the cartons.

Pigeons flutter down with a rattle of wing feather and strut around her feet, pecking at pebbles and ring pulls. Some people would sweep them away too, with their deformed feet and lice-ridden feathers, she thinks. Yet they’re just cleaning up our mess. She looks up at the sound of footsteps. Someone squeezes between the parked cars, grinning.

“You’re late” she says.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

22 thoughts on “Writing exercise: Repetition”

  1. I purchased Le Guin’s book after reading Issa’s posts about the exercises, but I haven’t started it yet. It’s interesting to see you taking these on too, Jane. Nicely done. I don’t know how many of the repeats I would have noticed if you hadn’t pointed them out. 🙂

    1. Thanks Diana 🙂 I intentionally repeated a couple of the words (litter and pigeons) but found a whole clutch that I’d repeated without thinking about it. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s the effect of writing poetry where repetition is almost second nature.

      1. A similar thing happened to me, which is why I said in my post that I repeated the word ‘dance’ and let the rest happen by itself. I had some unexpected repetitions pop up, it didn’t seem to get in the way that much, too.

  2. Interesting rendition! What did you learn about this exercise? How well does it integrate in your prose? According to you. Or from previous experience with repetition generally 🙂

    1. I don’t know what I learned from it to be honest. I often use repetition. It’s an artifice often used in poetry, but there’s no reason it can’t be used in prose too. It emphasises, draws attention to particular words or themes.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this short piece, I think you did a wonderful job with the repetition and I loved the line at the end. This flowed really well and I’m glad that I came across it~!

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