Hi, everyone and welcome to my blog. I'm totally honored to have Margie as my guest today. If you've taken any of her classes, you know you're going to learn a lot reading her post today. So get out your highlighters, red pens and notebooks and welcome her.
RHYTHM and CADENCE and BEATS. Oh my!
Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
I can see Dorothy, the Scare Crow and the Tin Man skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. The cadence of their sing-song line is similar to the heading for this section.
Rhythm and cadence and beats. Oh my!
Rhythm, cadence, beats--no matter which term you choose--it’s an internal assessment. No real rules apply. You know what sounds right and what sounds wrong.
You only know how it sounds if you read your work out loud. Frequently.
Read the last two paragraphs out loud. How’d they sound?
I could have written:
It is important to pay attention to the rhythm inherent in your written work. You could refer to this rhythm as cadence or a beat. It does not matter which terms you use. Understanding the rhythm of writing is an internal assessment. There are no real rules that the author can apply. You can only tell if the rhythm is right by reading your work out loud. You will know if it sounds wrong.
OKAY – Read that wordy block (above) out loud.
Is there anything pleasing about the way the words and sentences are arranged?
It’s written in a textbook fashion. Bor-ring. Bor-ring. Bor-ring.
What are textbook authors thinking? They often do an excellent job obfuscating what could be interesting information in an obdurate style. And they use words like obfuscate (I’m thinking disguise) and obdurate (I’m thinking unyielding) which increase the snooze factor.
What about my next sentence (from above).
You only know how it sounds if you read your work out loud. Frequently.
That rhythm works for me. Even the sentence frag.
Read your work out loud. Trust your CADENCE EAR. Your cadence ear tells you if you got it right. Your cadence ear will smile.
Ha! Funny image.
Let’s look at what Dwight Swain, TECHNIQUES OF A SELLING AUTHOR, said about sentence structure in 1965.
Yep, that’s when that gem was published and it’s still a winner.
The following is from Swain’s TECHNIQUES OF A SELLING AUTHOR, page 32. It’s three paragraphs.
It demands little genius to recognize that too many short sentences, or long sentences, or simple, or complex, or periodic, or loose or what-have-you sentences are likely to grow tiresome.
The answer, obviously, is to introduce variety—variety of length, form, style, and so on. Many a tired old declarative sentence (He stalked off without a word) has been given a lift via rearrangement of its elements (Without a word, he stalked off) . . . rephrasing (Grim, wordless, he stalked off) . . . addition of some bit of action (Pivoting, he stalked off) . . . or of color (Face a cold mask of menace, he etc.), or the like.
On the other side of the fence, beware variety for variety’s own sake. The moment syntactical acrobatics attract attention to themselves, they also detract from your story; and that’s a sure road to disaster.
SWAIN MADE MY POINT FOR ME. Let’s look at that last sentence again.
The moment syntactical acrobatics attract attention to themselves, they also detract from your story; and that’s a sure road to disaster.
Note: Swain backloaded that sentence with his most important word, disaster.
SYNTACTICAL ACROBATICS. A power phrase for a power concept.
BEWARE of syntactical acrobatics. Any writing that creates a speedbump for the reader, writing that puts a hugs spotlight on the writing and away from the story – creates authorial intrusion by syntactical acrobatics.
Back to Rhythm and Cadence and Beats.
Do you read your work out loud?
Do you match the rhythm to the scene?
Brandilyn Collins, author of GETTING INTO CHARACTER: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors, shares important points about sentence rhythms. If you don’t have her how-to book, I strongly recommend getting it.
Here’s one of Brandilyn Collins’s points:
The rhythm of your sentences should match the “beat” of action in your scene.”
It’s MARGIE again. Brandilyn and I share a brain. I agree. :-)
Brandilyn Collins provides these guidelines (pages 147 and 148) on creating rhythm.
1. Past participles (past-tense verbs ending in ‘ing’) are best used in quiet, easy –rhythm scenes. When action or suspense begins, use regular past-tense verbs.
2. Complex sentences work better in quiet rhythm; simple sentences work better for action.
3. In general, the higher the action level, the shorter your sentences should be.
4. In high action sequences, such as fight scenes, divide the action and reaction into separate sentences or short phrases within the same sentence.
Great advice. You’ll find more discussion on these points in GETTING INTO CHARACTER: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors.
Challenge your Cadence Ear:
Check out the cadence in these excerpts.
Please take a couple of minutes, read them out loud, and consider the cadence.
Jodi Picoult, CHANGE OF HEART:
“Fletcher,” he said, testing the word in his mouth as if it were made of sharp stones.
Powerful cadence – and a powerful dialogue cue too.
Anna Campbell, UNTOUCHED:
I could feel his gaze on me as I walked to my car. It felt like a cape made of light, like the wings of the angels I’d never believed in.
Ah – Fresh writing that brushes your heart.
BLOG GUESTS: It’s your turn!
Analyze the cadence of one of these excerpts (above or below).
What did the author do that made the cadence work?
Harlan Coben, THE WOODS,
I knew they were watching me, studying my responses. I became aware of my steps, my posture, my facial expression. I aimed for neutral and then wondered why I bothered.
Allison Brennan, SPEAK NO EVIL
His heart continued to vibrate between his ears, a loud ringing, and he could hear anything but his internal organs working, working. Heart pumping blood through his veins, his head swelling, filing with certain knowledge that he would be discovered.
Lisa Gardner, HIDE, p. 9:
Matt took me to the movies. I don't remember what was playing. I was aware of his hand on my shoulder, the sweaty feel of my own palms, the hitch to my breath. After the
movies, we went for ice cream. It was raining. He held his coat over my head.
And then, tucked inside his cologne-scented jacket, he gave me my first kiss.
I floated home. Arms wrapped around my waist. Dreamy smile upon my face.
My father greeted me at the front door. Five suitcases loomed behind him.
"I know what you've been doing!" he declared.
"Shhhh," I said, and put a finger to his lips. "Shhhh."
I danced past my stunned father. I drifted into my tiny, windowless room. And for eight hours I lay on my bed and let myself be happy.
I still wonder about Matt Fisher sometimes. Is he married now? Has two-point-two kids?
Does he ever tell stories about the craziest girl he ever knew? Kissed her one night.
Never saw her again.
Sara Gruen , WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, From the Prologue:
That moment, the music screeched to a halt. There was an ungodly collision of brass, reed, and percussion—trombones and piccolos skidded into cacophony, a tuba farted, and the hollow clang of a cymbal wavered out of the big top, over our heads and into oblivion.
Grady froze, crouched over his burger with his pinkies extended and lips spread wide.
SECOND EXCERPT from the prologue of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS:
The concession stand in the center of the tent had been flattened, and in its place was a roiling mass of spots and stripes—of haunches, heels, tails, and claws, all of it roaring, screeching, bellowing, or whinnying. A polar bear towered above it all, slashing blindly with skillet-sized paws. It made contact with a llama and knocked it flat—BOOM. The llama hit the ground, its neck and legs splayed like the five points of a star. Chimps screamed and chattered, swinging on ropes to stay above the cats. A wild-eyed zebra zigzagged too close to a crouching lion, who swiped, missed, and darted away, his belly close to the ground.
Please post your ideas regarding rhythm and cadence and beats.
Have you trained your Cadence Ear?
Does your work carry the power of cadence?
Do you work to create cadence that draws the reader deeper into the scene?
I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll respond as time allows during my work day. I’ll be on-line in the evening (Mountain Time).
POST A COMMENT – AND YOU MAY WIN A LECTURE PACKET!
I will draw a name for a Lecture Packet, a $22 value, at 10PM Mountain Time. Winners may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my six on-line courses. Lecture Packets are available for all my courses through Paypal from my website, www.MargieLawson.com.
1. Empowering Characters' Emotions
2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life:
Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
5. Digging Deep into the EDITS System
6. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Thank you for being here today. Please keep reading – you’ll learn about cool opportunities for writers!
FYI: BRENDA NOVAK’S DIABETES AUCTION!
NYT Bestseller, Brenda Novak, donates an amazing chunk of her life to fundraising for diabetes research. She selflessly gives months of her energy, creativity, and what would have been writing time, family time, self-time to her DIABETES AUCTION.
For writers – it’s a warm-your-heart win-win. Bid on one of the hundreds of items – support diabetes research and you may win an experience that changes your life. A plotting lunch with an agent or NYT bestseller at a national conference could contribute to a contract for you.
If you're not familiar with this auction -- it's a gold mine for writers!
My husband and I love to support the Diabetes Auction. With over 1000 donations, if I don’t mention them . . . you might miss them.
Yikes – a Missed Opportunity!
1. A set of six Lecture Packets
2. A 50 page Triple Pass Deep Edit Critique
3. Registration for a Write At Sea Master Class by Marge Lawson on Deep Editing Power, April 4 -8, 2011; donation by Margie Lawson and Julia Hunter
4. A FLYING GETAWAY FOR TWO
You select the destination – any place within 600 nautical miles from Denver.
A weekend, you and a friend, plus my pilot-husband flying our four-seater plane, me, and a two-hour deep editing consult. The consult is on the ground.
5. Registration for an IMMERSION MASTER CLASS session!
A $450 value . . .
The three-day Immersion Master Class sessions are designed as a personalized, hone-your-manuscript experience focusing on deep editing. The sessions are held in Margie’s log home at the top of a mountain west of Denver. Participants will concentrate on transforming their manuscript into a page-turner. The winner may attend a session in the fall of 2010 (depending on availability), or one of the four sessions offered in 2011.
THE DIABETES AUCTION runs from MAY 1ST to MAY 31ST. You can tour the
Diabetes Auction site now. http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/
Brenda Novak is my hero. What a way to give back.
Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for writers.
Her Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.
Over four thousand writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last five years, she presented fifty-four full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Lectures from each of Margie’s on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site. For more information on courses, lecture packets, master classes, and 3-day Immersion Master Class sessions, visit: www.MargieLawson.com .
Thank you for your time – and thank you again for joining us today!
NEXT WEEK'S BLOG: VALENTINE'S DAY WAYBACK STYLE
Please join me and six other Wayback authors as we share special valentine moments featuring couples from our books on sale at THE WILD ROSE PRESS.