No they’re not some kind of intergalactic creature off Dr Who (although that might be SO cool), nor is that gunge the oozes in the wake of ghostly apparitions the GhostBusters seek.
And no I haven’t misspelled neoplasms which is something altogether different.
Pleonasms are in essence superfluous words or phrases like — thinking in the mind, seeing with the eyes — a common one I just removed about 5 of in the final copy-edit of my novel — nodding the head. See how thinking, seeing, nodding, unless you are one of those intergalactic creatures from Dr Who with anatomical anomalies, can not be effected by any other part of the body and so become redundant, or pleonasms.
Pay attention to this, they might ask a question about it on The Chase: Is a pleonasm: A. A cancerous growth of cells. B. Slimy exudate secreted by ghostly apparitions or C. A superfluous of redundant phrase in literature.
Well they could!
(Get to the point Debz or this whole post will be pleonastic! (If that’s even the word!))
I often mark a text with ‘superfluous’ — I don’t tend to use the pleonasm word for fear the client will think the Martians have finally invaded my head. But it is an important concept for us writers to grasp — being spare in language, using just the right word and not repeating, or telling what’s shown all form part of superfluous or redundant phrasing and their removal from text does two things — one, first and foremost, its removal has no impact on the meaning of the sentence and two, fundamental to good writing, it SHARPENS the writing.
So take a look at how many of these you use. I know I do and I try to use a ‘remove superfluous phrasing’ or ‘pleonasm’ edit — although of course if we can think about it as we write we writer sharper!
To return to that ageing chestnut of showing and telling, what I often see is something like this:
He felt really hot. “God I’m boiling,” he said, wiping a handkerchief across his brow. Then slowly he peeled off his jacket, large inkblot stains of sweat clinging to his armpits.
Now at first glance you might think this reads okay and you’ll see just this kind of thing in published texts but what you have is telling the reader ‘He felt hot’, then the character tells the reader and THEN you show it.
So consider simply: He wiped a handkerchief across his brow. Then slowly he peeled off his jacket, large inkblot stains of sweat clinging to his armpits.
In other words (and yes I know this imagery is a bit gross but that’s my warped mind I guess!) JUST SHOW IT. Now you’re using ACTION to scene build, and you can now use your dialogue more effectively so it moves plot; something like He looked across at her, watched the way she fumbled with her uncle’s watch; leaned towards him. “Please help me find him,” she said. He wiped a handkerchief across his brow. Then slowly he peeled off his jacket, large inkblot stains of sweat clinging to his armpits. “I’ll try,” he said. “But I can’t make any promises.”
Okay yes this was written totally off the cuff now so no prizes for how it could be better — but see how now all your give your reader is a visual image of a girl asking for help and see him sweating (maybe the room’s hot, maybe he’s nervous, maybe he knows that happened to the uncle) but this is where the reader starts to work and that’s empowering for a reader. But nowhere here did you say he felt hot, he never said it — but we know it because we see it.
So no more seeing with the eyes, thinking in the mind, nodding the head or telling what’s shown!
Today’s challenge — teach someone the word ‘Pleonasm’ who didn’t know what it meant! A random stranger if you dare!