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.

Example (from NINJA RED RIDING HOOD)

"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.
Unhappy.
Alone.

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!

12 comments:

  1. I heard the term a couple of times this week and wondered about it. Thanks for flushing it out, Corey. :0)-Donna L Sadd

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  2. Ah! Always love your tips! And, another glimpse at NINJA RED RIDING HOOD! Very funny stuff.

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  3. Excellent question. I was thinking about this question myself. Thanks for clarifying. Your examples made it clear.

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  4. Excellent questions and great examples. Thank you for offering some clarity on the subject of sing-songy rhyme. I would love to see the beats marked on the examples with explanations regarding why some monosyllable words are stressed and some are not. This is the biggest mystery to me. So, I have a question that I hope you can answer in a future post (please bear with me - it takes a moment to get to the question). It is my understanding (which could be way off :-) that the following are never stressed: determiners (such as the, a some), auxiliary verbs (such as am, can, were), prepositions (before, next to, in), conjunctions (but, while, as) and pronouns (they, he, us). Is that right, and does that mean that all other monosyllable words get stressed? Ooops, I guess that's technically two questions. Thanks!

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  5. Excellent advice! Thanks for explaining!!

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  6. Hey that's my question :) Great examples! I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

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  7. You are amazing, Corey! Thank you so much...you always make everything clearer.:)

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  8. I really appreciate finding this blog post. Every new thing makes a little difference. Thank you

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  9. Does the repetition of words in Suess also contribute to the sing-songyness? I'm still a little confused at what makes a poem sing-songy and what doesn't. I honestly could sing all of the examples you provided. I'm also worried about consistency in emphasis. If you follow a strict pattern of emphasis from line to line and stanza to stanza, will that contribute to sing-songyness?

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  10. Great advice, Corey! Variety is so important.

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