Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throw These Tricks in the Mix

I got a question on my blog a few months ago:  

I've noticed a few editors dislike "sing-songy" rhyme. Does this mean some editors despise perfect meter?

This is a great question and one that is not easy to answer.  It is very hard to pinpoint exactly what makes some rhyme seem sing-songy and other rhyme not. 

But I have some thoughts. There are things you can do to make your stanzas less sing-songy without throwing off the meter.

And the key seems to be VARIETY

1)  Vary the number of beats per line.

I often write in stanzas where the first and third lines have four beats and the second and fourth lines have three.

Example: (from a WIP)

Slobberdon the dinosaur  (4)
a dribble drippy guy   (3)
often left a pool of drool  (4)
on all that he passed by  (3)

Contrast this with a story like GREEN EGGS AND HAM which has four beats on every line.

I do not like them in a box.   (4)
I do not like them with a fox.   (4)
I will not eat them in a house.   (4)
I do not like them with a mouse.  (4)

2)  Vary word lengths. 

This goes for the end rhymes and for the words throughout.


"And those biceps!  My gosh, they look massive.
And your triceps and delts are immense.
"The better for hugging,"
her grandma said shrugging.
"Dear Red, that’s just plain commonsense."

Again, compare this to GREEN EGGS AND HAM where every word is one syllable.

3)  Vary sentence lengths. 

This really breaks the sing-songy-ness for me.

Example: (from TOM'S TWEET by Jill Esbaum)

“Dadburn it!” said Tom.  “You’re too skinny to eat.
Why, you’re nothing but feather and bone.”
He started to leave…
but the shivering tweet
looked so frightened.

One more time.  Compare to GREEN EGGS AND HAM.

Not trying to pick on Dr. Seuss, but it does make the point!

So, next time you feel yourself getting stuck in a sing-songy rhythm, mix things up!