Rhyming Trouble

Posted:  May 8th, 2012 by:  daydreemer comments:  3

This post could also be called: “The trouble with having more than one notebook, and writing a story in bits and pieces over time”.

Quite a while ago, I wrote down a paragraph of a potential story, as I always do, into my notebook one day. My notepads are full of single words, phrases, story ideas, rhymes and even badly drawn sketches. I find most of the time that ideas normally pop-in while I’m writing something completely different, and I have absolutely no idea where they come from, or why. Sometimes these are the best idea’s, and sometimes they’re not, but I try to always write them down. You never know when one of them decides to grow into a something bigger and better.

Ideas are mysterious things, and where they come from is a popular question that writers get asked. As far as I know, no-one has a realistic answer, but the best one I have heard is from the muppet Gonzo, in an episode of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. He once said “All good ideas come from my nose. Though now and then I get a pretty good one from my elbow”. That’s as good an answer as any, and probably better than most.

So, this is the paragraph that I wrote down that day:

I want to fly, I told my mum, I want to do bird things.
That’s fine she said, go out and fly, but first you need some wings.

It seemed like an interesting start to some kind of a story. But not interesting enough for me to try and build on at the time.

Then one day while waiting for something, maybe a doctors appointment, I remembered the start of that “flying” story that I started, not word for word, but the basic idea of it, and wrote some more, but this time in a different note pad:

My mum knows stuff because she’s old.
I should go out do what I’m told.
But where to start, what should I do.
I can’t just fly, must think this through.

Just like mum said, its wings I need.
I need a book, it’s time to read.
On how big things, that weigh a lot*,
get off the ground and stay aloft*.

That sounds too hard, and I’m quite smart,
don’t need to read, just need to start

* “a lot” and “aloft” are “near rhymes”, which should be avoided if possible.

Now I know that I should never share a first draft of any story, these are just rough ideas coming into my head, completely un-edited, and easy to criticize. However I think this is coming out Ok, for something that I’m only doing to kill some time.

The problem that now is becoming obvious it that the beat (meter) of the rhyme isn’t matching in the 2 writing sessions.

Now on a different day again, and in a different notebook, I ended up writing some more:

How hard can it be to make,
a pair of wings that will not break
When I jump off a building tall,
I hope to soar, and not to fall.

Another day, another beat.

I still have no idea how this story will end, if I ever decide to finish writing it. Though reading through the words so far, their are a few obvious conclusions. The boy will either end up hurting himself and ending up in hospital, or just chickening out, or…. who knows.

The one thing I do like about the journey with this story, is that it reflects what Stephen King tells about how his stories evolve. When he starts he only has a basic idea of the story, and its characters. He doesn’t know how the story will end, until the story unwinds and dictates its own ending.

Good writing is hard, and writing in rhyme can be quite painful, however every now and again a few words come out that sound like real words written by a real writer, and that’s the motivation that takes you a little bit further.

I’m not sure if I will ever finish writing this particular story, as I have more interest in 2 others, “Bat-bot Boy” and “The Zombie Troubadour”, that are both almost there. I’m not even sure if I’m a good writer, or why my stories come out of my head in rhyme. The one thing I do know is that I have stories to tell, and I’m going to tell them as best I can.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Steve

P.S. There is more to understanding writing in rhyme than you may think. In this post I have touched on “meter / beat” and “near rhymes” but haven’t gone anywhere near terms like “stressed syllables” or “anapaestic tetrameter” (which is what Dr Seuss liked to use). If you are interested in an easy to read book that explains the basics quite well, you should check out Jackie Hosking’s eBook “How to Write in Rhyme like the Experts“.

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    3 Comments

    Posted By: Katherine Battersby On: May 08, 2012 At: 8:04 pm

    3 notebooks is certainly a hazard :) Writing isn’t easy, is it? I can’t tell you how often I’ve spent an entire day mulling over a single line in a picture book text I’m working on! Some days it turns my head inside out :)

    My stories never come to me in rhyme and it’s a good thing (I’m an atrocious poet). But I love reading stories that rhyme. I absolutely love the first line of your story – about the boy wanting to do bird things. That line has such a distinctive voice. I hope you keep going with this story!

    Posted By: Tina Burke On: May 08, 2012 At: 10:14 pm

    Yes, agreed! With so much of this, and what Katherine said – often I find the words and ideas I’ve agonized over are the ones that just never want to be beaten into shape – the best come from when I don’t expect it – like they’re sitting in my sub-conscience ready and waiting for me to notice them.

    The multiple notebooks – LOL!! Oh, I can relate. Do I dedicate one notebook per idea, so it’s all in one place? But what if I have an idea for the “other” story when I’m out and I have the wrong notebook??! And what if the notebook is too fancy to actually use? What if I wreck it by putting crap ideas in it? Ha ha.

    I’ve just recently started to have one mini-notebook which I take with me everywhere, then I transfer ideas to a whiteboard I have propped up in the kitchen at all times (best system I’ve ever had!). Then I sit in my comfy chair in the kitchen, in front of my whiteboard, and pick the idea I want to expand upon. That goes in a big sketchbook, which I’m using for writing and sketching. Then, I type it up. Straightforward, no? :) Actually I love this system. The whiteboard means everything is right there, ready to jot ideas down on, or mull them over while I’m cooking etc.

    Enough about me. I love that opening line, too. And the one:
    “My mum knows stuff because she’s old.” LOL!!
    and
    “That sounds too hard, and I’m quite smart,
    don’t need to read, just need to start”
    :) Funny stuff!

    And just to throw a third resolution in the ring, when I read:
    “That’s fine she said, go out and fly, but first you need some wings.”
    It makes sense metaphorically, too – fly! soar! Do wonderful things … All that stuff. (Like, his mother is talking metaphorically, though he means it literally).
    (wonderful things … with or without wings … Oh, I’m a poet. Without rhythm.)
    And reading/learning/books “gives you wings” – but in the metaphorical sense. So in the end, he could learn something more profound along the way. After a few crashes of course.

    Longest comment ever. I’ll stop rambling now. Good luck with it.

    Posted By: daydreemer On: May 08, 2012 At: 10:41 pm

    Katherine, the stories we work on have so few words, its important to get every one of them write. You’re also very lucky that your words don’t come out in rhyme, it can be quite painful. But sometimes, like the first 2 lines, you know its right, and it’s incredibly satisfying.

    Tina, sadly my system of notebooks was very similar to yours, up until a few months ago. I needed the crap notepad that everything could go into, and save the good note book for only the worthy ideas. I’m over all that now, and everything goes into whatever notebook is handy. One day I might scan in a few pages so you everyone can see the mess, and some of my sketches. They are nothing like Katherine’s visual diary pages, which are high-quality art…. just art in a notebook.

    Also, the one other note I have written down in one of the notepads, as a potential last line for the story is: “…..I think I’ll read a book instead”. So maybe there is a lesson learned.

    Thank you both for your kind words.

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