From Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson¹ comes a moment that serves as an intriguing motif² for his story.

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A (unnamed) doctor tells another doctor (Suzanne) this healing tale.

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The Story of the Five Balls

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   “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping them up in the air. But one day…

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[For more use the DOOR.]

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[MORE]

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you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls–family, health, friends, and integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.”

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   Our purpose is not to fully review of Patterson’s book, just to pull out something we found interesting. This is from a used book we picked up at the annual Harford Fair, a summer adventure which is not to miss. The “we” person here used to teach writing, poetry, even literature, that frequently became “entangled” (to use a trendy science word) with his basic training and interest in science and science text writing. More on Patterson in Note 1.

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   ¹ James Patterson (b 1947) is known primarily for novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross and the Cross series. With 19 consecutive NYT #1 best sellers, his novels have (says Wikipedia) sold 300 million copies, more than Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dan Brown put together. The romance (with one man and two enviable similar, but different, young women), Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas (Little, Brown, 2001), which is not Patterson’s usual stuff, is just the right read for some of you who made it to this footnote. The book, by the way, is better that the movie (2005) by the same name.

   ² Motifs, metaphors, and other devices can enrich fiction when carefully used as “the 5 balls advice” in Suzanne’s account is used here, binding together the sequence of a good story which can’t waste time dawdling over every possible detail. And just what is a motif? In short, it’s a detail, an object, a person, or an idea–obvious or in the background–that is repeated and “belongs” in a story stylistically help hold together portions that show or tell something worth seeing or hearing. They add beauty or meaning that matters. In Twain’s Huck Finn, the river is one of the motifs; in Paula Fox’s Portrait of Ivan (1969, 2004) “picturing things” (drawings, photos, and paintings) is an obvious and effective motif.