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.


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)