Life Patterns, Story Patterns

Patterns. I see them. It’s less a superpower and more of a knack that surfaces when I nurture it. It’s quite real, though. I’m not possessed of some uncanny ability to take one glance at complex problems and instantly solve them. It’s nothing that profound and I’m thankful for that. I fear that were I so endowed my creativity wouldn’t be what it is.

I’ve often wondered if it’s connected to my INFJ intuition, but I’ve no idea. I know I can walk past the obvious and miss it, but if I’m focused and (this is crucial) if presented with pieces of the whole, threads form. So much, though, depends on my level of interest and attention.

When I was little in the pre-electronic game age, we were living on Siegfried Street, so I must have been about six or seven. Once in a great while we’d play a game my mother referred to as Concentration. The idea was quite simple. Fifty-two cards face down. When it’s your turn you flip over two cards. If they don’t match (aces, for instance), that’s the end of your turn. If they match, you keep going. Simple. I excelled at it, winning more often than anyone.

Courtesy: Pixabay

What’s important is that I was almost seven years younger than my next eldest sibling. I didn’t have an uncanny memory. Instead, I saw the card pattern that was ever changing as cards were removed. The card pattern became a picture and I saw how each card fit in the picture.

Since childhood, I’d sense if a word was wrong based on its appearance, which is why certain vowels trip me up because they have a similar footprint. I was born anemic and missed a lot of time during elementary school and relied on visuals to help me keep up. I outgrew my anemia and medication before I was in my teens, but the holes in my learning remained. Visuals continued to help me.

Until junior high and diagraming sentences. All my missed time compounded and I withered in English classes taught from a rules standpoint. To this day I still can’t diagram a sentence if my life was on the line. My floundering ended in high school where the stress was on writing and I could craft sentences using my own methods. A college professor once told me I was an intuitive writer. I didn’t know why a sentence was correct, just that it looked and sounded that way.

If I’m spiraling into depression or suffering anxiety, I do word searches. It’s like pattern searching 101, but it’s the right level of challenge to soothe my anxiety. I quickly become calmer. It’s treatment for my anxiety that I use when things are bad. It’s also why I ordered an entire box of word search books when I discovered they worked for me after the Prednisone overdose that doubled my anxiety levels.

All this is part of the reason why writing is a drug for me. I’m currently taking a short break from the Anthology to update the narrative outlines for Bk4 and Bk5. As I turn to each POV character their thread appears to me. It’s as if it becomes a vivid color on a monochrome background. I can see how it progresses, how it fits into the whole, and where there are problems. This becomes even more dramatic when I revise. It becomes those cards again, the pattern on the floor. The cards I need to match are threads.

I see the story’s whole, but also its pieces. I think it’s a lot of the reason that I never have moments where a portion of my story is set in concrete. I just don’t see it that way. I also don’t see it as a puzzle, though I’ve considered that analogy. Puzzles consist of locked-in pieces, suggesting there’s only one right solution. What I see is more fluid. This sense, for the lack of a better word, isn’t perfect, but it serves me well.

I’m almost laughing now when I reflect on the worldbuilding that produced those who possess singular gifts in Ontyre. Always they’re visual. Seekers, for instance, see colors that signify character, but it isn’t a singular color. They see mixtures and patterns and threads. To me, maps are patterns, as is story and series structures.

As a reader this can uncover more than I’d like. A year ago I solved what was supposed to be a mystery at the 10% mark on my Kindle. After verifying I was right, I stopped reading. I was livid. I ceased reading for other reasons, too, but I won’t go there. I will say I stopped reading three series in the last year because the sequel’s pattern, the sum of its threads, was exactly the same as the book before it. In other words, I was reading the same story with just enough tweaking to make it seem different on the surface (again, there were also other issues).

On the other hand, in 2019 I read The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane. The story was so well crafted that it was as if she used my visual knack against me. For the entire story there was the sense that something was off, but I couldn’t quite nail it down. At the end, though, she revealed the true thread and, in an instant, I could see all that I’d missed. I cherish that book. As a reader, I want to be wrong. Otherwise, if I’m not challenged, where’s the entertainment?

I cherish my visual approach, even when there are downfalls. I also have plenty of my own deficiencies to battle as a writer. When I’m revising, though, and I can SEE the threads appear, SEE where there are problems or the weave could be better, those are moments I wouldn’t trade for being able to diagram a hundred sentences.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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