When I hear or read that writers need to add rhythm to their writing, I want to say, “But I’m not a poet or a songwriter.” But those places don’t hold the monopoly on rhythm. Have you ever read a passage in a book that slid off your tongue? Have you read a passage written so beautifully you read it again for enjoyment? Often these passages seem effortlessly clever. (But we all know those brilliant moments in our writing are anything but effortless. We well know these beautiful phrase take time to craft.
To add rhythm to our writing, we need to load some fun tools into our writer’s tool box.
1. ALLITERATION: The repetition of the first consonant sound of words in a sentence.
Ted needed time to type his term paper. Merlin’s Magic created marvels to behold.
As fun as this tool is to use, remember not to create a tongue twister by grouping them too close together. Consider Poor Peter in Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. This would be far more pleasant to say if it were rewritten: Peter, the son of the town Piper, spent the day picking red and green peppers for his mother to pickle.
2. ASSONANCE: When two or more words in a sentence share a vowel sound.
The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains. (One of my favorite lines from the movie, My Fair Lady. In the height of the night there came a bright light. (This example would lend itself best to poetry or a picture book, but in a novel, you could slim the assonance repetition considerably: Mark waited in the night for Mary to shine a light from her window.)
3. CONSONANCE: the repetitive sounds of consonants in a sentence or phrase.
Do not go gentle into that good night. The fellow strung the strings on his cello. (fellow and cello) and ( strung and strings)
4. HOMOIOTELEUTON: Admittedly quite the mouthful. So, what does it mean? When words in a sentence contain similar endings. This is also known as near rhyme.
Heinz adds beans in their soup. I wrote my memoir in the car.
5. ONOMATOPOEIA: The use of words that imitate the sounds of objects or subjects in a sentence. (In picture books these sound words are often made-up words–think Dr. Seuss. “I can’t blab such blibber blubber! My tongue isn’t made of rubber.”)
With a crash, the vase shattered. Don’t squirt me with the hose. The children splash in the pool.
6. RHYME: Rhyme doesn’t necessarily belong to poetry alone. An occasional rhyme of words within a sentence can add to the rhythm, sound, and ear-pleasing quality of your writing. After all, it only takes a little time to write a sentence with a rhyme.
On our trip to France, Frank and I took a dance class. When I did the laundry, I forgot to take the Saltines out of my jeans pocket.
Your turn! See if you can add a little rhythm and spice to your writing.