Saturday, October 30, 2010

Breaking Up Patterns

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

You never know what you’re going to get on Halloween. Well, yes, you’ll probably get trick-or-treaters, but there’s always one in the bunch that you remember.

This year it was an adorable four year old dressed as Woody from Toy Story. His two older sisters nudged him forward. Then he lifted the brim of his hat and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I held it in, but his sisters erupted in peals of laughter, and of course, taught him the traditional blurting of : “Trick-or-Treat.” I think we were his first house, or at least the first one where he spoke.

It's two hours later and I can’t stop laughing. Why? Because it’s different. He’s refreshing.

And keeping it different is what makes writing fresh. A wise instructor told us to look over our writing and watch for patterns, whether in repeated words (we all have our pariahs), beginnings of sentences, beats in phrases, sentence size and structure, etc. Break them up.

So I’ve got a pattern problem tonight. I keep passing by the lovely bowl of Halloween chocolate in my front room. I might just need to break things up and eat one. Or two. It’s not a pattern until you eat three, right?


  1. Great lesson, Jonene! When I finished my first book I had a friend read it and she told me that one of my characters was coming off as very stern. It surprised me. I hadn't meant her to be that way. So I checked through the manuscript and every other line of her dialog had "sternly" in the tag. I am not kidding. I still laugh about it.

    Another recent test-reader pointed out to me how many times I have my characters grunt or sigh. *grunt* *sigh* One more thing to go through and fix before I submit.

  2. Ah, patterns. Those repeating bugaboos that are SO hard to see. (although some I'm painfully aware of now) I'm a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld (I'm reading Behemoth right now) and I'm in constant awe of his descriptive powers. He says so much, with so few words, and there is very little that is ever repeated. He's my current go-to-author for craft inspiration.

  3. Rebecca, I guess everyone has them, *sigh*, and sometimes it's hard to see them in your own writing. Thank heavens for friends!

    Susan, oooo (sorry, it's Halloween), I'm checking out Scott Westerfeld right now and I'm going to read his books! Is Uglies the first one in that series? Can't wait to learn how he does it!

  4. Uglies (YA) is the first in that series of 4, and Leviathan (upper MG) is the first in a series of 3 - the second book just came out (Behemoth) and I'm giving it away on my blog! :)

  5. Sounds great. I'm coming for a visit!

  6. Jonene, we have patterns? What like seeping blood and nodding heads? It's a good thing we have writing friends to help us see the patterns. :)

  7. Jonene! How sweet! I LOVE kids! ;)

    How right you are with cutting out repetitive stuff from cliches to repeat words and even sentence structures. How boring would it be to read 4 sentences in a row that have exactly 5 syllables each? I would fall asleep from rhythmic prose!

    Thanks for the wonderful post! :)


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