Guest blogging for me today is author Bettie Boswell, advising why and how to add music and poetry to prose. She’s published in many genres, including children’s nonfiction, romance, and her latest effort, releasing in July, is a time-slip novel. Thank you, Bettie, for coming back to visit us!
March was Music in Our Schools Month and now April is National Poetry Month. What’s a writer to do? Write something musical or poetic, of course. When I taught music, students were encouraged to create their own music or rhythmic speech by using the natural rhythms provided by rhythmic word flashcards. The cards helped them to come up with phrases, which flowed into a musical or poetic piece: Peaches, pear, popcorn, plum. Did you catch both the rhythm (short short, long, short, short, long) and the alliteration (same beginning sound) devices in that little phrase? A catchy title for your next suspense novel might use that pattern: Some Saints Sing, Some Souls Scream (or maybe not, but you get the idea.)
I think that title is fantastic. Or you can split it into two fantastic titles for two books in a series. I’m terrible at titles. I should consult you.
Did I hear you say you have no musical or poetic talents?
Whether you realize it or not, as a writer you can make use of music and poetic devices to improve your prose writing. You might even want to be really brave and add the words of a song or poem into your latest work-in-progress. My novel coming out in July will have several poems included as part of the story. You might even feel the call to try writing a Novel-in-Verse, which has become a very popular genre in the last few years. So, what can you do with your two left feet or should I say two broken pencils and warped word processors as you start adding a musical or poetic touch to your words?
Let’s start with something simple–take a rest. In music a rest is when you don’t sing or play your instrument, you take a break to ready yourself for what will come next. In poetry the rest is white space between stanzas or line breaks between phases to give the reader time to savor the words. In prose, think about making use of white space. Use it between conversations. Break into long monologues with questions or action or reactions so the reader has time to contemplate what will come next and look forward with anticipation, instead of being lulled to sleep.
I never thought about the white space on the page like this. Great advice!
When the action gets tough for your characters, use a little staccato or accents. I. Told. You. To. Stop. Tap. Tap. Tap. The preceding onomatopoeic (sounds like what it is) tapping words also use another poetic device called repetition, which works well in the music and poetry worlds for refrains. I’m sure you can sing the chorus of many songs, even if you don’t know all the verses. If you’re writing for young children, they love that repeated phrase they can say along with the adult who is reading to them. As you write your prose, there may be something that needs heard more than once, or if you’re marketing your book you will need to repeat yourself many times before someone says, “I didn’t realize you wrote a book!”
Poetry, music and prose have many forms.
From a Beethoven symphony to a pop song, music enjoyment comes in multiple forms. New forms of poetry are invented all the time (see the link below.) You don’t have to have perfect rhythm or rhyme abilities to write a haiku, acrostic, or a list poem. Prose writing has forms like picturebooks, nonfiction, romance, suspense, mystery, allegory, and sci-fi, to name a few. What if one of your characters speaks in poetry or riddles or writes about their pets in haiku? Explore the possibility of spicing up your story with a poem or song lyrics (you don’t even have to write the music notes for your song.) Maybe your hero or heroine has a catch phrase or manner of speaking that involves some poetic elements. You could even preface the character’s words as being bad poetry and get away with murder, that is, if you’re writing a mystery.
The use of poetic and musical tones can help establish a character’s voice. In my novel, Free to Love (July 2022-is the repetition working for you yet) one character records the past and establishes an important part of her personality through writing poetry about pre-Civil-War events that lead her to free someone in slavery and help them escape to the north. Tone or voice is also important in prose and music when it comes to establishing whether your piece will be happy, sad, yearning, or hopeless.
So, don’t feel hopeless when it comes to your writing. Make it sing. Make it reach into your soul like a poem. Pour your emotions and heart into all that you do. Happy writing!
For more on poetic forms, click here.
So many good tips, Bettie! You’ve made me realize more than ever that prose isn’t so different from music and poetry. To read Bettie’s previous guest blogs, click here.
When a college sweetheart used Ginny Cline’s dreams for his own glory, he stole her joy of composing music and her trust in men. Years later, encouraged by prayer and a chance to help the local museum, she dares to share her talents again. Unfortunately a financial backer forces her to place her music and trust into the hands of another man.
Theater professor Scott Hallmark’s summer camp benefactor coerces him into becoming the director of Ginny’s musical. The last thing he needs is another woman who uses him to get what they want, especially an amateur who has no idea what they are doing.
As Ginny’s interest in Scott grows, her confusion arises over Honey, a member of Scott’s praise band. Mix in a couple of dogs and quirky cast members for fun and frustration as the couple work together to discover that forgiveness and trust produce perfect harmony.
Note-I hope you can read On Cue soon since the prequel Free to Love will be available July 1, 2022.
Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and create stories. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her first experience with Christian romance started when she spent a summer with her grandmother during her early teen years and read a Grace Livingston Hill novel. Now she reads a Christian novel every week and sometimes more than one. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult fiction and non-fiction. Her first romance novel, On Cue, debuted November 2020. The prequel to that novel, called Free to Love will be available from Mt. Zion Ridge Press in July 2022. Here other books and stories are “Fred’s Gift” in From the Lake to the River, Sidetracked, and Skateboarding. Before that she contributed to educational works, magazine articles, and devotional and short story anthologies. She has two grown sons, three grandchildren, and a busy minister husband. Follow her on her website, Bettie Boswell, Author/Illustrator.