1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Clear Voice vs. Rhythmical Voice

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Jan 8, 2015.

    As many of you have explained to me, it is more important that a text should be clear than that it should be rhythmical. When I wrote some paragraphs trying to be rhythmical and posted them on these forums, you removed the excess wording and exposed the clearer representation, taking away all rhythm I intended it to have, although I did not succeed in making it. This seems to indicate that the clearest words are not compatible with the voices I want to use. If I convey my thoughts in the plainest language, I will have a very limited set of voices in which to write. There seems therefore to be some tension between clarity and rhythm. What are your thoughts on the matter?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think, and I've expressed, more than once, that clarity comes first. When you have mastered clarity--and by "mastered" I mean a few hundred thousand words--you could START to look at rhythm.

    There is absolutely no rule that says that clarity is incompatible with rhythm. But you don't sit down at a piano and compose a world-class symphony that pleasingly breaks the standards of music, on the first day.

    waitingforzion, you need to write. Just write. Words and sentences and paragraphs. I'm starting to think that this focus on rhythm is really a way of putting off the day that you start writing. If you set yourself an impossible beginning task, then you never have to actually begin. By demanding that you START with rhythm, you are setting yourself an impossible task, and you are safeguarding yourself from ever having to begin.
     
  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I assume that when you are posting and requesting help, as you have done above, you are writing clearly and concisely and avoiding all attempt to write rhythmically.

    And that's your problem, right there. That one sentence of yours that I've quoted contains all your bad practice. You've extended your sentence with sub-clauses tacked on all over the place, as if you've suddenly thought of something else that you wanted to include but couldn't be bothered (or didn't know how) to edit to include in a logical place. Your comma usage is somewhat random, as if you're following the beginner's advice to put one in when you need a breath, rather than using them to separate sub-clauses.

    Look at my first sentence. If you remove the sub-clause ("as you have done above") it still leaves a valid and grammatical sentence. The sub-clause ADDs to the meaning of the main clause.

    Edited to include 123456789's correction.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015
  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you mean "and requesting help, as you have done above," ?
     
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point 123456789...I've amended that sentence by removing the initial comma (between 3rd & 4th words), starting the sub-clause after the 10th word, and inserted "you have done".

    I assume that, when you are posting and requesting help, as you have done above, you are writing clearly and concisely and avoiding all attempt to write rhythmically.
     
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  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It's not about plain language. It's about writing with content in mind first, and keeping out some of the redundant frills.
    Here's a clip from
    Irene Iddesleigh - Amanda McKittrick Ros

    Can you make heads or tails of this? It's trying to be poetic and lyrical but drops the ball with every phrase. Even the clearest sentence, the last one, is made goofy by the phrase 'ere John was made the recipient' - why not received another invitation? Nothing is lost. By trying so hard to sound poetic she's lost sight of her content, and frustrated the reader.

    Look at these passages from Lolita not a lot of frills just great assembly -
    Nabokov never looses sight of context. That's the sign of a true poet. Ros is looking for pretty words and phrases ( and I'm pretty sure they came before context because they don't even really match the context. ) By focusing so heavily on trying to sound important rather than examine her context and finding a way of exploring the beauty in it, she's made herself look like a pompous twit.

    Any rhythm that lacks clarity isn't going to be of much enjoyment. Plus, in order to write with rhythm you have to play it more by ear than by something tweaked out by a linguists guide. You can't plan to be lyrical not like a formula, because it's mainly about word choice and assembly and that could take multiple drafts to achieve. It's not about writing down a lyrical paragraph it's about writing down a logical paragraph - taking it's mood and shaping it into a lyrical passage.

    Some writer's can do that first draft ( be lyrical ) but most can't. It takes practice.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015
    Tyler Danann and 123456789 like this.
  7. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I have to agree with this. First paragraph above: clarity is key. If your message doesn't get through, what's the point? If no one knows your story or slips on an important sentence here or there, your whole objective in telling that story is down the toilet. Third paragraph: I'll give an example. I have a friend who wants to write a three-book opus. Right out of the gates. Barely has any prose experience. This thing is an epic. But...why start there? Anyway, he's written a hundred page ones, but no more. He keeps starting over, saying he doesn't know where the story will go or he's having problems with this or that. He's planned this thing out over and over and over, but he hasn't written anything. I've told him to start small (and he has, but he's only dabbled), but he's nowhere near touching this epic of his. He's effectively, as @ChickenFreak has said, made himself an impossible task, and that task is this huge saga on his first try. Sounds like you: you're trying to tackle too much at this stage.

    Would someone intend to run 10 miles an hour on his first visit to the gym? No. So would a writer intend to tackle rhythm, voice, craft, and grammar on his first story? Or even his tenth? Probably not a good idea. Just write something. A single story, beginning to end, whether it's one page or ten (I'd stay away from something too lengthy just yet). A single story. After you've done that a few times, try tackling editing. First, cut out the unnecessary words. Then try looking for active vs. passive. Whatever. Just don't tackle too much on your first shot. Or your next. Until you're comfortable with one thing, don't try the next.
     
  8. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Should I aim for clarity in my first draft? Or should I permit myself to write convoluted things and revise the clarity into them? I am sincerely confused here, because when I write certain thoughts it tends to come out convoluted, like with those paragraphs I posted.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Clarity first.

    When you write forum posts, they seem to be pretty clear. You wrote:

    Should I aim for clarity in my first draft? Or should I permit myself to write convoluted things and revise the clarity into them?

    You didn't write

    Should I revise clarity into my creations, my writing, the work often known as the draft of the beginning, the "first draft", adding clarity, meaning, understanding into the words, but only doing so after first, as a prequel, as a beginning, as the opening of my work, I create those words in my usual writing fashion?

    Right? Or did you? Was there a much, much more convoluted version of "Should I aim for clarity in my first draft?" that you wrote and then had to edit it down to the sentence that you ended up posting?

    I'm not being sarcastic here. I think I've asked a similar question before, and you went into a silence. I really would like to know--DO you write your relatively clear forum posts that way the first time, or do they come out convoluted on the first try?

    If you write them clearly the first time, then you can write clearly, and you're just suppressing that ability, under specific circumstances. I think that the key is to find out why.
     
  10. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    That was the first version of my post.
     
  11. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Text that prioritizes rhythm over clarity is called "poetry".
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    What works for me is to put thoughts into words in the first draft without giving second thought to how anyone else would read them. I do not care if it is clear to anyone else or if anyone else would enjoy the rhythm. I do not even care if it is grammatically valid or if I use "real" words. I only care that the thoughts are represented in some form outside my mind, so I can move onto my next thoughts and come back to these thoughts later.

    Then I piece those thoughts together into something that can be easily understood by someone else. I just need the pieces all in front of me, in the general area where they belong, before I can assemble the puzzle.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you can write clearly. You're just suppressing that ability, sometimes. I'm assuming that the "sometimes" is when you're writing what you think of as Writing, permanent creative effort, rather than putting words down merely to communicate.

    But there's no "merely" about communicating. That's the top priority; everything else comes after that.

    You can write. You can communicate. You write and communicate in your posts. So you need to start Writing the way you write your posts. Clearly and simply. I know that that kind of writing isn't what you want in the end, but it's what you need to start with.

    You can slowly, slowly work on making that writing more elegant, but I wouldn't recommend doing that until you've written a large number of words, on a large number of topics, in that clear clean style. I'd recommend, again, a minimum of about a hundred thousand words before you even start to think about anything but clarity. And even when you start to add those other things, you cannot afford to reduce the clarity. That hundred thousand words is to start making clarity automatic. It's like learning to ride your bicycle automatically before you start trying to do tricks on it.
     
  14. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    If you feel comfortable, post a sample here. Maybe you're being too hard on yourself.
     
  15. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rhythmical voice would be the very last thing I worried about. My understanding is that when you have long sweeping sentences or even groups of sentences, you read them out loud to yourself, then you can hear when they flow well. Usually it doesn't take much of a change to get them to sound right. Beyond that, I sure wouldn't worry about it.
     

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