1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Rules vs. Rhythm

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Aug 18, 2014.

    In this age we have gotten used to certain natural rhythms. We find these rhythms in everything we read. But if everything we read is from this age, we know nothing about the more elevated rhythms that give older writings their power. And it is no wonder, because these rhythms cannot be crafted by following the rules we have today. Today, we are blessed with a number of books that set down guidelines. These guidelines tell us how to best structure our sentences so that readers can easily understand them, and so that they are the most effective. But although these guidelines indeed produce strong writing, they cannot produce the rhythms tbat we find in older prose. For if we choose the least number of words each time, and the most pointed of them, and arrange them in the manner those guidelines dictate, we will always produce the plainest rhythms. Therefore a higher set of guidelines must exist tbat enables us to produce more beautiful ones. And yet, if we look at the King James Bible, we see that the prose is indeed clear, not following the rules completely, but enough to make us wonder if perhaps it has something that violates the natural agreement of words.
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    What makes rhythm good? Do you read out loud? Do you subvocalize?
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Somehow I don't see pages of "begats" as terribly rhythmic.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The King James Bible has always struck me as pretty spare and clean and clear, without a lot of excess words. And I don't see a lot of rule-breaking in it, either. It achieves its poetry from elegant simplicity, not from struggling and straining for rhythm.
     
  5. John Krone
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    John Krone New Member

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    The OP comment is a great insight. I'm so glad you mentioned it, and it is in my view the "other" dimension of creative writing. One barely tapped into.
    Our brains are designed to comprehend and appreciate rhythm. It's why we love music.
    A beat in a song, is repetitive and timed. Our left brain, predicts the oncoming beat, it builds expectation and anticipation. It generates hormones and by that, emotion. It's why we love our favorite part of a song. A rhyming word in a song, makes a powerful statement to us also, if it's not contrived. A rhyme, is based on a historical reference and timing.

    I believe that same concept can be developed in story, using only words. Learning to layer a story with recurring references, timed and spaced. Using multiple threads, in the same way a band uses multiple instruments. These create rhythm in a story, on a conscious and subconscious level both.

    I hope you pursue that concept, I think your right on. Poetry taps into some basic level of it I think, but story writing, is still virgin in that respect imo.
    John
     
  6. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    The Bible does not seem to struggle for rhythm, but to easily achieve it, which I do not find natural for most English, because most English, following the same rules of clarity, does not even come close to producing it. In your opinion, is it possible to produce the same voices using the rules we have today? I am beginning to think that it is not.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that it's possible to achieve beautiful, graceful prose with the English that we have today, yes. And I think that you're over-prioritizing one element of the Bible, where there are a few words and a comma, and then a few words and a comma, and then a few words and a comma, and then a few more words. This da-dah, da-dah, da-dah rhythm alone really doesn't have value; what gives it beauty is the actual words. In fact, what gives it beauty is what breaks it; the rhythm is the bland canvas on which the actual beauty is achieved.

    You seem to be starting with the da-dah, da-dah, da-dah rhythm as an absolute prerequisite, a form into which all other efforts must be placed. But that rhythm isn't the beauty, and using that rhythm as your canvas isn't the only or even primary way to achieve beauty.
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The bible is all about clarity, stating things in a regal, powerful but simple manner. It's also about hiding truths in language. Even in the begats the entire linage ends with a twist, lost if skipped over - Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. It's clearly, cleverly stating Joseph did not begat Jesus.

    If you want to use this style examine it. Write out - not the scripture according to how it's numbered - but the sentences. Unfortunately, though the bible is written so that one can find things easily it's broken up a lot of sentences and sometimes if the reader isn't careful they can mess up meanings. One thing I've noticed and love about the Bible's rhythm and style is that is is bold, never hesitates - it's not out to convince but inform and enlighten.

    One passage I especially love and love the style of - Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
    Starts with something powerful and romantic ( a man talking to his soul ) and ends on a similar note that actually elevates the power of the first - bless his holy name.

    I have to agree with Chickenfreak - power is in the message. Find a worthy story, theme and let the powerful prose sharpen it.
     
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  9. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    It's probably important to remember that much of the Bible was originally written in Greek, and some in Hebrew, and the rhythm you see is the product of the various translators and not necessarily the original authors. Assuming that, English can indeed produce the rhythm you're looking for.

    Even as the grammar Nazi that I admit to being, it seems to me that there is a very large latitude within the "rules" for all kinds of writing. Even in popular fiction, the rhythms vary widely. Compare the work of a writer like Robert Parker or Elmore Leonard to, say, Tom Wolfe.
     
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