Writing in Rhyme for Children

The Bible says God gives us specific talents. Do you remember being a kid and discovering something you were really good at? God planted that seed in you and it started to grow. As you grew you learned to make what you’re good at work for you.

I’m good at making rhymes. When I was little, I drove people crazy singing silly made-up songs. My mother enjoyed reminding me of my first rhyme, made up at age three, Pepsi cola hits the pot . . . but, I digress. As a freelance writer, I’ve written more than a dozen rhyming books.

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Editors often reject manuscripts written in rhyme. The truth is, writing in rhyme is hard. It requires more than counting syllables, matching stressed and unstressed beats and careful placement of multi-syllable words. A good rhyme has to flow and also move the story forward. It’s not about finding a word that rhymes to fit a rhyming pattern, but finding the best word. That means playing with words, turning them inside out and upside down, until they work. Rhymes can’t be forced. The words need to flow smoothly one line melting into the next.

When writing in rhyme, here are three tips to remember:

1. What’s most important is the story. The words need to create pictures in the reader’s mind.

My brother’s bug was green and plump,
It did not run, it could not jump,
It had no fur for it to shed,
It slept all night beneath his bed.
Jack Prelutsky

2. Next, think about meter, the pattern of the beat. Count syllables. Make sure they flow. Read your rhyme aloud. Have someone read it back to you. (I find it helpful to have my computer’s speech function read it back.) Keep rewriting until the meter flows smoothly.

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
Shel Silverstein

3. Finally, and this is the trickiest part, check the rhyming words and decide if they are the best words or if you’ve chosen them just because they rhyme. Sometimes, using a stronger word can set your story or main idea in a whole new, and better, direction.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss

The words Theodore Geisel  chose: “feet”, “shoes”, “steer”, “direction” all work together to create an image that implies motion. Imagine if he had written instead:

“You have brains in your head. You have nothing to lose. You can take yourself to any place that you choose.” 

The idea falls flat.

Online rhyming dictionaries can be a great help. I like RhymeZone. It allows you to organize results by syllables, words and phrases. For inspiration you can also search for a word to see how it was used in published song lyrics and poems.

If you plan to write in rhyme, learn by reading classics by authors like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Margaret Wise Brown . . . Check out Anna Dewdney’s “Llama, Llama” books,  Julia Donaldson’s rhyming books (“The Gruffalo” and others), and Jane Yolen’s “What Rhymes With Moon?”  Study the meter, the story structure, the way the words flow. Using their rhymes as models, try writing your own.

Writing in rhyme takes practice. It’s not as easy as you think.

If you find your task is hard,
Try, try again.
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again.
All that other folk can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view,
Try, try again.
William Edward Hickson

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Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized, writing rhymes

Word Game: Can You Find the Oxymorons?

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A friend told me, “I want to listen to the news and know what’s going on in the world, but it’s really hard listening when the news is all bad.” She’s not alone. But, what if there were a word game to play, something fun to do while listening to all that bad news? Fun and bad news. Total opposites! Somewhat similar to an oxymoron—a figure of speech, usually one or two words, in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. (organized mess, controlled chaos).

Without diminishing the importance of today’s news and current events, here’s a word game you can play while listening to the news. Following is a list of 100 oxymorons commonly heard in current news reports and news-related talk shows. When listening is difficult, focus on finding the words! See how long it takes before you’ve found them all.

A
alone together
altogether separate
anyone
anxious patient

B
ball diamond
bar opening
barely dressed (without a mask!)
behaving badly

C
checkpoint
clearly confused
conspicuous absence
constant change
constructive criticism
conventional wisdom
come away
criminal justice
civil war

“Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment.”—Learned Hand

D
defensive attack
disaster relief
doing nothing

E
easy task
emotional reasoning
extensive briefing

F
feeling numb
fine mess
forced choice
free will

G
global village
going nowhere
great depression

H
head butt
highly depressed
home office
hopelessly optimistic

“Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad.”—Manly Hall

I
ill health
increasing losses
incredibly real
initial results

J
job security
journalistic integrity
junk food

L
lonesome
loyal opposition 

M
mandatory option
missing here

N
new normal
never again

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.”—Herbert Spencer

O
occupied space
objective opinion
obstructed view
only choice
open bar
ordinary event
outcome 

“Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.”—Charles Capps

P
passive resistance
peaceful offense
permanent change
personal business
political party
press release
pretty ugly
preposterous
private citizen
progressively worse

Q
qualitative data
questionable answer
quiet rage
quite unlikely

R
recorded live
required elective
restless sleep
riot control
rising deficit
roadblock
rough finish 

S
scale down
set off
short distance
slow speed
small army
social  distance
spectator sport
stand down
storehouse
strangely familiar

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” —John Keating

T
taped live
tax cut
tax free
tense calm
terribly good
true story 

U
unacceptable solution
unbiased opinion
unusual routine

V
very little
victimless crime

W
whenever
willful negligence

Y
young adult

Z
zero deficit

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Filed under Fun, fun with words, Oxymorons, Quizzes, Uncategorized, unusual words, words