So here I go again…re-posting. But here’s the thing. I think this post is worth sharing again. You may be at the point in your writing where you write with rhythm automatically. But, if you’re one of the many out there who still struggle with getting your scenes to “sound right” maybe this will help.
I posted the original version in January, 2014. Wow, how time flies!
Some people have rhythm. And some people just don’t. And I’m sorry to say, I’m one of those people who don’t. I try to have rhythm. Really, I do. I hear a great song on the radio when I’m driving so I tap my hand on the steering wheel or bob my head to the beat. Sometimes I even dance along with my kids and nieces and nephews during our family dances parties. I mean so what if the dance parties are for the kids? Who can resist dancing to old Hannah Montana songs or Cotton- Eyed Joe?
And so I dance and sing along to my favorite songs, even without rhythm. And that makes me happy. 🙂
But there’s one place where I do have rhythm—in my writing. Rhythm is important to any good piece of writing. It can help your words flow in an easy pattern.
Here are a few tips for writing with rhythm:
Vary your sentence length
In each paragraph, use both long sentences and short sentences. This makes the paragraph easier to read and gives it a smoother flow. In the following sample, ( a paragraph taken from one of my early drafts) you’ll see a little of both.
My sixth grade class has gathered in the amphitheater, all five hundred of us squished together shoulder to shoulder. The sun is scorching the back of my neck. My ponytail even feels hot. The sound we’ve been waiting for thunders through the speakers–the Piedmont Challenge theme song. I bite my pinky nail. The signal is coming next.
In this sample, not only do the sentence lengths make the passage easier to read, they help to convey what’s happening in the story. The first sentence is quite long. The main character seems calm, like she’s simply telling the reader where she is. As the story unfolds though, I used shorter sentences throughout the paragraph. You can almost feel the main character getting more and more nervous as the song plays and she gets ready for the signal to come.
Read Your Sentences Aloud
How do your sentences sound? Sometimes the key to creating a nice flow of sentences is simply hearing how they sound. Do they sound choppy? Maybe you’re using to many short sentences all in a row. Do you lose interest in what you’ve written? Maybe your sentences are too long. Separate them into smaller ones. If you try to put to much information into one sentence, an important point may get lost and the passage loses its impact.
Match Rhythm to the Mood
If you’re trying to describe a setting—a countryside filled with beautiful flowers and cascading waterfalls, then longer, more elaborate sentences would work well. If you’re writing an intense scene in a mystery novel, short sentences with bursts of quick, simple words may work well too.
Here’s an example:
Connor has just missed his curfew time of 10:00pm. He walks through the front door to find his father waiting in the kitchen. He panics, knowing he’s about to get into trouble. Notice the long rambling sentences he uses as he tries to explain why he was late.
Connor stops short. ”Dad, I know I missed curfew again but I have a really good reason. See when the movie was over, I was about to walk to the car, you know to drive straight home so I wouldn’t be late again, but then some of the guys challenged me to a game of air hockey out in the lobby and you know I’m the King of Air Hockey so I knew you’d understand if I was a few minutes late because you really like air hockey too!”
His dad holds up his hand to silence Connor. “Enough! I don’t want to hear your excuse!”
Notice the short response Connor’s angry dad gives. And see how effective matching the rhythm of your sentences to their mood can be?
Rhythm often happens automatically. But it can happen even more effectively when you pay close attention to it. So give it a try. Add some rhythm to your writing. You’ll be amazed at how much better your scene sounds. And then go on and sing or dance to your favorite song. Even if you don’t have an rhythm at all! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by today… I hope you’re having a great week full of all the writing and reading love. I sure am, only as always, there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the words!
Take care, buckle down, and keep writing. That’s the only way to get your book written! 🙂