Why You Need to Break the Mold

We’re doing a sewing analogy today, Squiders. Sorry.

So, at the end of last week I finally managed to get my patterns together. (Which was a pain in the butt–one pattern had to be traced off a sheet included with the book that included ALL the patterns on the same sheet, and the other one had to be printed off an included CD–in 21 pieces which then needed to be trimmed and taped together. Worst ever, why would you do that? The tracing is highly superior, in the end.) And I got all my pieces together, laid them out and realized…

…I couldn’t use them.

Well, I couldn’t use them as is. I remembered, as I stared down at all those pattern pieces, that I have to modify the patterns, usually extensively, because I am 9 inches taller than the average woman. I have to length everything. I have to change where the darts go. Sometimes I have to completely reshape a pattern.

And then I realized I probably hadn’t bought enough material for one of my planned shirts and had to go make myself some tea.

The same thing goes for writing. Have you ever read a book where parts of it felt derivative? Like, instead of spending any time on a character, the author just used stereotypes? Where, instead of focusing on a good-fitting setting, they just grabbed the status quo, even in places where it didn’t make sense?

It can be tempting to take shortcuts sometimes. To use the default setting, because it’s expected and familiar. To grab the usual bag of characters, because you know how they fit into a plot and why invent the wheel, right? And sometimes it’s okay to use the pattern. There are reasons patterns exist. They do work.

But it’s important to make sure you’re using the right pattern for the story that you want to tell, and if it’s not fitting right, it’s okay to modify it. The fit is what’s important, in the end. If your story ends up too long, too short, lumpy in odd places, too tight, too loose–all things that can be fixed with a little modification–your readers will notice. And next time they’re looking for a well-crafted, good fitting story, they’re going to go somewhere else.

Have you ever tried to use a standard bit of plot/setting/character and found it just didn’t fit? What ways do you employ to fix the fit?

(In regards to my shirt without enough fabric–because it turns out I need to lengthen it almost four inches–I think it can be salvaged by doing a sleeveless version. I had planned for elbow-length sleeves. I suppose I could go back and get more fabric, but the likelihood of the store still having the same kind in stock seems low.)

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I love a good analogy, even though I don’t sew.

    Reply

  2. You know, this (being taller than average) is a good reason to make your own block, and then use that as the base for your patterns. No more guessing where the darts go or where you need to lengthen it (or shorten, for those less tall ones). That said, I would love to find a pattern company who makes patterns for tall women…

    Reply

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