Category Archives: Verbs

Writing in Rhyme Tip 2 – Stress

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So today’s tip focuses on syllable stress and the easiest way to do that, I think, is to look at words known as heteronyms.

A heteronym is…, according to the definition found on The Heteronym Page

…a word that has the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning.

The words that I’d like to concentrate on are the ones whose definition changes according the position of the stress placed upon it.

Here are some examples.

Desert

If you stress the first syllable DEZ-urt – you are describing a dry, baron place.

If you stress the second syllable di-ZURT – this is a verb meaning to abandon.

Following is a couplet that looks like it should rhyme but it does not. Why doesn’t it?

 

I feel that I must now assert

That Simpson’s a sandy desert

If we bold the syllables, that in natural speech, are stressed, we’ll find that a pattern emerges.

 

i FEEL that i MUST now aSSERT

That SIMPson’s a SANdy DESert

Can you see the problem?

The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables has been disrupted.

The previously established pattern (stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed unstressed, stressed) requires the reader to mispronounce the word “desert” so that the stress falls on the second syllable.

While this scenario is unlikely I think it highlights a common problem when writing in rhyme.

Another example that I use in my book “Rhyme Like the Experts” may help to clarify the issue.

 

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Filled her mouth with one strawberry

So in order for this to rhyme, the writer needs the reader to mispronounce the word “strawberry” so that it sounds like this… strawBEHrry to rhyme with conTRAHry.

What I urge all writers of rhyme to do is to get their work read aloud by someone else. A fresh eye will immediately pick up where the writer has manipulated a word to fit the meter. The new reader will read the words as they would in natural speech and will trip up if the pattern is disrupted due to the stress position of certain words.

Clear as mud?

If you have any questions, please post them below in the comments section.

Happy rhyming :-)

 

Anonymous poet No.6

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FLIGHT TO JAPAN

 

Bumpity bump through the sky

Who said this big bird can fly

When do you think we will be there?

We can’t get off in the air.

 

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Packed like sardines in a can

In this big hibiscus van

As we wing off through the sky

Japanese staff are nearby.

.

 

 

 

 

 

Bum pi tiy bump through the sky
Who said this big bird can fly  
When do you think we will be there
We can’t get off in the air  
Packed like sar dines in a can  
In this big hi bis cus van  
As we wing off through the sky  
Ja pan ese staff are near by  

 

 

 

I think I’ll break this one down into its rhyming couplets.

 

When I first read this I paused after ‘bump’ which threw out the second line.

 

 

This is how I read it…

 

Bum pi tiy bump ~ through the sky
Who said this big bird can fly  

 

And I wanted to change the second line to…

 

Who was it said this bird can fly

 

Bumpity bump; through the sky

Who was it said, this bird can fly

 

If we read it without the pause we get…

 

 

Bum pi tiy bump through the sky
Who said this big bird can fly

 

however some people will want to stress the word ‘said’ rather than ‘who’ I know I do. I’d prefer to say…

 

Who said that this big bird can fly

 

Bumpity bump through the sky

Who said that this big bird can fly?

 

Next couplet…

 

When do you think we will be there
We can’t get off in the air  

 

 

So to keep with the meter I would suggest

 

When do you think we’ll be there
We can’t dis em bark in the air

 

When do you think we’ll be there?

We can’t disembark in the air

 

Next couplet…

 

Packed like sar dines in a can
In this big hi bis cus van

 

To use the word hibiscus we need to fit it here…

 

Packed like sar dines in a can
    hi bis cus    

 

So…

 

Packed like sar dines in a can
In side this hi bis cus se dan

 

Hmmmm – not sure about a hibiscus sedan. Maybe try changing the first line.

 

Packed like sar dines in a flan
In side this hi bis cus tin can

 

Packed like sardines in a flan

Inside this hibiscus tin can

 

Moving on…

 

As we wing off through the sky
Ja pan ese staff are near by

 

 

 

  Soar ing a round in the sky
With Jap an ese staff stand ing by

 

So we now have…

 

Bumpity bump through the sky

Who said that this big bird can fly?

When do you think we’ll be there?

We can’t disembark in the air

Packed like sardines in a flan

Inside this hibiscus tin can

Soaring around in the sky

With Japanese staff standing by

 

 

If we now insert this into a syllable grid we get…

 

 

  Bum pi tiy bump through the sky
Who said that this big bird can fly
  When do you think we’ll be there
We can’t dis em bark in the air
  Packed like sar dines in a flan
In side this hi bis cus tin can
  Soar ing a round in the sky
With Ja pan ese staff stand ing by

 

 

Thank you Anonymous poet No. 6. My e-book is on its way.

Anonymous poet No. 5

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Here is a verse from a rhyming story I wrote.

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He just about had her; this was it, this was it!!

But then, oh my goodness, do you know what she did?

She turned around slowly. She could smell him you see.

I did say he was stinky. He was very smelly.

 

Straight into this one…

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

He just a bout had her ; this was it this was it
But then oh my good ness , do you know what she did
She turned a round slow ly . She could smell him you see
I did say he was stink y He was ve ry smell y

 

 

 

This one has an interesting meter that can’t really be categorised easily. Having said that you can still see that the pattern is predicable, all except for the last line so let’s work on that one.

 

 

I did say he was stink y He was ve ry smell y

 

So you can see that there is an extra syllable in the first part of the line. The author will know to rush over these words so that they fit into two beats instead of three. Some new readers will do this too, some will not. Best to remove the potential problem.

 

The second issue is a very common mistake made when writing in rhyme. Even though the last syllable in the word ‘smelly’ ends in an ‘ee’ sound, it is an unstressed syllable. In order is rhyme ‘smelly’ with ‘see’ the reader is expected to pronounce the word ‘smelly’ incorrectly. The correct pronunciation is SMELLy with the stress falling on SMELL – like jelly, belly etc. So to rhyme with ‘you see’ we need to say jell-EE.

The word ‘very’ though not as obvious, is often, in natural speech rushed over and so can be regarded as a one syllable word. You really have to enunciate to get two beats out of it.

 

Having said that what would I suggest?

 

Perhaps…

 

 

I said he was stink y . Well he smelled terr i bly

 

or, if you want to jazz it up a little…

 

He was pu trid and rot ten . And he smelled terr i bly

 

 

Although not perfect, I’m not thrilled with ‘terribly’ though I think it is an improvement, I’m sure you can see what I mean. Also note that there are two syllables at the beginning of the line – again in natural speech you would tend to blend this into one beat so the rhythm of the line is not interrupted.

 

The other option is to change the previous line…

 

She turned a round slow ly . She could smell him you know
He was pu trid and rot ten . From his head to his toe

 

I think I prefer this.

 

Thanks Anonymous poet No. 5. I’ll be sending your e-book “How to write Rhyme like the Experts” directly.

 

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Anonymous poet No.2

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The Shadow Thief

One day I saw a homeless man,

a beggar on a corner street.

His jacket torn, his trousers worn,

his hat upturned down at his feet.

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.

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‘Some silvers, please, just a few

will feed me till tomorrow noon.’

He rubbed his tummy, grin all gummy,

in hope to hear a chink or two.

.

 

 

This story in verse is much longer than two verses so I’m just going to edit the first two.

When you read this you will hear immediately that not only does it rhyme but it also has a very strong metrical component so this will be more of a deconstruction than an edit so that you can see why it works.

.

One day I saw a home less man
a begg ar on a

cor

ner street
His jack et torn his trou sers worn
his hat up turned down at his feet
his hat up turned be side his feet

.

So the meter is iambic – an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

daDA daDA daDA daDA

And the rhyme pattern is ABCB and there is an internal rhyme in line 3.

I have made a suggestion for line 4 as the original runs two stressed syllables together. In order to keep with the meter, the reader will be expected to place a stress on the word ‘at’. The author will do this instinctively but a new reader may not.

.

Some sil vers please , just a few
Some sil vers please but just a few
will feed me till tom orr ow noon
He rubbed his tumm y grin all gumm y
in hope to hear a chink or two
hop ing for a chink or two
listen ing for a chink or two

.

Meter is still iambic but the rhyming pattern has changed to ABCA and there is an internal rhyme in line 3 as before.

I’ve added the word ‘but’ to the first line as readers may initially pause at the comma but rush over the words ‘just a few’ to be read as ‘justa few’ leaving the line short. When you add the word ‘but’ ‘just’ becomes stressed.

The suggestion I’ve made for line 4 is a tiny one but I think it makes the rhythm a little smoother. The extra unstressed syllable at the end of line 3 will bump into the unstressed syllable beginning line four. New readers will be expecting a stressed syllable to follow the unstressed ‘y’ and may trip up here.

As I said, this is a much longer poem and the metrical pattern isn’t consistent. I would need a lot more time to edit properly.

Thank you Anonymous poet No. 2  I hope I’ve been of some help and please expect your e-book very soon.

Anonymous poet No. 1

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The Sad Ogre

The ogre walked along his head hung down singing a song

I’m not scared I’m big and strong.

His tears fell and he sat in a pile huddled alone with no smile.

Mr. Ogre why do you cry the sand flies buzzed by.

He swatted and cursed and shooed him away

My friend said I’m too scared to play.

Play you say, scared of what? You’re big and strong like a bit steel pot

The ogre stood proud and tall his head held high as he reached up to the sky

Grabbing the sand fly he kissed his small head and said,

You made be better I’m not scared any more

Now I can play when mummy lets me out the back door.

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So the first thing I try to identify, when I begin to edit a rhyming story or poem, is the meter. What is the rhythm? When I read this I found it extremely difficult to identify any recurring patterns in meter. Even though there are rhymes – song/strong; pile/smile; away/play; what/pot; high/sky – there is no consistent meter. So here’s what I might suggest…

.

.

The ogre walked along

his head hung down singing a song

I’m not scared I’m big and strong

.

The ogre dragged his feet along

He hung his head and sang a song

I’m not scared, I’m big and strong

.

When this is inserted into a syllable grid with the stressed syllables bolded you will be able to see a visual representation of the meter or lack thereof.

.

The o gre walked a long
His head hung down sing ing a song
~ I’m not scared I’m big and strong
The o gre dragged his feet a long
He hung his head and sang a song
~ I’m not scared I’m big and strong

.

You’ll see that the original begins with 3 alternating iambic feet. An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. daDA daDA daDA

..

The next part (I’ve put it on a new line) begins with an iambic foot and is followed by four syllables that in ‘natural’ speech would normally be stressed or at least spoken with the same emphasis, neither longer nor shorter than the syllables around it and when read aloud sounds flat, tuneless.

My suggestions in green were made for the following reasons…

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  1. I’ve replaced the word ‘walked’ as this is a common verb. ‘Dragged’ is more descriptive.
  2. ‘Dragged his feet’ fits the iambic pattern.
  3. The last line I’ve rearranged so that the stressed and unstressed syllables form an iambic meter. I’ve not changed the meaning, just the meter.
  4. The third line is fine. You’ll note that overall there is one less syllable in this line, however, where meter is concerned, it is the stressed syllables that matter, and there are still four of those.

.

This one was tricky because I felt it was closer to a free verse poem than a metrical one. There is of course no problem with this but because of the rhymes I feel that it needs to be a bit more structured and more predictable for the reader. When readers read rhyme they will expect some sort of pattern and at the moment the patterns are little too vague.

Unfortunately I am unable to edit the entire poem as I’d like to do as many different ones as I can but I hope that I have made some sense and I thank poet No 1 for sending it in. A copy of my e-book is on its way.