Thursday, 21 May 2009
Writing and music
Another love of mine is music. I've dabbled with guitar and piano, written a few songs along the way, even taken some OU courses to learn more about the theory side. You might think there's no connection between writing and music but I think there is. Both music and good prose have a definite rhythm; it's the thing that pulls you along when you're reading a good book. It's so subtle you aren't aware of its presence. It's in the length of the sentences and the choice of words. Of course we expect to find rhythm in poetry, but it should be there in good prose too. And it's only when our eyes skim along the page without interruption that the magic of the story can ignite our imagination.
Where the rhythm is missing, we notice it as "clunk"; unwieldy sentences awkwardly arranged - usually too long with too many clauses. Ever had to go back and read the same sentence several times to get the meaning? It's very frustrating and the thing most likely to turn off the reader.
Word choice is important too. There should be poetry in prose, just as it's essential in the tight structure of a song lyric. The right word in the right place is a joy to behold. The sound and resonance of a word can evoke an image or emotion better than a page of description. Getting the right word is an art in itself.