I’ve been thinking about patterns in writing by certain authors lately and wonder if other readers notice them or care one way or the other about them. For instance, I read several of Maggie Osborne’s books in the last year. They’re great. However, the ones I read also had a clear pattern of one guy torn between two women. Several other romance authors do the same kind of thing (different pattern, but pattern). Since none of them are coming to my mind right now – my favorite author of all time is Dick Francis, who wrote suspense/mystery. I reread my favorites of his books every few years and the pattern there is stoic hero who prevails over a villain who tries to force him to do or not do something by hurting him (a lot) and succeeds enough to prove how stoic the hero is. It wasn’t until I read several of his books in a row many years ago that the pattern jumped out at me. Reading them one at a time I love them, but reading some particular ones in a row gives me an uncomfortable s/m flavor.

Right now I find myself thinking about this a lot, probably because I worry about it in my own books. I’ve already mentioned that I’m never going to be able to do warm and fuzzy families worth a darn, but I sure don’t want majorly dysfunctional families to leap out of every book. I also wonder about the same thing on a more micro level. Right now I’m working on my second dog mystery. In the first, I described one of the heroine’s dogs as “velcroing” itself to her. Several people have remarked in emails or reviews that they thought that was a good description. I caught myself using it again in this second book. So is it okay and a description of this one dog’s behavior that can be carried throughout the series? Or is it aggravating repetition? It’s a fine line, and I haven’t decided where to draw it.



2 Responses to Patterns

  1. McD says:

    Patterns happen in books, you’re right Ellen. But also in movies (think directors like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino) and music (The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac). I can tell a certain author’s books, director’s movies, songwriter’s music at a glance because there’s a pattern they repeat.

    Personally I don’t think it’s a bad thing, if it’s a small description (like ‘velcroing’). For instance, in each book I’ve read of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon she has Jamie/another character after bathing in a river/lake/whatever always “shaking the water off like a dog”. Always. I don’t mind that. I kinda make a game out of it. Count the number of times she uses it in each book.

    But it’s when a theme or a plot or a hero/heroine is exactly the same in each and every book. I won’t name the author, but there is one writer of westerns who rehashes the same theme, same type of hero, same type of heroine over and over. BORING!

  2. Hmm. If a lot of people feel like you do, McD, maybe I could slip in one reference to velcroing per book. I only used it once in the first mystery.

    Maybe I just haven’t hit the same old, same old western writer yet. I certainly can name some historical romance authors who IMO must have a book template on their computer somewhere. For each new book, they change character names, hair and eye color on main characters, and dump them in a slightly different setting. The “story” is then the same.

    For me the most boring romances are the ones that have no story, just two people standing around lusting and sweating over each other with some flimsy excuse for why they can’t just get it on. Probably I have no right to say such a thing because I never finish books like that. It will surprise no one when I say my favorite kind of romance is one that is basically an adventure story where things happen in addition to the relationship developing. ~Ellen

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