Sunday, June 21, 2009

Patterns in the World and in Writing

I have often marveled at the large role patterns play in the universe, including writing. Looking around us, we see patterns everywhere – the patterns of the seasons, the patterns of night and day, the patterns embedded in all life forms. Indeed, nature seems to operate under the supervision of patterns. If we looked with a microscope into the smallest cell, we would be amazed by the intricate patterns hidden there. They’re hidden in good writing, too. Each sentence is built on a pattern we call syntax, the clear and careful arrangement of words so they can be understood. A good paragraph, too, contains a pattern that makes it easy for the reader to detect the overall meaning. Even an 800 page novel must be constructed using patterns that will appeal to the artistic tastes of the reader: the balancing and counterbalancing of the characters; the sequential rise and fall of the plot; the parallel themes that engage and enhance each other. One of my happiest jobs as a teacher is to help the scholars improve their ability to see this vital role of patterns in writing. It’s often like something beautiful gradually being uncovered before their eyes. They’ve been readers for many years, but it’s my lucky task to reveal to them more about the lovely patterns that lie beneath the words.

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