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Repetition in writing 'should not be extreme'

12th January 2010

Authors should be careful that repetition in their work does not go so far that it bores the reader.

Literary journalist Toby Lichtig wrote in the Guardian that a certain degree of repetition is necessary as it helps to define style, citing the constant metaphysical despair running through Franz Kafka's work and the use of heroin addicts in Irvine Welsh's novels.

He argued that this should not always be regarded as a sign of laziness or lack of originality, as dealing with preferred subjects, genres and themes helps to make an author's writing feel distinctive.

However, the commentator said that this can easily be taken to the extreme where an author's work starts to feel as though it is recycled from their old material.

'It is one thing to make a genre out of your own writing and to return to the source of your preoccupations; it is another to litter your oeuvre with the same leitmotifs time and again,' Lichtig argued.

Last month, research carried out by Umea University in Sweden and published in the New Journal of Physics analysed the works of Thomas Hardy, Herman Melville and D.H. Lawrence and created a formula to identify the 'literary fingerprints' of different authors.

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