1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Musical Prose: Rhythm, Cadence, and how?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Mar 14, 2016.

    I want to write in a poetically musically elevated style. In to do that, I must have command of prose rhythm, and not just any kind of prose rhythm, but the kind found in works like the King James Bible. The problem is that, although I understand meter and things like that, I don't know how to compose poetic prose rhythms to create certain effects and voices. I think that there must be some theory of rhythm or cadance, possibly borrowed from music, that can explain these things to me. Is anyone aware of this?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You're getting ahead of yourself - think message first and then beauty.
    And never think elevated. The beauty of the Bible is it's simplicity - the reason a lot of it can be misinterpreted is not by the language but by the way it's separated sometimes mid sentence.

    Take - one sentence -Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

    Forget the rhythm for a moment and look at the actual content. The meaning - Even though I walk through a deadly world I will fear nothing because God is always with me, and his word and promises comfort/ protect me.

    The metaphors are added to register with his readers and to create a visual. He's not talking down to his readers. And he's showing not just telling. He picks specifics to keep the meaning absolutely clear. NO evil. For THOU ART with me ( undebatable. ) VALLEY ( vulnerability ), SHADOW OF DEATH ( shadows pass and sometimes they're more frightening as they can keep you on edge.)

    You want cadence? Keep things simple. Metaphors that will easily register. Simple but exact words. Keep the most important meanings to the front or end of the sentence. And show rather than tell. Use lists and repeat words for rhythm.

    Their is no formula for writing a novel with poetic style - It's not as simple as writing a poem. You need to be flexible and practice.
     
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  3. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    Not sure a textbook is the answer. More like a journey of self-discovery. You'll definitely want some incense, or at least a Glade plugin. Radiant berries. Theory merely describes practice which is ultimately informed by feeling. You could study examples that have achieved what it is you're talking about and maybe a little spark from their fires will jump into you.
     
  4. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I'm not sure I completely agree or can follow your advice to the full. Meaning and cadence are different and are created separately. As for using simple words and repeating words, I know they create rhythm, but they will not do all the work on their own if the writer does not have a sense of the rhythm he wants to create. I know the kind of rhythm that can be created by repeating words and using rhetorical devices like parallelism. And it is not hard for me to use these devices. They can create rhythm, but not always a certain kind of rhythm, unless they are used to that end, the writing knowing and using the voice that he wants.

    Please explain what you mean by lists.

    Please correct me if my reasoning is wrong.
     
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  5. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    People follow the advice given here all the time, striving for minimalism, but this alone does not create rhythm. The write must consciously guide his word choice to achieve it.. I'm not saying they should depart from minimalism, but that advice simply does not address cadence.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Just a sequences of words. Three nouns or adjectives sort of thing. I don't know all the proper terms.

    But you have to have the meaning first in order to have a logical sentence/paragraph. Cadence should only come afterwards. That's why writers write in drafts. Meaning first - beauty worked in.

    How do you write Forzion? I'm getting the impression that you're struggling with every word to make sure it's following some poetic pentameter or tetrameter - some kind of meter or something. That maybe fine if you're writing poetry but insanely difficult if you're trying to write a novel.

    All I'm suggesting is to just write your first draft without any meters without any formula, without any boundaries. You don't need them. Go on pure word use, sentence variety, and your own ear to make it look and sound good. That's the key to cadence and rhythm anyway. And that way you can build on your draft and tweak it to adjust and fine tune the rhythm. I don't know of any author that adhered to some strict formulated meter system to give them wonderful prose - Nabokov, Angela Carter, John Updike, Poe - they all just had good ears for words.

    Be flexible.
    In another thread someone suggested the way you're trying it now isn't working so why not give something else a shot?

    I struggled for years trying to find some formula to write prose like my favorite authors - my breakthrough was realizing there was no formula. They simply loved words. And the best thing about that revelation, it allowed me to create my own style. I was free and more satisfied with what I was writing than when I had simply imitated them.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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  8. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: alternate stressed and unstressed syllables, da-DAH, da-DAH, da-DAH. If you look at writers who're described as "flowing" or "poetic," most of them just alternate stressed and unstressed syllables. (I've tried talking to some writers about this, and they don't seem to recognize they're doing it, but it's a fairly consistent pattern. The few "flowing" authors who don't do it often come up with their own syllabic patterns instead.)
     
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  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Unless you're writing poetry, I don't see a good reason to follow a strict pattern. You're actually limiting yourself by doing so. You should be focusing more on using words that fit and get your message across to the reader.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're looking for a consistently-elevated style, read Shakespeare. A lot of Shakespeare. His dialogue is all or mostly in iambic pentameter, which follows the normal rhythm of human speech. The effect of normal speech is what you want.

    Read other authors. My favorites are Austen, Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Mary Stewart. See whose prose you like. Analyze it to discover how they create the effects they do. Learn the music of their styles, and let it bring forth the prose melody in you.

    But @peachalulu is right. The form of your writing must proceed from its subject and meaning. Elevated form is suitable only for elevated topics--- unless you're writing parody.

    Form also depends on genre. You mention the King James Version of the Bible. Which parts were you thinking of? The psalms? The poetry sections of the prophets? The histories? The gospels? Different sections have their own style, depending on the kind of prose or poetry they are. Make sure yours fits.

    Develop your vocabulary, so you'll have plenty of tools on hand. Pay attention to rhythm and cadence, and select the words whose meaning and vocalization work together. But subject and meaning come first. A monarch's velvet robe means little without a king to wear it.
     
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  11. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I'm not following a strict pattern to use force every sentence into it, but to learn the pattern itself, so that later, when I want to write in a freer form, I have a sense of the rhythm, which I can choose and arrange my words to follow, making use of whatever rhetorical devices are helpful in creating it.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The above is simply gorgeous. :agreed:
     
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  13. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Some people who not in this forum are trying to discourage me from learning to write lyrically, and seem to be under the impression that it is not possible for me. Should I allow them to discourage me?
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I think those people are worried about the same things we are, that is, focus more on readability and clarity.
     
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  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course not. Just don't lose the meaning as you're doing it.

    I try to write lyrically myself, though the King James Bible doesn't provide the kind of rhythm and cadence I'm looking for. I know this: It takes a lot of work and patience, and most of all, focus. You can't lose the meaning as you strive for beautiful prose. Even James Joyce, an acknowledged genius who wrote probably the most advanced and considered prose in English in modern history, worked so slowly and carefully that some days he'd only produce two sentences.

    I take it you're not a musician. I believe musical experience and training helps with this kind of thing because it makes you comfortable with a variety of rhythms, and it makes you aware of the sounds of words. It makes you aware of alliteration, accidental rhyme, and so on. It attunes your ear to what you're doing, so that you can bring it closer to what you're trying to do.

    Read your work aloud!

    Good luck. :)
     
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who has said that? I know that I've often said that you need to learn to write clearly FIRST, and then move on to the other goals. You have utterly rejected that idea, but that idea is not the same as saying that you can't or shouldn't strive for those goals.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    :supersmile:Thanks!
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, of course you shouldn't. And we don't want to discourage you either, though we may seem dogged at times. Many of us feel that both clarity and a lyrical sound can be accomplished. Poets do it all the time. We just feel that clarity cannot play second fiddle in prose. It must be upheld, in our opinion.

    Also, I am not entirely convinced that one can take lines of scripture and reduce them to just a skeleton of structure and syntax and word count, and then fill the syntax back in with words to create a new line that feels like the original. I don't think this is a productive way to look at the dynamic.

    The goal you have set for yourself is restrictive. I don't mean that in its negative connotation, just that there are a lot of rules you are imposing on yourself in order execute the kind of prose you want, hence, restricting the manner in which you can write. Others have mentioned trying your hand at poetry in a chosen meter. I think this is a good idea. It will allow you to practice writing with restriction in a way that has a tight form, unlike the more open structure of prose. You can then bring the experience the practice brings to the writing of prose that has a similar dynamic.
     
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  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've heard that W.S.Churchill based his writing style on that of Gibbons' The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    You could do worse.

    (Even if you don't want to use it as a model for your writing style, the language is gorgeous.)
     
  20. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    It would be cool to have some musical training, not only for the sake of writing prose, but also for the sake of composing music. However, I do not have the money to learn under an instructor. I need only learn about rhythm and melody, and any theory that is helpful in composing them, and of course, I must practice. But where do I get that kind of information? When I was younger, I looked for it online, but I could not find it.

    Besides this, I considered it a worthwhile exercise to write down the rhythms of certain works in a simple metric notation, showing the feet and which syllables are accented, and to try to compose new rhythmic patterns, not for the purpose of forcing words into them in the writing of a whole piece, but for the sake of gaining a sense of rhythm itself, and of particular kinds of rhythm. Unfortunately, the patterns I formed were entirely regular, or otherwise rhythmic in an ugly manner. It seems that I was not able to place together the feet which were needed to create the melody that I had in mind.

    I attribute this to a lack of the sense of rhythm and melody, and of the skills needed to compose them. And I must ask, how can I acquire the sense and the skill that is needed? I know that such a practice is not to be entirely relied upon for writing prose, for the rhythm of a given piece is not contrived beforehand, but as a practice in obtaining a sense of rhythm itself I think this to be a good exercise. But I am lacking something important which is necessary for the composition of rhythmic patterns. I need to know what that is.
     
  21. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm still not sure why this is your primary focus, but you could look at Youtube videos on music theory. Some of them are very helpful.
     
  22. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    http://shop.abrsm.org/shop/prod/Taylor-Eric-The-AB-Guide-to-Music-Theory-Part-I/598230

    Excellent book...but maybe a little advanced if you don't play an instrument (but any instrument, even a tin whistle, would do).
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You don't need to learn under an instructor, and you don't need textbooks or theory. You need your own ears, more than anything. You don't need an instrument; your own voice will do.

    Maybe you should try to find prose works whose rhythms you like, and get audiobook versions of them. Hear how a good actor reads these works aloud. See how the rhythms vary, where he puts pauses, where he speeds up and slows down for effect. See if, when you read the same work aloud, your sense of rhythm matches his.

    I don't want to discourage you, but some people just have tin ears, and have a hard time acquiring a sense of rhythm and melody. Textbooks teaching theory don't help them.

    However, that doesn't mean you can't write valuable prose. It probably just means you have to work harder at it and be more patient. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And again and again. I suggest you stop looking for a theory you can learn to help you with this, or a foolproof method or algorithm. Read your work aloud, and trust your own ears above all else.

    Good luck!
     
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  24. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I'm worried that if I wrote a paragraph in plain English I will not be able to change the rhythm and have it mean the same thing. That is why I often try to write rhythmically from the beginning. Is it true that a draft can be revised for rhythm and not lose its original meaning? Or is there a limit to the kind of rhythm that can be achieved?
     
  25. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The answers to these questions are really up to you. The questions should be: Can you revise a draft for rhythm and not lose its original meaning? Is there a limit to the kind of rhythm that can be achieved by you?

    As I said before, I like to write lyrically, too. That means that the vast majority of my writing time is spent staring into space, trying to phrase a sentence in a way that sounds good to me. (Writing by hand, with pen and paper, helps with this, I find.) Then I try to build on the rhythm of that sentence with the next one. If it's not working out, I restart the paragraph and try again. It's a matter of focus (on meaning, rhythm, sound) and persistence. You just have to keep at it until you're satisfied. Van Morrison had an album called "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher." That's the approach you need. Don't think there's a textbook or an authority of some kind you can refer to. At some point, you just have to sit down and work it out all by yourself. Don't be afraid of that. It's one of the joys of writing, or any other kind of creation.

    Good luck!
     
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