Watson likely stories

Pattern recognition and breakage

Just noticed something. I'm editing existing prose, and one of the things I always do late in the editing process is smooth out all my pronouns. There are times to use proper names and times to fall back to pronouns, and getting it all feeling right is often the last thing I do to a story. (And in case you had any doubts, my position on epithets is "never". Well, hardly ever.)

I've just noticed a pattern. I want to use a proper name for somebody straight off in a paragraph, first sentence, then use the pronoun for the rest of the graf. Feels weird to wait on it, feels weird to repeat the name. Now that I've noticed the pattern, of course I want to break it up and vary my usage, but I'm having a hard time making myself do it.

It's like the pattern of ending sentences with prepositional phrases. Drives me nuts now that I'm aware of it, but English sort of drives me in that direction. (I mean, really, it's hard not to. Look at the sentences in this LJ post. Look at this sentence. Stop it! Stop! Variety is good!)

Anyway. Do you catch patterns in your writing like this? Do you try to break them or run with them as personal style things?
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I've done that. I have something about repeated words that borders on a phobia. I hate it when a word gets used more than once in a paragraph, preferably less than that.

It doesn't necessarily bother me in other people's writing, unless it's just super-obvious and klutzy. I can't tolerate it for a second in my own writing, though. Thing is, I'll get a word stuck in my head like an ear worm, and half the time while I'm writing I'm not even aware of it...so when it comes time to edit, it's all over the place.

Yeah. I'll cop to being just a bit OCD. Or, as a friend of mine says, CDO.
Oh, yes, yes, I have that fault too. The word gets used in one sentence, then pops up a paragraph later grabbing all kinds of attention to itself. It's one thing if I use a word again deliberately, because then I want the link. But mostly it's just that it's already in my mind, and when I reach for a word there it is.

I sometimes find this in editing and sometimes I don't. Bah.
What really makes me mad is when I go back through something I've already posted and find something like that (just makes me feel like such an a-hole). I don't think there's a faster face-palm on the planet that doesn't involve a Senator from South Carolina.
I tend to have french grammer which makes sense only that my secondary language for a long time was French. (I would now postulate it's Russian with the terciary as French but thankfully I don't have Russian grammer) So my beta usually has to fix my placement of words in a sentence. Thankfully she also speaks french and recognizes it. :D

I like putting the name in the first part of the paragraph, especially when writing slash. All the he's and hims gets confusing after while without adding names in to let me know who's talking or doing the action. But I'm not against using epitaphs, though they're dropping in frequency. (Mostly it'll be the reporter said, or said the Pink Ranger)
Yargh, how'd I manage to lose track of this comment! Slash is especially hard on pronouns, yeah, and I understand why a lot of writers resort to epithets as a way to solve the he/he/him/him/his/his/whattheheck? problem. I like to just use the name again, though.

I love the idea of the language you're speaking most just now affecting the grammar of the language you're writing in.
I was taught that using the proper name of a person once in a paragraph and then switching to pronouns was the correct way to do it, so I have a hard time changing that pattern :)
Correct for fiction or for reportage or just in general? I can already find some places where breaking the pattern improves the prose, and places where I just shouldn't tinker with it.
It's when the unconscious becomes intentional that the magic happens. "Oh, look what I've been doing without knowing it. Cool!" (Or not.)
I don't think I'm so pattern-prone with proper nouns vs. pronouns. But I might be, because I never analysed. I know that my (much) earlier stuff had a tendency towards epithets, and I can only assume this is because I was frightened by the repetitive use of the proper name or pronoun. I read over the first ever lengthy piece I produced, last week: a novella-length story in the 'Sapphire and Steel' universe. The number of times I read 'the blonde agent' was embarrassing. I'm going to have to give that a good coat of polish before I bung it up at the old LJ.

As to other patterns: something that I notice in my work and try to shake up is sentence structure. I didn't really give it much thought until my main beta picked up on a paragraph in a fic which contained three sentences, all following the same structure. (If it's of interest, it was of the form: She did something, doing other stuff at the same time.)

The repetition wasn't immediately obvious because the sentences were of different lengths. But as soon as I saw that the structure was the same, one sentence after another, I hated it. So I've grown sensitive to that. If I write two sentences of similar structure I might break one of them down, just to jiggle up the rhythm.

For all kinds of repetition, be they repeated words, sentence length/rhythm or sentence structure, I find that reading my work aloud is an invaluable part of the polishing process. I'll catch things that way that I'd never catch, just reading on a screen.
[R]eading my work aloud is an invaluable part of the polishing process.

Word. So many problems pop out when you do this. Whenever I hand a story to Mr Pedia, the first thing he does is read it out loud to me. If I manage not to flee the room in horror at the sound of my own prose, I learn something. I usually only subvocalize when I do it on my own.