Welcome, everyone! May your revisions be amazingly good and plentiful during ReviMo 2015. Join us in Facebook group, if you'd like. Hopefully we'll get some revision sprints/stampedes going in there...
And now on to our first guest for 2015 - Renee LaTulippe. Take it away, Renee!
Revision Tip: Enrich Your Text with Poetic Techniques
by Renée M. LaTulippe
As an editor and teacher, there is nothing that lights my creative fire more than analyzing a text at the nitty-gritty language level and discovering where I can punch that baby up.
If your text feels listless or is suffering from a general malaise, it probably needs a shot of poetry to get it on its feet again. Throughout my Lyrical Language Lab course, I share many examples of how poetic techniques are used in lyrical prose in picture books, MG, and YA fiction.
What is lyrical prose?
- is rich, layered, and descriptive, but not overwrought or sentimental
- conveys images with fresh but natural language
- is poetic, rhythmic, and musical
- the author’s craft
- when and how the poetic techniques of imagery, simile, metaphor, and other figurative and sensory language are used and how they support the story
- when and how poetic sound devices are used
- the use of specific diction and how it supports the story
- the rhythms, cadences, and pauses within the passage
Click the image to enlarge and zoom for reading.
- So what’s going on here? Lots of poetic technique! Let’s take a look:
- RED = Figurative language and imagery. Every simile, metaphor, and image is true to the MC’s voice. We know she is a country girl, and this is held up by the use of such phrases as “a caboodle of houses roosting” and “like a filly trailing behind a mare.
- FUCHSIA = Diction. The author’s choice of specific words and expressions also supports the setting and tone, and helps define the MC and other characters. On page 4, Gramps uses the phrase “a hill of beans,” a phrase that in regular writing would be avoided because it’s a cliché. But it’s perfect as dialogue for Gramps, because it’s authentic to what a real grandfather — or any of us, really — would say in everyday speech.
- PURPLE = Repetition. Creech uses a lot of repetition and parallel structure (as in the list of reasons on page 5) to add emphasis and create a certain rhythm and musicality. This technique also gives us more insight into the character and what is important to her, and sets up the “style” of this character’s voice. From the first few pages, we know what to expect in terms of how this character expresses herself. Repetition also adds to the humor.
- GREEN = Sound devices. Creech uses some alliteration and assonance throughout, but here she goes for onomatopoeia to give voice to the wind and the darkness. She could have easily written this sentence plainly, without the use of poetic technique. Why might she have chosen to write it this way?
- BLUE = Hyperbole (exaggeration), which is a form of figurative language. Along with repetition, hyperbole can heighten the humor and give insight into how the MC feels. It is also an authentic choice for the MC, since children are given to exaggeration and drama.
- Although Creech uses many poetic techniques in her writing, it is not overdone, nor does it call attention to itself. She has found the perfect balance between lyrical language and story, and one does not detract from the other.
- It would be very easy to point out the beauty of every line in this passage, for there are many more riches to mine here than what I’ve listed. I again encourage you to read it out loud to hear the rhythm and feel the flow of the words. There is not one stumbling block or clumsy phrase, or at least none that I found.
Your Revision Mission: Read your manuscript (or a portion of it) out loud. Look for places where you can use poetic techniques to punch up your text and make it more vibrant, concise, and musical. Consider all poetic techniques: imagery, figurative language, metaphor, sound devices, specific diction, and so on. I guarantee that adding a bit of poetry to your text will help you whip that sucker into shape and make it SING.
Would you like some more sneak peeks into The Lyrical Language Lab lessons? Check out Renée’s contributor posts at Michelle Barnes’ blog, Today’s Little Ditty:
Thank you Renee!
One lucky winner will get to take Renee's Lyrical Language Lab Course for free, so be sure to revise all seven days if you'd like a shot at it! And check out the fabulous prizes here, if you haven't seen them already. Happy revising!
Copyright (c) 2015 Renée M. LaTulippe. This article is partially excerpted from lessons in the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry. All rights reserved.