Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ANSWERS, INK An occasional feature of questions that writers might have asked

Dear Answers, Ink,

I hear that rhyme is tough to write,

yet I love rhyme. My sorry plight:

Shall I, then, not compose

Except in prose?

Will S.

Dear Will,

Alas, my sorry skill

Cannot compose a rhymed response,

The task so great, it daunt, it daunts!

And there you have the problem with rhyme: rhythm and word choice can drive the narrative. While good rhyme, done well, adds its own momentum to a story, bad rhyme takes over a story. The rhyme, not the tale, becomes the driving force. Some common problems of bad rhyme include convoluted syntax, rhymes that are too often predictable, frequent use of the same rhyming sounds, and loss of narrative drive because of the need to rhyme.

If you have an idea for a rhymed story, try telling the story in prose first to see if a story exists beyond the catchy rhythms or enticing rhyme choices. If, indeed, you have your hands on a good story, then make sure your rhyming adds to the story rather than overwhelms it. Look for surprising and satisfying rhymes. Don’t contort syntax. Above all, remember that story comes first.

To rhyme or not to rhyme--that is not the question. The question is, does rhyme serve the story? If you can rhyme and still tell a good tale, more power to you. And if your rhyming tale contains star-crossed lovers, preferably vampires, you may have a hit on your hands.

Prosaically yours,


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