Patterns, they are all around us. In everything we see, in everything we do. From the glass and beams in a fancy building, to the petals of a flower, to the structure in abusive relationships that drives abusers to hurt, get what they want, then apologize. Patterns both tantalize us and trap us into looking at things the same way, and repeating the same actions.
This isn’t what I mean to write about today, but when I saw the weekly photo challenge, it reminded me that I’ve been worried about patterns in my writing lately. Writers, like anyone else, can get trapped in the lines of a pattern and have difficulty busting out.
What patterns and habits have haunted my writing besides a fondness for sneaking the phrase “rabid wombats” and weasel references into my work?
POV and Tense When I started writing, I wrote only third person past. Everything I wrote, every single thing was third person past. I started with a little head hopping, then did two POV’s, then settled into super close third. Then I tried to write Ghost in the Park. It didn’t work. It sucked rabid wombats. I shelved the first chapter for a very long time. One day, I thought to myself, what about first? It was scary, it was awful, it was so hard to get out of those past tense patterns, but I broke free. Ghost came to life and practically wrote itself in two months. Now, I can switch with a certain measure of ease from first to third, and past to present.
Vocabulary While I am never going to be one of those writers that is always searching for that twelve dollar word when a twenty-five cent one will do, I do fall prey to patterns in my word choice. I suggest to you that the “find” tool in your word processor is your friend. Even better, those programs that make a visual cloud of the words in your story. I recommend Word it Out, a free, online program where you can paste in a multitude of words. I may know that I use certain words too often, but it took a word cloud to show me that some words, like “about” weren’t even on my radar.
Grammar there are certain structures of grammar that I am inordinately fond of. Present participle phrases, for example. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good participle phrase here and there, but if one is finding them sprinkled through every paragraph, then one might have a participle problem. I did, big time! Now, I have to hold myself back, and try to find a happy medium.
Subject and minor plot points I am writing my second novel right now. It has ghosts in it. The first book did too. When deciding what kind of book I wanted to write, I decided that I liked ghost stories. Ghosts are a main point in the first book, a secondary point in the second, but there’s no getting around the fact that my books all have ghosts in them. I think book three should probably be ghost-free. I also had to recently stop my second MC from buying a car. My first MC bought a car. What am I trying to do, sell cars?
Your homework for today is to look for the patterns in your own writing and try something new. Whatever your overused design might be, find a way to mix it up and do something different. You might end up with a fractal that sends you in a brand new direction.