Have you ever thought of poetry as “verbal music”? That’s how writer Darlo Gemeinhardt describes it in this post on Almost an Author. She goes on to describe the “notes” of this music. Two of these “notes”, alliteration and consonance, are discussed at length in two other posts on this site. The author dissects line from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to demonstrate how effective these “notes” can be.
I believe prose writers can use these techniques as long as we don’t overuse them. Alliteration, consonance, and assonance bring a rhythm to prose that, hopefully, make it memorable.
Alliteration — “the repetition of initial consonant sounds”. From Alliteration: The Sound of Poetry I
I love alliteration, but I’m always afraid of using it too much, making my writing look amateurish. So I’ll ask your opinion. Which do you think is better?
“I glued my gaze to the gun.”
“I fastened my gaze to the gun.”
I went with the second, buy maybe the first was better.
Another thing I’ve noticed with alliteration is that superheroes seemed to have alliterative names: Bruce Banner, Clark Kent, and Peter Parker. If you are thinking of creating a superhero, an alliterative name is something to consider.
Consonance — the repetition of the same consonant sound within words that are contained in the same line or sentence. From Consonance: The Sound of Poetry II.
Consonance reminded me of a writing exercise in my college creative writing class. The professor asked us to think of words that sounded a certain way, such as words that sound cold. I came up with “incisive.” The long “I” and “s” signaled cold to me. When the professor asked for words that sounded fat, I suggested “triumphant.”
So when trying to set the mood of a scene, I keep in mind how the words sound. For a scene where a character is sneaking through the night, I might use words that have a lot of “s” sounds. “N” also sounds soft. I would use “night” more often than “dark”, which has a harder sound.
But a fight scene could use harsher sounds, like “k”, “d’, and “t”.
Assonance — the repetition of vowel sounds anywhere within a group of words. From The Music of Poetry by Darlo Gemeinhardt
Assonance can give rhythm to names. I recently needed to come up with a name for a characters who is a millionaire. Since he is nice millionaire. I decided the name couldn’t be too strong. Names ending in “ton” sound wealthy and powerful, like “Kensington”. or “Covington”. I decided on “Everett”. Not too imposing, but it sounded like the family could be from old money. I chose “Adam” as the first name because it’s fairly traditional, suitable for a member of an old-money family, but not as boring Richard or Robert.
When I put “Adam Everett” together, I really liked the rhythm and now I know why. The assonance of the short “a” in “Adam” and the short “e” in Everett give the name a dash of poetry.
How do you use elements of poetry in your prose?
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