I like to experiment with rhetorical devices to add spice in my writing. Repetition can be used for emphasis, establishing rhythm, etc.

For example:

Over and over again, my mind jumps between her ghoulish presence on the night she lured me into the woods, near-human behavior when she tried to justify her barbarism, and blood-stained figure after she mutilated the people who were once my friends. Over and over again, I'm plagued by the fright she put into me, pity she'd led me to have for her, and rage she put into me. Over and over again, I see the faces of my neighbors and friends, previously residents of the small town I'd grown up surrounded by, now victims of Adaneene and her father's hunger. Over and over again, I see their bodies, the way the monster and her father had left them after their horrifying last moments that the monster couldn't care enough to spare them from. Over and over again, I see myself not able to save them, and see myself in the future not able to save anyone.

This passage alone not only repeats "over and over again" five times and "not able to save" twice, but it also uses parallelism.

Is this excessive repetition? What's a way to determine whether or not repetition, used as a literary or rhetorical device, is too much for the readers?

1 Answer 1


Read it out loud, or have somebody read it to you. Part of it is personal preference, but as a reader and listener, I've noticed that edited speeches or novels will not usually have more than 1-2 repetitions (after the first occurrence of the phrase). On the other hand, if you are at a critical point in your book - the end of a part, or the end of the novel - it might be more generally acceptable to have more repetition.

Emphasis on the word "general" - there are no rules in creative writing, only opinions.

  • Thank you! That answers my question. I normally don't use that much, but this passage takes place after a key plot point, one that strongly troubles the narrator. Mar 31, 2016 at 2:32

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