“Writers are in the music business.”
We’re in the music business — how true! Just think of authors you truly adore and it’s more than likely that one of the qualities that attracts and holds your attention is their distinctive rhythm. Rhythm encompasses a symphony of writing attributes: sound, pacing, balance, beats. It recruits alliteration, punctuation, and cadence to make words dance off the page and into a reader’s heart and mind.
In A Writer’s Coach, Jack Hart devotes a meaty chapter to creating rhythmic prose.
Here are a few pointers that may sharpen your pen and please your readers:
Write for the ear: Reading your work aloud is the single best way to attune yourself to the flow of your words: It helps you avoid awkward phrasing and clumsy word choices. It also helps you pinpoint other problems like repetitive sentence structure and length. On the plus side, it gives you opportunities to craft fluid, muscular prose.
Ally yourself with alliteration: If you write something that sounds clumsy and awkward to the ear, then try using a word combination that repeats a key sound or several phrases in a sentence that repeat the same set of sounds.
Balance your sentences: “Pleasing sentences display a certain symmetry.” This quoted sentence from A Writing Coach begins and ends with a two-syllable word followed by a three-syllable word. This measured approach can be very satisfying to readers.
Play with your paragraphs: What’s more boring for a reader than a bunch of sentences strung together that are all exactly the same length? Mix your prose up by crafting both long and short sentences. Vary your paragraph format as well: Follow dense blocks of prose with shorter, tighter sentence packages.
End energetically: “The last word in a sentence, chapter, or story should slam the door. Search for crisp final words with single syllables and hard consonants.” Great advice, Jack.
Now that you’re armed and dangerous, write on!