Speaking Through Pace & Rhythm

How we tell a story is a part of that story. And, this HOW includes awareness of pace and rhythm. Composers have names for the different paces and rhythms they use. Adagio-slowly. Scherzo-vigorous & playful. Allegro-brisk tempo. Dolente-sorrowfully. The choice of notes, whether those notes are long or short, and in major or minor key is HOW the composer creates the music.

As picture book writers, we have the equivalent of many musical elements:

* Length of sentences and phrases

* Number of syllables in the words we select

* The sound of the words we select

* Punctuation

The two MP3 files below each contain the rhythm or beats of a different manuscript. After listening to each, ask yourself what type of action might be going on in the text. What is the mood or the emotions of the text?

The next MP3 will share the titles and words for the same passages. Most people are surprised at how much they knew about the story from the beats alone.

It is always beneficial to read aloud what one has written.  Try tapping out the beats and rhythm of your manuscript. Do they support and enhance your text like a good movie soundtrack? Do they distract? Or are they simply of no consequence? Once you’ve heard the results your next draft will only improve.

After all, if you’re writing a picture book, you are writing to be heard.

DANCE AWAY by George Shannon. Illus. by Aruego & Dewey. Greenwillow, 1982.

GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown. Illus. by Clement Hurd. Harper, 1947.


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