Literary Patterns

What is the pattern of the poetic form called a cinquain? Did Flaubert have themes that he frequently used in his short stories? Can we say that Dr. Seuss was a man who knew about word patterns? Does Emily Dickison create patterns of images in your mind's eys as you read her creative endeavors?

Literature is patterns of words, ideas, and imagery. Sample some of the following activities to learn more about literary patterns.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about patterns in literature.

Site explains the pattern of the form of poetry known as diamante.
Emily Dickinson
Visit Amherst, Massachusetts, the home place of Emily Dickinson. She was a reclusive person and spent almost her entire life in Amherst. Her poetry had unusual patterns and styles.
Via the patterns of literature and language, virtually visit and learn about the cultures of Mexico and Spain. This is a great site with many resources for teaching and learning the Spanish language. 
Hop on over to Seussville and discover the patterns in the writings of Dr. Seuss.

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People To See

Dashiell Hammett
Mystery writing often has a formula--or pattern. Meet Dashiell Hammett, the creator of the Sam Spade detective character. 
Edward Lear
Meet Edward Lear. He was the master of the poetic form called the limerick. He wrote hundreds of limericks in the mid-1800s.
Robert Heinlein
Science fiction, as a genre, has its own special kind of pattern. Get to know one of the most renowned of science fiction writers.

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Things To Do

Favorite Poem Project
The Favorite Poem Project is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry's role in Americans' lives. Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, founded the Favorite Poem Project shortly after the Library of Congress appointed him to the post in 1997.
O Henry
Learn about the short story writer known as O Henry. His real name was William Sydney Porter, and he had a very unusual life. His short, simple stories are noted for having a pattern of careful plotting, ironic coincidences, and surprise endings.
Ray Bradbury
Is there a pattern to writing in a particular genre? Do most romance novels have a formula---is there a formula involved in the writing of mysteries? Have students explore common elements and themes in literary genres. Start with science fiction and use Ray Bradbury as a resource.
Tom Swifties
Tom Swiftie is a word game that follows an unvarying pattern and relies for its humor on a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker. At the same time, it refers significantly to the import of the speaker's statement, as in "I know who turned off the lights," Tom hinted darkly.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Amberg, Jay. The Creative Writing Handbook. Glenview, IIl.: GoodYear Books/Scott, Foresman, c1992.
  • Berg, Elizabeth. Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, c1999.
  • Introducing Geat Authors [videorecording]. Melville, N.Y. : Video Knowledge, Inc., 1986.
  • Kernen, Robert. Building Better Plots. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, c1999.
  • Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought). San Diego: Harcourt Brace, c1994.
  • McClanahan, Rebecca. Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, c1999.
  • O'Conner, Patricia T. Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing. New York: Harcourt Brace, c1999.
  • Rozakis, Laurie. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing. New York: Alpha Books, c1997.
  • Rule, Rebecca. Creating the Story: Guides for Writers. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, c1993.
  • Tobias, Ron. Twenty Master Plots (and How to Build Them). Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books., c1993