Thursday, March 18, 2010

Zebra Stripes and Writing Skills

They say no two zebras have the same stripe pattern. This should not come as a surprise, since other prime examples of uniqueness abound--like stars, snowflakes, and fingerprints. Why not individual designs in zebra coats?

I take a quick scroll through Wikipedia and read opinions about why zebras have varied stripes. It's been suggested that the patterns serve either as identification, camouflage, or even--strangely--as a means to confuse the pesky tsetse fly.

Any one of these ideas could spark discussion about how unique each zebra's story is. But this photo from last week's circus suggests another story. Look closely. In the midst of differences, there is a similarity. Note how the stripes on their rumps draw together in a common pattern--as if the stripes were ribbon threads about to be gathered into a ponytail. Ever notice that before? I sure didn't!

Ha. I play an association game. Just like no two zebras are alike, neither are writers. Styles are different, experiences are different, messages are different--for sure voices are different. But we carry with us one thing in common--the need to build a good foundation in the craft of writing. You know the drill--good grammar, showing not telling, action words not passive, sensory details, things like that.

We writers need to tie up our different stories with the same craft threads. And just like performing zebras need to practice their drills, so do we need to practice our writing drills.

Zebras and writing--a stretch? Maybe so. But somehow I just knew I had to use this picture!


  1. I don't think it's a stretch at all. I love the way you tied all of this together. I agree that no two writers are alike. Cool post. =)

  2. Great observation!
    When I saw the title of your entry I thought
    you were going to write about Jamie’s little girl
    with the zebra pants last Sunday!
    Maybe she inspired you subliminally!?
    What you say about the foundation for good writing makes so much sense.

  3. Thanks, Margie...but somehow I missed seeing Jamie's little girl. Sounds like I missed something cute :-)