Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Language Has Rhythm

Poetry in Prose 

Let me start off by saying I love Shakespeare. His stories are great, but what lures me in his language. In case you haven't noticed, it's poetry.  I won't go into the complexities of iambic pentameter here or rhyming couplets or the sheer brilliance of how language defines a character's status in his plays. After all, this isn't a blog about Shakespeare. It's a blog about Magiskeep and in this case, the writing of the Magiskeep novels.

I tend to be a bit of a poet at heart, at least where words are concerned. I "hear" what I write and often that makes demands on the language I use. First and foremost, I want to portray a scene vividly for my readers. While I might go into a long description of a place or character's situation, as some writer's do, I prefer trying to get the scene created through action. Verbs are my friends.

How much better to say "Jeanna skipped across the room, laughing as she chased the kitten." Instead of "Jeanna was happy as she played with the kitten."  "Skipped" and "laughing" clearly show that Jeanna was happy, so there's no need to use an adjective when the verbs do just fine.

But there's more to writing than that as far as I'm concerned. Language to me needs to have a "flow" a rhythm, a sound that works.

Take these examples:

"It's not, My Lord, the way of the world."
"My Lord, it's not the way of the world."
"It's not the way of the world, My Lord."
"My Lord, it's not the world's way."
"It's not the world's way, My Lord."
inkwell pen paper - vector illustration. eps 8"It's not, My Lord, the world's way."

Now, all those sentences have the same meaning. But each one has a different rhythm pattern. I'm voting for the first one as it is a bit more iambic, but that's where the poet in me demands something. It may not be the easiest to read of the choices, but I like the pattern the best. The third line would be my second choice with the second line coming in for show.

Why not the last three choices? Simpler indeed, but not enough "beats" to the line and while not as complex, they don't match the style of the first three. "The way of the world," sounds like something special, a rule, a law an edict of some sort with a long history behind it. It has weight, intent and sounds as if it has the force of law. The "world's way," on the other hand, is simply something less significant, more like a casual manner of doing something.

This may sound farfetched to many readers, but to a writer, such things matter. We want to command our words to say exactly what we want them to say, exactly as we want them to say it.  They must sing to us, or we will not write them.

Is there poetry in prose? Absolutely. Words are magic.

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