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February 2, 2022

            This isn’t a repeat of the article I published in November. This is about something else.

            Has it ever occurred to you when plotting or coming up with ideas, given that you’ve written multiple stories or novels, that stuff starts to feel or sound the same?

            This is what I mean by part II or 2 of déjà vu.


            One of the grand poohbahs of writing once said there are only so many plots. As a writer, you mix them up to make them seem unique. As readers (or watchers if a movie or TV), we tolerate a lot because of the voice of the writer.

            That’s what it’s really about. It’s the trappings surrounding the plot, not the plot itself.

            As I’ve said before (here’s déjà vu for you), there are infinite ways to tell or show the story of how the butler did it. It can still be a great story. It all depends on the voice and the trappings that go along with it. The twists and the turns, so on and so forth.


            Your hero gets into a bar brawl to pick up a major clue.

            Where have I seen that before?

            In book number three, five, seven, eight…

            Is this a pattern? A fallaback?

            Déjà vu?


            While there are infinite possibilities when writing and creating, there are also rabbit holes we can fall back into without even realizing it. There are also old standbys that work just fine. The only real rule is to keep mixing them up so as not to become boring.

            When your readers complain that you’re too predictable, then you may have a problem.

            When your beta readers notice a trend, you may have a problem.

            When you notice a trend, you may have a problem.


            One way of putting it is that when writing, déjà vu becomes cliché which becomes a crutch. Then the readers may become bored.

            The issue with that is how broad you want to define what a crutch is.

            The difference between all of it can get blurred when we come to style.

            Nobody that’s a fan of Clive Cussler, for instance, can mistake his style. When you read one of his books, you know what’s going to happen. Is that déjà vu? Is that a cliché? Is that a crutch?

            See? You can take things too far.

            It goes right in the category of fixing something that isn’t broke. Clive found his magic and stuck with it, even when branching out into different series. The style stayed the same.

            Some would call that a crutch, déjà vu, cliché.

            Others would rely on him for writing a great adventure, always knowing what they’re going to get.

            The same could be said for Agatha Christie, or David Baldacci, or Lee Child.


            When you come across déjà vu in your writing, does it have to do with a plot element, a situation, or your style?

            Something to think about.

            Happy writing!

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