What does writing have to do with music?
When you are in the revision and self-editing mode with your Work In Progress (WIP), it is helpful to read it aloud, whether to yourself or to someone else. This not only helps you catch errors you might not have seen on the computer screen or printed page, but it also helps you create a musicality with your prose.
“What?” you may ask. “I’m not a musician.”
You don’t have to be, to create a beat or a rhythm with your sentences. You don’t want to have them all sound the same. Here’s a very simple example:
He went to the cupboard. He looked at the bare shelves. He took out a can of soup. He heated it. He sat down to eat.
For one thing, all the sentences begin with “He.” The second is that they all have the same rhythm or beat. To vary them, you might write something like this:
Joe stared at the dusty shelves in the cupboard. Nothing but soup. He selected a can of tomato, opened it and heated it. With a deep sigh, he sat at his lonely table to eat.
There are other ways to make your writing more poetic or musical. Use the senses to create mood or emotion and paint pictures, build on imagery, metaphor, simile.
Rain falls over the Atlantic Ocean from River Shannon to Limerick and will probably go on for a long time. The cold wetness has made people so sick they cough until they are breathless. Cures are sought to ease the sickness, such as boiled onions in milk, blackened with pepper.
Not terribly exiting or evocative language. A lot of “telling” the reader the “facts.”
Here’s a passage from Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt:
Out in the Atlantic Ocean, great sheets of rain gathered to drift slowly up the River Shannon and settle forever in Limerick. The rain dampened the city from the Feast of the Circumcision to New Year’s Eve. It created a cacophony of hacking coughs, bronchial rattles, asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks. It turned noses into fountains, lungs into bacterial sponges. It provoked cures galore; to ease the catarrh you boiled onions in milk blackened with pepper, for the congested passages you made a paste of boiled flour and nettles, wrapped it in a rag, and slapped it sizzling, on the chest.
By using poetic language, McCourt transforms lifeless description into a symphony.
What do you do to create rhythm in your writing?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.