5 Ways to Use Repetition in Picture Books
Repetition is when a writer repeats a word, phrase, or sentence in their work.
The primary function of repetition is to emphasise. It also helps to add rhythm and lyricism to your stories. It adds engaging musicality that makes your story—well—sing! It’s a handy device to include since picture books are nearly always read aloud.
Let’s go deeper.
Repetition is an effective device to persuade the reader to become immersed in our character’s journey. To empathise with them when they attack problems and cheer for our heroes when they find solutions—even if they fail—for their first three attempts at least.
The following five repetition devices are great ones to use, and don’t let the fancy Greek words put you off:
The repetition of a consonant at the start of a word.
Scrub fowl roost at night disturbed by flying foxes and possums who squabble and scrunch on seed pods.
Beauty by Sandra Kendall (Windy Hollow Books 2019)
The repetition of vowels. They can occur anywhere in the word.
She plucked berries to eat in bed and flowers to wear in her hair.
Emily Green’s Garden by Penny Harrison and Megan Forward
(New Frontier Publishing 2018)
The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of sentences that are written together.
She makes it square. She makes it round … She makes it fuzzy. She makes it long, short, rough, smooth, big, small—
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
(Kids Can Press 2014)
The repetition of a word, phrase, or idea at the end of a paragraph. This creates a strong focus on a specific idea. It also helps to make an impact on the reader.
In Outside, Libby Hathorn does this beautifully with the repetition of ‘… in the magical breeze in the summery sun outside.’ after each paragraph.
(Illustrated by Ritva Voutila, Little Hare 2014)
The repetition of a word or a very short phrase right after each other.
I tell long, long jokes without any punchlines.
The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald
(Harper Collins 2017)
Knowing what each of these devices is and how they work is the first step. Knowing when to use them is the craft of writing. First and foremost, repetition needs to work for your story. The best way to discover this is by experimenting in your first draft.
If you need a little more musicality in your story, repetition is one way to achieve this.
Go on, have fun with some repetition and make your stories sing, sing, sing!
Writing Tip by Valerie Miller