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I am an adoptee writing a story about meeting my biological mother.

I had to get on a plane to meet my mother. A couple of days before the trip I met with members of my adoptive family and other special people in my life to say goodbye before I made this momentous journey. The goodbyes I had with everyone before the trip were fairly similar, people kept placing their hands on my shoulders and looking at me as if they wanted to preserve that image of me, the person I was, the person they had known before I embarked on this life altering journey. I went out to dinner with one of my "extra moms" on my twenty-fifth birthday, the night before I left. We walked back to her apartment building in NYC, as we were saying goodbye,she placed her hands on my shoulders and looked at me for a long while. For me, it was as if time stood still in that moment.

What I wrote at the end of this section was, "The world fell quiet. A soft snow began to fall." I always liked that part until recently I realized I use a form of the word "fall" in successive sentences.

Then I changed it to, "Time stood still. A soft snow began to fall." I prefer "the world fell quiet," as opposed to "time stood still."

Is it okay to use "fell" and "fall" in successive sentences?

  • Welcome to Writing.SE a. somerset! I formatted your text a bit (in markdown you need to hit Enter twice for a paragraph for example) and removed the request for suggestions because we are not doing writing critiques, but a general question about the successive usage of similar words seems fine to me. The goal of SE is to have a database of questions that help a wide range of potential future readers. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Feb 2 '18 at 22:44
  • One alternative is to use fall/fell/feel/felt? in a row. The effect would be different but obviously intentional. You can play with language. – DPT Feb 2 '18 at 22:45
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Yes, absolutely. Repetition is a well known rhetorical and dramatic technique.

Unfortunately, you will get English teachers that will tell you that you must always vary your words. I have seen people in critique groups who hardly ever contribute anything other than to criticise repetition of words, often repetition that no one but them even notices.

I think we can reasonable distinguish three kinds of repetition:

  1. Natural repetition: repetition of words occurs because we talk about the same object several times in a perfectly good passage. I am repeating the word repetition a lot in this answer because it is about repetition.

  2. Dramatic repetition: the writer is using repetition as a deliberate device to emphasise a point of create a mood. In your case, the repetition of fall adds to the drama of the moment. It is not only appropriate, it is powerful.

  3. Tedious repetition: repetition occurs because the writer does not know the appropriate words for the concepts they are discussing and so falls back on one generic word, or their writing is itself repetitions (saying the same thing over and over and failing to move forward) and so the word repeats because the thought repeats.

Unfortunately, some English teachers and critique partners don't have the literary sophistication to distinguish these cases. They internalize a mechanical rule against repetition and apply it blindly to everything.

Judge your words by their effect, and their effect alone.

  • +1 Repetition is a well known rhetorical and dramatic technique. – NofP Feb 7 '18 at 0:26
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First, and off topic, when I do as your mothers have done, I don't want to preserve that image of that person, but rather I want to let that person feel that I am there so they can take that feeling of my presence with them, if they want.

Second, and regarding your question, the repetition grinded on me and I would replace the snowfall with some snonym, e.g.:

The world fell quiet. A soft snow began to drift down.

I would possibly even continue that second sentence, adding some explanation as to what the falling snow means or does to the protagonist:

The world fell quiet. A soft snow began to drift down, settling on my mother like love.

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