Writerly Wednesdays

Variety in Your Novel: Spicy Dishes Served with Relish

Variety is the spice of life, so Tums antacid comes in fruit, berry, cherry, orange, and peppermint flavors. What does this mean for our novels?

I love an excellent spy-action or sweet-romance novel. Yet, if the book has 86,000 words of bullets flying, explosions erupting, and blood pooling on every page, we grow fatigued. We also get tired of 38 chapters of a couple arguing. Something else must happen, or the work is tedious. Variety allows for a better flow for the reader.

Here are a few pointers about variety to keep in mind.

  • Readers love varied sentence structures. Two sentences that read the same, back-to-back, are like nails on the chalkboard. Or two similes back-to-back are like permanent markers on a whiteboard. They’re impossible not to notice.
  • Varying paragraph lengths are heaven-sent. We love white space on a page. It just feels like a brook in a desert. (The following space was left blank on purpose)
  • Nothing says ‘I’m a novice’ quite like an 86,000-word novel of description. Or an entire novel made up of dialogue. Carefully balanced books keep the reader calm and reading.
  • Vary the amount of dialogue and inner monologue. Change up all the ‘logues’ as you write.
  • As we’ve discussed before, vary the tempo. Action and romantic tension are great, but please offer resolutions and cooldown periods to let the reader’s heart settle. Then, ramp it back up again.
  • Some plays and movies have gotten away with no scene or location changes. They are masters, and they do it well. However, can you name a film or novel that happens at one location? Right. It’s rare for a reason.
  • Add humor, then seriousness.
  • Why was the writer always cold? She was surrounded by drafts.
  • Add a plot twist for extreme variety. A novel full of plot twists no longer makes surprise a novel endeavor.

Add variety to keep your reader connected to your story! You’ll not be sorry! And before long, you’ll find your readers less frustrated and eating fewer Tums.

Not all views expressed are those of every member of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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One Comment

  • Shqina Asif

    Your blog post on the importance of variety in novels is both insightful and engaging! You’ve articulated a crucial aspect of storytelling—how monotony in narrative elements can lead to reader fatigue, while diversity keeps them eagerly turning the pages.

    I appreciate how you emphasize the importance of varied sentence structures and paragraph lengths to maintain reader interest and flow. Your analogy of consecutive similes being like permanent markers on a whiteboard vividly illustrates this point. Additionally, your advice on balancing dialogue and inner monologue, as well as varying the tempo to include moments of resolution and tension, shows a deep understanding of pacing and reader engagement.

    The inclusion of humor amidst seriousness and the call for well-executed plot twists further highlight your understanding of narrative dynamics. This approach not only enriches the reading experience but also keeps readers connected to the story.

    Well done on a thought-provoking post that serves as a valuable guide for writers aiming to create engaging and dynamic narratives!

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