Rhythm: Use it In Your Prose, Not Just Poetry

I quite clearly remember the lecture in my Writing for Communications course. The teacher was a brilliant man, a writer with the Miami Herald, someone who I held in enormous esteem. I wanted to ace his class more than any other class during the last two years of college. His writing was beautiful, like poetry, even when he wrote about heartbreak and chaos. It drew you in. It had its own rhythm.

Ah. There you go. Poetry.

The course was required of all Mass Comm majors. The first day of class, someone said that she worried about her writing because, while she could write poetry, she couldn’t write prose.

I think the term my favorite teacher used in reply was: bullshit.

He then proceeded to explain that someone who wrote “just the facts” and didn’t know how to dance with words, moving them around so they drew in the reader, was a hack. That’s the difference between someone who takes notes and a writer, he said. A writer learns how to make the most of rhythm and its pauses, its stretches, the way the words sound even on paper. A good writer makes words flow. A good writer doesn’t lose folks in the flotsam and jetsam.

I’m still working on it.

In the years since I graduated, I stopped writing poetry. I started writing copy. Then teaching… and now I’m back to trying poetry in an attempt to make my writing more easy on the eye. Scratch that: I want to make it more interesting, more compelling.

I’m trying to make it a beat to follow. I’m relearning all those lessons he taught back in the day. It’s not as easy as it seems.

I could start by listening to music, the way I used to. I could write away from the sounds of my children and their games and squabbles, but I wouldn’t want to. I’ll have to find some way to get it back.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Rhythm: Use it In Your Prose, Not Just Poetry

  1. I think learning to write prose that both flows well and captivates is truly a lifelong process. One great tip I got from a class ages ago is to write like you speak. This only applies, though, for those who don’t drone in monotonic single syllables. ;O)

    I’m blogging my way back from Z to A, and I’d love for you to take a peek at my “R” post: Right Here, Right Now..

  2. I’ve never been good at writing poetry, and I don’t think about words dancing. I tend to be factual person and so, creative writing and me….not a good pair. Descriptive adjectives…using different words I’m told helps…but hey……sometimes I just want the info, and assume others out there might be like me? Good luck in quest.

  3. Your prof was a smart man (in my book). And your post? It flowed like a good story. I liked it. Sure, some people want “just the facts, ma’am, nothing but the facts.” But, they are readers. Authors (like me) love to play with words. Thanks for a good post.

  4. PS: As a POD author, I’ve just been picked up by an exciting literary agent. I guess my efforts to create a good flow worked!

  5. Hi there. Noticed you commented on one of my Five Songs posts. It’s always nice to hear from someone who agrees with me – most of the responses I got to that particular post were inflamatory and angry (I lived, at the time, where Pepper came from, and they have a rabid following).

    Anyhow, no idea how to say thanks for the comment other than commenting back to you.

    Have a good one. 🙂