I feel moved by Truman Capote’s quote, “To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” I often listen to the music of words and revel in their rhythm. Last night, for instance, I fell asleep thinking of Little Orphan Annie. That’s it, just the title, Little Orphan Annie. Three words, six syllables, with the accent on the first syllable of each word. Such rhythm! No wonder the title was catchy.
Titles with rhythm stay in readers’ minds. We need to think in terms of rhythm when we title our stories, books, and plays. Prose writers who keep rhythm in mind add a subtle creativity to their writing that does not stand out, but quietly, in the background, forms a masterful, musical composition of words.
As an example of an extreme, however, years ago a woman attended one of my workshops, and afterward she handed me a sheet of paper and said, “I don’t know what I’ve written. What would you call this?”
The page consisted of about six paragraphs that described the author’s feeling about life. The piece had such inherent rhythm that I said, “This is pretty prose, but break this into lines, and you’ve written an outstanding poem.”
“I’m a poet?” She looked surprised, startled, and proud.
Instead of being consciously concerned about the accents on syllables, strong prose writers add rhythm to their work by adding a little alliteration here and there, plus changing up the lengths of words, sentences, and paragraphs. With a combination of lengths, the prose forms a natural rhythm. An occasional one- or two-word sentence adds spunk to writing. The infrequent long sentence adds intrigue and sometimes mystery, in the same way. Rats! I wish I could write that way.