I asked Shannon if I could write my post about writing in rhyme, because that’s what I typically write.  She said the topic was fine, but reminded meIMG_5633 I was writing for middle grade and YA novelists as well as picture book authors. So, for this post, I will focus on rhythm aspect only – I’ll save the rhyme for another time (sorry, my brain is wired for rhyme).

While I have no formal training in this area – PLEASE DON’T STOP READING – I do have decades of experience writing and critiquing in both rhyme and prose.  So, the tips I’m sharing here are based on my personal experiences and a little research.  Everything you read on the Internet is true – right?

Here we go . . .

When I first began doing critiques, I limited myself to rhyming stories because that’s where I had some expertise and could offer helpful feedback.  When one of my critique partners submitted a story in prose – I froze! (Sorry again!)  I didn’t feel qualified to comment on it, but I had to do it.  To my surprise, I discovered there’s a rhythm to prose!  Who’da thunk?  It’s not a patterned rhythm, as with rhyming, but there is still a rhythm.

Whether you’re writing a picture book, YA novel or chapter book, rhythm is important.  To me, rhythmic writing makes a story interesting and easy to read.  It also creates mood and the rhythm in dialogue helps distinguish one character from another. You don’t want the same rhythm in every sentence, but you do want every sentence to have a rhythm that works.

So, how can you improve the rhythm in your story?  Whether you’re writing in rhyme or in prose, you should read your work aloud or have someone unfamiliar with your manuscript read it aloud.  Listen carefully for words, phrases or sentences the reader stumbles over or that “catch your ear”.  Often, it’s the rhythm that needs tweaking.

Here are some simple things you can do to get started:

~ Replace a word to add or reduce beats, e.g.,

It was the grandest of times, it was the worst of times

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

~ Use alliteration – the change makes it easier and more pleasant to read, e.g.,

Lilly’s red cloth purse

Lilly’s purple plastic purse

~ Change the word order, e.g.,

Frankly, I don’t give a damn, my dear!

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

~ Change the punctuation, e.g.,

Using a dash, instead of a comma will create a more dramatic

pause, without changing a single word.

Using a dash, instead of a comma will create a more dramatic

pause – without changing a single word.

Here’s another example.  It changes the meaning, more than rhythm, but I think it’s funny (and I’m kind of proud of myself) so I’m including it:

Call me Ishmael

Call me, Ishmael

~ Use the “rule of three” (things sound better in groups of three), e.g.,

He huffed and blew the house down.

He huffed and puffed and blew the house down.

~ Break up dialogue, e.g.,

“Cool name, but you’ll always be Ickle Diddykins to me,” said Harry.

“Cool name,” said Harry, “but you’ll always be Ickle Diddykins to me.”

One thing I love about writing, about writing, (that was fun!) is I always learn something!  In preparing this post, I came across a list of 50 rhetorical devices, most of which I had never heard of – or at least I never knew they had names.  I know I’ll be returning to this page often.  So I thought I would share it with you:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-rhetorical-devices-for-rational-writing/

Prompt #16:  Pick out two or three sentences from your current work in progress and TRY incorporating a rhythm element.  Perhaps adding a dramatic pause with a dash will work.  Or use alliteration.  Maybe change the order of the words.  Initially trying one of these devices may go completely against your instincts but try it anyway.  Then, read it aloud, and/or ask someone to read it aloud, while you focus on the rhythm.  Did it work for you?  If not, make changes to improve the rhythm and read it aloud again.  Perhaps something will stick and make your WIP even better!

 

blogger bio iconA Bit About Lori

Lori’s a rhyme-loving, word play seeking ways earned her the grand prize in Cheerios Spoonful of Stories New Author Contest in 2008.  The wonderful process of publication followed and Lori’s debut book 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster) came out in 2010.  This May her newest book Cock-a-Doodle Oops! (Creston Books) hits the shelves.

When Lori isn’t writing she works as a teacher for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. To learn more about Lori click here.

 

1 zany zoo cock - a- dooodle

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