Michaeline: Music behind the words

I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of beauty.” – Edgar Allen Poe (sourced from Goodreads)

We’ve talked many times on this blog about creating a playlist to help us get a better grip on character, setting or the feeling of a plot. And we’ve also discussed (here and among ourselves) the power of a good writing soundtrack that helps us tune out the world and dip into that trance state where good writing just flows.

And I believe we may have even mentioned the usefulness of reading a late draft aloud; we catch things we’d otherwise miss, and the spoken word highlights the underlying rhythms of the written text.

I suppose you could mark it out deliberately, and tell me just how many iambs I have in my pentameter. And a good writing teacher would say, when you put your rhythms in play, they should not mark the time, nor dally in rhyme, like a limerick on spring holiday. Those teachers probably have a point. On the other hand, using a series of short, sharp words to slap a guy in the face is legit, I think. Or flowing down a river of sounds and rhythm when you want to evoke a lazy mood is another thing.

There is a rhythm to writing, good or bad. I recently ran across an interesting clip of Steve Allen playing jazz piano while Jack Kerouac gives a short reading. They go well together, and if you’ll give it seven minutes of your time, you may find yourself meditating on the music behind the language.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LLpNKo09Xk

And I’ll leave you with this quote.

 “I’m very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it … Interviewers have said, you like jazz, don’t you? Because we can hear it in your writing. And I thought that was a compliment.” – Elmore Leonard (sourced from Goodreads)

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