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.
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.
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.
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.
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