I was preparing a short story for an international competition in England. That means proofreading letter by letter, comma by comma. What fun! I would let the story sit a couple of days, then look at again. this went on for about two weeks, I corrected a few things, added more detail, deleted some sentences, added others.
Then one day something caught my eye. I had two characters, both men, both wearing a red tie. That will not do. Granted one was dead, one was living, but unless there is an allusion, or some connection, some reason for the two red ties, then get rid of of one of them.
The reason is quite simple. Variety. A reader can spot the fact that two men are wearing red ties and think you-I mean me- is sloppy. I was.
Writers can fall into patterns. I blame the red tie on Marlon Brando. I saw “Last Tango in Paris” and loved the scenes in which he was wearing a black sports jacket, gray slacks, a blue and white stripped shirt with-yes, a red tie. It was the only time in my life I was influenced my fashion in a movie. I purchased a perfectly dashing black sports jacket in London, bought gray slacks back home in America, the shirt and the tie. Sadly I never got to tango in Paris though. But I looked sharp.
So I still have the idea of a red tie in my head. That is something I must be watchful of. (Yes I know I ended a sentence with a preposition, but that is not a hard rule as any grammar text, like “Fowler’s Modern English” will testify, though not without some hue and cry from the prosecution).
So you as a writer must be aware of certain details you fall in love with, whether colors, apparel, facial descriptions, anything that might trip you up like two red ties. Be aware of subtle ways you repeat yourself, even in dialogue, settings, anything at all.
I don’t know if I used a red or brown tie for Giants pitcher Red Ames-it was his lucky tie-in “Loonies in the Dugout,” but if you read it you will know.