Every piece of prose should be a poem.
I’ve just reread the piece I wrote for my bookchat post in the Hastings Online Times this week and I don’t like the way it flows. It’s about How to use food as medicine. The rhythm of the writing should take the reader forward effortlessly, but it’s easier to do that with a story. It’s hard to make an information piece flow easily. As I edit it in an attempt to improve it, that’s what I’m trying to do.
I’ve worked at making the piece accurate and that was my first concern. But it’s no good to have produced something accurate (and hopefully useful) if nobody reads it. And people will only read it if it flows nicely. If it trundles along happily in their mind while they read, it will be OK. If it gives them audible indigestion (there must be a proper word for that but I don’t know what it is) and if it’s hard to process, they’ll stop reading.
Each time I put in a new piece of information or a new idea, I try to insert it in a way that makes the piece a pleasure to read/ listen to/ or to speak out loud. Even if I don’t succeed (and I never do totally succeed) at least I know what I’m aiming for. And I do enjoy writing.
No wonder Audible is doing so well with all those stories that work when they are read out loud. Just listen to The Tale of Peter Rabbit above.
What a pleasure it was to listen to stories when we were little. That’s how our stories started – oral transmission – and actually, it’s how they are represented in the brain. When we read, no matter how fast, we produce an audible signal for each word. Even deaf people do that and if we haven’t got an audible signal for something then we can’t include it. Can’t integrate or make sense of it.
And don’t get me started on rhythms. If you can get your readers to synchronise with your beat then you are together. Hearts beating as one. Literally.
I want my writing to be easy to read and to sound good. I want it to be comfortable most of the time but jolty every so often. I want it to give pleasure. I want it to linger and unfold. Probably won’t get there but I’ll keep trying. Every piece of prose should be a poem. Even a novel. Especially a novel. What do you think? I wonder who you are and what you’re thinking while you read this.
The danger is that you can get so carried away with the sound and the rhythm that you can lose the meaning almost entirely. Think of the nursery rhymes we chanted for years without a clue (or even any interest) in what they meant. Rock a bye baby on the tree top, we sing happily and continue to smile as the babe drops out of the tree.
We’re back to form vs content but ideally we shouldn’t be aware of either. You should be lost with me. We should be lost together.
I wrote this piece first of all for my previous blog in July last year (this is adapted from that) but I still think about it. I still think that every piece of prose should be a poem.
What do you think?
top image thanks to Tirachard Kumtano on pexels.com