You've Got Rhythm, But Does Your Story?


As I wade through my editing for MELT INTO YOU, I'm discovering that one of the big things I pay attention to when doing my read through is cadence, or the rhythm of the words. I think it was Margie Lawson's workshop where I first heard this term used in relation to writing.


We all know about voice and style, but cadence is more the way the words sound in your head as your read them. It's the flow and the music of the prose. It's why I may use a one-word incomplete sentence somewhere instead of something longer. Part of that is my style, but a lot of it has to do with making sure the rhythm works.

And one of the best ways to see if your story has good cadence or rhythm is to read it aloud. A lot of times when we read our own work in our head, our brain naturally skims. Hell, we've written it, we know what's there and what's coming. But this can hurt you because you may be missing places where a reader with fresh eyes may stumble on a sentence. Even in our heads we need places in prose to "take a breath" while we're reading.

Maybe your crit partners point this out, but most likely it's such a subtle thing that many will intuitively feel the little stumble but not really get hit over the head enough to mark it down and bring it to your attention.

So I literally sit in my office and read passages of my book out loud. Pretend you're the narrator doing the audiobook. Does it flow? Does the scene sound how you want it too--pretty, ethereal, hard and fast-paced, sensual, etc?

Not every scene is going to have the same cadence, nor do you want it to. If they're in the middle of the car chase, the words better not read like poetry. So know what your intention is and then see if the rhythm of the words fits what you were going for.

So here are my opening lines of my prologue in my draft. (And yes, I know, a prologue! *gasp* But well, it's there. I like it. Sara or my editor may cut it, which is fine, but for now, this is how the book opens.)


Most of the time temptation climbs onto your lap and straddles you, demands you deal with it immediately. Give in or deprive yourself. Choose your adventure.
Jace’s general stance: deprivation was overrated.
But he’d never faced this kind of temptation. The kind that seeped into your skin so slowly you didn’t even notice until you were soaked with it, saturated. To the point that every thought, every breath seemed to be laced with the desire for that thing you shouldn’t have.  
            And right now that thing was nibbling flecks of purple polish off her fingernails.


So okay, see where you'd take the breaths (hint: breaths happen at commas and periods)? And we're in a dude's head so the thoughts start off short and to the point, but then he gets wrapped up with how much this is getting to him. If you read it aloud hopefully it flows. It did when I went through it.

But do you see where I'm going with the cadence thing? Do you think about this when you're going through your work? Do you read it aloud either to yourself or to a writer's group?

Also, because I forgot to announce on Friday with all  of Blogger's problems, the winner of Elana Johnson's Possession (ARC) is MayDay_Aura! (I'll be emailing the winner.) Thanks for all of you who commented and entered! :)