I’m a big fan of symmetry and balance, and I love seeing authors using parallels in their writing, both on a micro (grammatical) and macro (structural) level. On a micro level, ensuring that phrases are written to match each other helps with the rhythm and the flow of words. On a macro level, paying careful attention to where you can mirror scenes helps to speak to larger thematic issues and rewards eagle-eyed readers.
And hey, those last two sentences? They mirror each other grammatically and are an example of parallelism:
On a micro level, ensuring that phrases are written to match each other helps with the rhythm and the flow of words.
On a macro level, paying careful attention to where you can mirror scenes helps to speak to larger thematic issues and reward eagle-eyed readers.
I’ve made sure that each sentence started with the same phrase, that there was a gerund in the main phrase, that the verb is the same, and that there were two points following the verb. (Another example is in this previous sentence with each of the “thats” pointing back to “made sure.”) It helps the reader organize the sentence better and creates expectation once they realize that the sentence is parallel.
It’s also pleasing to the ear to recognize that parallelism. If I said
“Every word, every touch and smile”
you can hear the rhythm of the sentence just crash without the “every” before “smile.” Adding it in sounds SO much better:
“Every word, every touch, every smile”
Ahh. There it is.
Now let’s pull back and look at how you can use parallels and symmetry within the structure of your story rather than just your sentences.
Why would you want to parallel one scene early in the book to another one later? It’s useful for helping the reader draw comparisons and to underscore the thematic importance of those comparisons.
So, if you have the main character falling to the floor after getting devastating news in one scene, what does it mean when another character does the same thing later on in the book? If the character is the romantic interest, it might show parity between the two of them and put them on equal footing. If the character is a foil or the villain to the protagonist, then it shows ironic reversal of fortune. How those characters react to the same situation also demonstrates how similar or different they are and provides more insight into how they operate in their roles as hero/villain/love interest/foil/etc.
Structural parallels aren’t necessary to a story, but they allow the author to make a point subtly. This is a great way to show, rather than tell, the reader what you want them to know. And it’s this kind of careful attention to details that offer callbacks to earlier scenes and gives thoughtful readers a deeper insight into the characters and the story.
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