Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 1 ~ Lori Mortensen ~ Rhythm and Rhyme

Red Stars

Clyde Award Image

COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE

by Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Winner

Congratulations Lori!

2016-best-in-rhyme-logo

See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

One blue star

RHYTHM AND RHYME

By Lori Mortensen

If you’ve ever delved into rhyme, you know rhyming can be a complicated business.  Not only is there a boatload of elements to consider such as true rhymes, near rhymes, forced rhymes, end rhymes, and internal rhymes, but there’s also a slew of specific rhyming patterns with names like iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, and spondee. (If you know these terms, you definitely deserve some extra rhyming brownie points!)

The good news is–you don’t have to know these terms to write fun, frolicking stories in rhyme.

For me, writing in rhyme is all about the rhythm.  As a former dance major, I’m drawn to the rhythm of the words and the beat they create when they’re spoken aloud. When I first began writing in rhyme, I thought it was all about creating patterns based on the number of syllabic beats in a line, as if each syllable received the same weight.

But I was mistaken.

Instead, I discovered that each word has its own rhythm depending on which syllables are stressed.  Writing a line creates a certain rhythm that ultimately shapes the rhythm of the stanza.

Picture books contain a variety of rhythms. For example, in the first stanza of She Did It! by Jennifer Ericsson, the rhythm feels like a march that matches the energetic quality of the characters she’s writing about.

Four sisters, different sizes.

            Four sisters, early risers.

However, in Judy Sierra’s book Wild About Books, the rhythm of the text feels steady and lyrical as if the reader is chugging along with the librarian as she drives the bookmobile to the zoo.

It started the summer of 2002,

            When the Springfield librarian, Molly McGrew,

            By mistake drove her bookmobile into the zoo.

 

As the examples also demonstrated, the rhythm you choose should enhance the story you want to tell. In my picture book Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, I wrote lines with a rhythm that moseys along just like Cowpoke Clyde.

Cowpoke Clyde poked at an ad.

“Looky, Dawg, at this here fad.

            It says that when my chores are done,

            I’m s’posed to ride a bike fer fun.”

 

Once I established the rhythmic pattern, the bigger challenge became finding fresh rhymes that supported the story.  One of my favorite rhyming tools is an online rhyming dictionary. Whenever I need to find a rhyme, I plug in a word and bingo! All the rhyming options appear on the screen. As I study the options, unexpected combinations of rhymes can enrich the story in new and surprising ways as it did in this stanza:

The more Clyde thunk, the more he smiled

at ridin’ something not so wild.

It wouldn’t eat. It wouldn’t stray.

It wouldn’t buck or bite or neigh!

Smiled and wild? Stray and neigh? I hadn’t planned on writing that, but when I made those rhyming connections, the stanza fell neatly into place.

Sometimes rhymes don’t work because good rhyming options simply don’t exist.  When that happens, I have to take a step back and find a word with better rhyming choices. It can be a time consuming process, but with patience and a bit of serendipitous luck, I eventually fit the words together like pieces of a puzzle.

The ultimate test for a rhyming manuscript is to read it aloud. Once you know the rhythm, you’ll hear if a line is missing a beat, if there are too many beats, or places where a reader stumbles. When you’ve written the text successfully, anyone should be able to read it without a blip or a hiccup.

Rhyming can be a complicated business. But it’s a lot easier if you approach it with rhythm and rhyme in mind.

One blue star


When award-winning author, Lori Mortensen, is not letting her cat in, or out, or in–she’s tapping away at her computer, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding her latest stories to life. All that tapping has resulted in the publication of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. Recent releases include Chicken Lily (Henry Holt 2016), Mousequerade Ball (Bloomsbury, 2016) illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Betsy Lewin, and Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range (Clarion, 2016) a sequel to Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, one of Amazon’s best picture books of 2013. Visit her website at http://www.lorimortensen.com for more information about teacher guides, book trailers, reviews, and more.

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Chicken Lily, Henry Holt
“Nice addition to story times . . . and good for anyone who’s a little chicken.”–Kirkus Reviews
Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, Clarion
“Another doggone funny cowboy caper, chock full of chuckles.”–Starred Kirkus Reviews
Mousequerade Ball, Bloomsbury
“A surefire storytime selection.”—School Library Journal
Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg, Clarion
“Plumb funny fer sure.”—Starred Kirkus Review
Cindy Moo, HarperCollins
“Mo(ooo)ve aside your other cow tales, because this lovable bovine really does take off.”—Booklist

Coming Soon
If Wendell Had a Walrus, illustrated by Matt Phelan, Henry Holt, Winter, 2018
Away With Words – The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, Peachtree, 2018

Blue Stars

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

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191 thoughts on “Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 1 ~ Lori Mortensen ~ Rhythm and Rhyme

  1. YES to reading our work out loud or, even better, having someone ELSE read it out loud – several someone elses! And there’s nothing better than the feeling of working through a rhyming challenge by either switching out your rhyming word with another OR rethinking the line/stanza and finding a new and better way to say the same thing. Thanks so much, Lori! 🙂

  2. So interesting to learn that your background in dance helps you find the rhythm in your writing. And such a wonderful reminder to focus less on the technicalities of the terms (they are such mouthfuls!), and more on the flow. Thanks for a great post. I look forward to reading Cowpoke Clyde.

  3. LORI: CONGRATS on your MUCH DESERVED award!!! And THANK YOU for taking the time to write this blog post. I LOVE your wisdom: don’t get caught up in the hows and whys–it’s all about the rhythm! BRILLIANT! THANK YOU!!!

  4. Lori- thank you for this fun post that presents rhyme like a puzzle little by little at a time. Great approach and great books you have added to the PB world 😊

  5. Thanks for the encouraging post. I can’t wait to get my hands on your suggested texts and read/reread your own wonderful picture books. Congratulations on the new ones that are soon to be out.

  6. This is a great post to get us off on the right foot! I made a study, earlier this year, of meter and scansion, so I was excited to understand the bits about iamb and trochee and anapestic, etc… 🙂

    I actually encourage everyone to dip into that terminology and analysis of rhyme, because it has really helped me in my writing to understand the how/what/why of GOOD rhymes. I also really appreciate the comments you made about using the rhythm of rhyme to enhance your story. That’s something I’m challenging myself to do as well. I’m so excited to research, learn, and enjoy rhyming literature with all of you!

    • Thanks, Jennifer. There is a ton to learn so knowing more can only help. It’s good to understand structure and become familiar with options. Good luck with all of your rhyming projects.

  7. Thank you Lori for your inspiration. I just did a revision tonight on a rhyming PB and I can relate to the rhyming dictionary. 🙂

  8. Great post! Especially liked the part about sometimes needing to abandon a word and find something else that fits in the puzzle. I’m so curious to find out what happens to Cowpoke Clyde on his bike. Can’t wait to read that one!

  9. I used to count syllables and worry about meter but you’re right, Lori, if I listen to the rhythm when reading my rhyming text, I’ll know if I have done it correctly. Thanks for the advice and the awesome mentor texts to study!

  10. I am glad I don’t have to remember the names of: iamb, dactyl, anapest, etc.; however, knowing how to strategically apply rhythm to define the mood/energy of a scene is a struggle for me. I’m glad you gave examples of these Lori. Thank you for this insightful post.

  11. Thank you, Lori. When I’m working on my drafts, I read them out loud, unnaturally emphasizing each beat. My goal is to correct each imperfection, so that the finished piece has perfect meter when read as though I was reading prose.

  12. Congrats on the Best in Rhyme Award and thank you for the rhyming advice. I also use an online site (RhymeZone) when I need to search for a rhyme.

  13. Congratulations Lori! Many thanks for this sage advice. I love rhyme zone and have had great success with reading aloud. Great blog!

  14. Lori congrats on your award but also best of luck with your books soon to be out. I have always believed rhythm and rhyme make the best partners! Thanks for your post!

  15. Thanks for the post, Lori! I started out counting syllables, not understanding that each syllable had different weights. Reading aloud helps to hear and feel the rhythm. It’s exciting that words can be so fluid. I’m anxious to read of Clyde’s adventures.

  16. Hi Lori,
    In your post you write:
    The ultimate test for a rhyming manuscript is to read it aloud. Once you know the rhythm, you’ll hear if a line is missing a beat, if there are too many beats, or places where a reader stumbles. When you’ve written the text successfully, anyone should be able to read it without a blip or a hiccup.

    But I find myself hiccupping over one of your examples.
    I want to leave out “by mistake”. The line feels too long to me.

    It started the summer of 2002,
    When the Springfield librarian, Molly McGrew,
    By mistake drove her bookmobile into the zoo.

    I’m still struggling with the rhythm thing is some of my own poems / stories.

    • Hi Yvona,
      Thanks for your observation. Interestingly, the words “by mistake” don’t throw me. Rather, they’re part of the bounce-along beat she’s establishing as she drives to the zoo that’s reflected in the entire stanza. (Maybe I should have shown the whole thing!)
      :
      It started the summer of 2002,
      when the Springfield librarian, Molly McGrew,
      By mistake drove her bookmobile into the zoo.
      Molly opened the door, and she let down the stair,
      Turned on the computer, and sat in her chair.
      At first, all the animals watched from a distance.
      But Molly could conquer the strongest resistance.

      In the end, authors need to stay true to whatever rhythmic pattern they establish. (One of my favorite essays on rhyme is by Dori Chaconas at dorichaconas.com).

      Hope this helps. Good luck with all of your writing and rhyming!

  17. Thanks for the wonderful insight into your rhyming approach, Lori. I’ve always got a rhyming dictionary open in my browser, and love to use it for finding synonyms, phrases and lots more.

    Hmm. Looking back at my reading lists for this year and last, I seem to have read too few of your books–but I loved COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE (*****). I think it’s time for one of my favorite things– an author binge read.

  18. Thanks for the wonderful insight into your rhyming approach, Lori. I’ve always got a rhyming dictionary open in my browser, and love to use it for finding synonyms, phrases and lots more.

    Hmm. Looking back at my reading lists for this year and last, I seem to have read too few of your books–but I loved COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE (*****). I think it’s time for one of my favorite things– an author binge read.

    • You’re welcome kittiewan! 🙂 (And I use the rhyming dictionary for far more as well. So handy for synonyms, antonyms, and even definitions–ha, ha!) Thanks so much for your interest in my books. Binge to your heart’s content! 🙂

  19. Rhyming definately feels like a puzzle to me! Hopefully, with a bit more practice, it will get easier for me. I forgot all about rhyming dictionaries- what a world of difference they make!

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