One of my greatest hang ups with writing is word variety–I despise repetition unless it is a limited stylistic choice. Humans have been given an amazing gift in the complexity of our language. English, in particular, is a buffet of fantastic words waiting to be sampled. Just think of how many ways there are to say “walk”:
amble, file, hike, lumber, march, meander, pace, pad, parade, plod, prance, promenade, roam, rove, saunter, shuffle, slog, stalk, stride, stroll, strut, toddle, traipse, tread
Each of those words all essentially imply the same action: movement from one place to another. The beauty is that the substitution of one for the other can completely change the meaning, tone, and theme of the sentence.
Joe walked through the house.
We don’t know much about Joe in this case.
Joe lumbered through the house.
Joe seems bigger and possibly uncoordinated.
Joe paced through the house.
Joe appears anxious, as if he is moving not to change location but because of nerves.
Joe sauntered through the house.
Joe is in no immediate hurry and might also be a touch arrogant.
Joe stalked through the house.
Now Joe might be angry or hunting something (or someone).
All those potential scenes emerge from simply changing one word. Man I love writing.
The challenge, then, is what I call the Six Sentence paragraph.
Variation One: Write a six sentence paragraph without repeating ANY word twice. This includes contracted versions of words (ie. She’s and She is are the same thing). The goal is to write a paragraph that makes sense collectively and is not just a series of random sentences.
Variation Two: Take a paragraph you have already written and attempt to rewrite it using the rules above. No repetition!
Variation Three: Write a Six Sentence Story that has a beginning, middle, and end without repeating words. This is sometimes a great way to articulate your plot if you are pre-writing for a longer work.