Jump to content

A Guide to Writing Poetry 1.1 (updated)


Recommended Posts

Ratchet573 and the Coffee Shoppe inspired me to write this. I thought I would try my hand at offering a crash course on writing and reading poetry. Feel free to ask any questions, point out any flaws, offer any insight, or just discuss. Over the next several days I hope to update this with more information.




Update 1.1 = updated with the Rhyming guide, would like to revise this and add more to it later. feel free to post any comments or corrections needed






One of the most common questions I hear is, How can I become a better writer? The most common answer you will receive is, You need to read more. There is truth to this answer, but it still makes me cringe when I hear it. Its too vague and offers no direction for the writer to go. Its not just about reading, but learning how to read more effectively. In order to become a better writer, you have to learn how to think critically about what you are reading.




If you are reading this, I will assume that you already have an idea about what poetry is. This lesson will not be an attempt to teach you how to write poetry, but instead try to offer you some tools to help make your poetry better, and to help you read critically by recognizing what other authors are trying to do. Over time, reading more poetry will help you better identify your tastes. You will be able to see what works for you, and what doesnt work. This will help you apply those same principles to your own poetry.




[hide=What is Poetry?]What is Poetry




Its ironic how the simplest of questions can be the hardest to answer. This is something that cannot easily be summed up in this post. The problem is, for every definition you try to give there are ten examples that defy it. At the risk of sounding abstract, defining poetry is like defining beauty. We cant quite put our finger on it, but we recognize it when we see it.




What I do know is that poetry isnt a spurt of creativity. It is a craft. It can be learned and it takes practice to get better, just like in music, athletics, cooking, woodworking, potty-training, tying your shoes.almost anything. Talent will only take you so far without learning the fundamentals. On the surface we could say that understanding Literature is subjective, but on closer inspection one will find that patterns emerge through centuries of tried and proven experiments. In order to look to the future it is important to understand what has come before.[/hide]


[hide=Line Breaks, End-Stops, and Enjambment]Linebreaks




One recognizable trait of poetry is the tendency of line breaks. Line breaks are when a line in a poem ends, and a new line begins (sounds obvious, huh?). To illustrate this point, lets take a common poetic phrase. Where do you think the line break occurs in the following: roses are red, violets are blue? Most of us have probably heard this phrase before, and we would naturally see it written like this:




Roses are red,


Violets are blue




Each line seems to contain an independent thought. There is no set guideline on where to put your line breaks in a poem. Ultimately, this is left up to the authors discretion. The author has to make the decision on where each line can be left to make the most sense for the reader, and deliver the best impact for each line. What if we chose to write the previous lines like this:




Roses are


Red, violets


Are blue




Technically, if the above is read correctly, there is no difference in the poem, but visually we can see a huge difference in the dynamics. Something simple has now become a puzzle for the reader to solve. The first line leaves an incomplete thought for the reader. Roses are.what? The reader has to move to the second line to finish the message, but now the second line becomes tricky. We want to read the second line naturally as red violets. Its not until the third line that we can begin to make sense of it, but now we are forced to backtrack in the poem in order to mentally put it in order for us.




Sometimes choosing your line breaks is more than just making it coherent for the reader. Where you choose to end a line can have an impact on the tone of your poem. Consider if we began a poem with this line:




Daddy always hated seeing me




This line has already set a powerful mood with the reader. The reader is now speculating on the relationship between the narrator and her father. Now suppose the poem continued like this:




Daddy always hated seeing me


Ride my bike without a helmet.




The second line counters the mood the first line left. We have shifted from an unloving father to a concerned parent. Eventually, the reader will probably get the message, but the tone has already been set. Regardless of how the poem continues, the first line has already created a message to the reader. Your audience will be looking for evidence throughout the poem to support your first line. If your intentions were to subtly portray an estranged relationship with your father then this line break would be appropriate, but if you werent intending on painting Daddy in a negative light then we would have to consider a revision. We could even go so far as to say the first line would be a red herring, or something that can distract or mislead the reader.




Another point I would like to make considering is what word to end your line with. A line break can serve as a quick mental pause while reading, and ending your lines with simple words like a, an, the, or, for, etc. can leave the strength of your line limp. Consider a bigger word that could leave more impact. Some examples could be, fire, murder, holy, etc.




In the end, it is the authors choice on where he chooses to break his lines. This article should help you make better decisions on how to improve your poetry, one line at a time.




End-Stops and Enjambent




A common mistake among many beginner poets is trying to end every line with an end-stop. Though having every line an end-stop is not incorrect, the beginner poet tends to want to force an end on every line. This can create comma splices, sentence fragments, and awkward phrases in the false hope of meeting some requirement.




End-stopping is ending the meaning of a line with the last word, usually marked by punctuation. The opposite of this effect is enjambment, which carries the flow of the meaning from one line to the next without an artificial pause. Though poetry is typically observed as abstract it is still essential to do your best to follow the rules of grammar. Yes, there are exceptions to this (e.e. cummings), but it would be wise to demonstrate a mastery of the rules before making artistic choices to break them. (An important tip for all of the aspiring students out there to remember is that in a classroom environment, proper grammar will always score points with your professor.)




Before we continue, lets take a look at an example of each technique. Each of the following are from Shakespeare, borrowed from Wikipedia:




A glooming peace this morning with it brings.


The sun for sorrow will not show his head.


Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.


Some shall be pardond, and some punished.




I am not prone to weeping, as our sex


Commonly are; the want of which vain dew


Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have


That honourable grief lodged here which burns


Worse than tears drown.




The first example demonstrates complete end-stops on each line. Every line completes its thought with a period. The second passage shows an example of enjambed lines. Notice how the thought flows from one line to the next. Even though we are aware of where each line ends, the correct way to read poetry is to follow the punctuation, which is why proper grammar can be important. The reader should be able to write your poem out in sentence structure and still see a coherent text.




The choice of end-stops and enjambment are the authors choice. Usually, a balanced mix of both seems fine. Whatever method you choose, consider this:




It is not necessary,


to finish every line,


with a comma.




Try practicing your line breaks, end-stops, and enjambments. Hopefully, you will be able to avoid mistakes like the above quote.[/hide]






Imagery is one of the most important tools in the craft of writing, yet one of the most overlooked by the novice. While imagery is important in prose, it is nearly vital in poetry. As writers, we have a tendency to want to speak from the inside. We internalize, and therefore look to express ourselves through emotion. While this is an important quality, it should be secondary to the imagery presented. Using imagery in your writing will help connect your readers to the story.




What is imagery? Imagery is using descriptive language that invokes one of the five basic senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. It is important to remember that imagery expresses outside experiences. It can be the bitter taste of hot coffee, and how it warms your belly. It can be the think, black smoke billowing from a factory fire and tightening in your lungs. It can be the creamy, smooth skin of a lover. It can be the golden flakes cast on an ocean from a setting sun. When reading, you should ask yourself the following questions:




What do I see?


What do I hear?


What do I feel?


What do I smell?


What do I taste?




You may not find an answer to all of the questions; its not necessary that a poem addresses all five senses, but you should find a clear example of at least one or two in the poem. See if you can spot the imagery in a famous poem by Langston Hughes:




What happens to a dream deferred?




Does it dry up


Like a raisin in the sun?




Or fester like a sore--


And then run?




Does it stink like rotten meat?


Or crust and sugar over--


like a syrupy sweet?




Maybe it just sags


like a heavy load.




Or does it explode?




In this poem, Hughes makes use of effective imagery with the use of similes and metaphors. Fester like a sore offers a sense of touch while stink like rotten meat creates a sense of smell. Crust and sugar overlike a syrupy sweet has both a sense of sight and taste.




It is important to not solely focus on the emotional nature of your characters. Using imagery can be a clever way to create an active scene for your readers to follow while hinting at the internal emotions of your characters. Suppose you wanted to describe a battle scene. There would be plenty of stimuli to choose from to make your point without succumbing to an exposition of how your character is feeling inside. Heres my attempt off the top of my head:




I could hear the brutish warcry


of our enemy through the thick haze of smoke


that choked my lungs and burned my eyes.


A copper taste of blood filled the air


with bodies stacked on the ground.


I grasped the hilt of my sword and thrust it into the belly


of a warrior crossing my path.


A shocked look appeared in his eyes.


Why is this happening to me,


he wanted to ask.


I had no answer for my brother of war,


Lines were drawn at birth to decide


Who will live, and who must die.




Okay, its not a masterpiece, but it demonstrates the use of imagery. Instead of explaining my characters feelings of war, I attempted to show the reader with an active scene. The hope is that the reader can use his imagination to picture a real battle scene. This would help draw the reader into the world I created, and thus have more sympathy for the characters within and the message I want to convey.




The tricky part is that people could interpret my character in several different ways. A general rule is that once you unleash your writing into the world, then the meaning of it no longer belongs to you. Therefore, it is the writers responsibility to ensure that as much of that meaning will remain intact when it reaches the hands of your audience. Using imagery to create a specific setting will help your readers step into your world. Generally, the more specific you can be, the better.




Another point Id like to make is when you choose to use descriptive language, be careful not place such a heavy emphasis on adverbs and adjectives to do all of the describing for you. Well-chosen nouns and verbs can help eliminate unnecessary words and create a clearer image. Suppose I wrote, The man died. Although the sentence may be grammatically correct, its dull and wooden. Instead, what if I chose to write, The man was murdered. Now we have something interesting! What if I took it a step further and wrote, The priest was murdered. I took one sentence, changed the noun and verb, and made if far more intriguing without having to add anything.




When you are reading, try to identify any imagery the author uses. Examine how your favorite authors choose to describe something. And when writing, remember that imagery and the use of descriptive language can be the bridge between your imagination and your readers.[/hide]


[hide=Rhyming, Alliteration, and other Phonetic Techniques]Its important to reflect on some of the history of poetry, and its ancient purposes before discussing this section. Some historians theorize that poetry is older than the written word, perhaps even as old as language itself. Some of the oldest known literary works are epic poems, the oldest being Gilgamesh. The prehistoric poet served as a storyteller to their tribe, passing down their stories from generation to generation. Without written word, it was vital that stories were preserved in memory. The real king Gilgamesh is believed to have lived centuries before the oldest tablets discovered were written. Scholars believe the Iliad may have been recited for centuries before the art of writing came to Greece. Thus, poetry began as an art of spoken word.




Poems are composed for memorization through the use of rhythm, repetition, and other sound devices. The rhythm represents the meter (among other things) in a poem, which we will discuss in the next lesson. Repetition is the repeated use of phonic sounds.




Everybody understands the general concept of rhyming words. Rhymes are the most recognizable traits of poetry today. Rhyming is using words that sound similar (ex. boy, toy; cat, bat). In poetry, there are numerous rhymes, and numerous ways to use a rhyme.




The end rhyme is the most common form of rhyming in poetry. This method uses the last word in a line of poetry to rhyme with the last word in a different line. An example would be in the final two lines of Dylan Thomass Do not go gentle into that good night:




Do not go gentle into that good night.


Rage, rage against the dying of the light.




In the above couplet, night and light are used at the end of each line to form an end rhyme. Many verse forms employ a rhyming scheme, such as the sonnet.




Internal rhyming is using a rhyme within the same line. An example would be in Percy Bysshe Shelleys poem, The Cloud:




I bring fresh showers, for the thirsting flowers,


From the seas and the streams;


I bear light shade for the leaves when laid


In their noonday dreams.




In the above example, we see the first and third lines contain internal rhymes (marked in bold), while the second and fourth lines contain an end rhyme.




There are more sound devices than just rhyming though:




Alliteration is the repetition of the initial sounds in words. Most say only consonant sounds, but I tend to define it as either vowel or consonant sounds (ex. The fool flipped when he found the fire.).


Assonation is the repetitive of vowel sounds in words, such as date and fade.


Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in words, such as twinkle and bunker.




See if you can spot the alliteration, assonance, and consonance in this poem by Theodore Roethke:




Root Cellar


Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,


Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for [racist term]s in the dark,


Shoots dangled and drooped,


Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,


Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.


And what a congress of stinks!


Roots ripe as old bait,


Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,


Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.


Nothing would give up life:


Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.




These are a few of the basic sound devices poets use to create a melodic flow in their poetry. It is not a complete list, but it should help you identify some of the basic structures found in poetry, and assist you in applying some of those same structures to your own work.[/hide]




Still to come:


[hide=Meter]Coming soon[/hide]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good guide so far (keep working at it), only question is: what is the point of enjambment? (i.e What effect does it give the reader and what's the reason for using it?)




#1 Wongtong stalker.

Im looking for some No Limit soldiers!

Link to comment
Share on other sites




What poetry shows us is that in the distance past people didn't have TV and so spent an inordinate amount of time reading and writing is obscure forms. Enjambament is an example of this:-A device which is supposed to create the illusion of someone having one idea and linking it to another idea in another verse without using a full stop. For the intelligent amongst us this is what a COMMA is used for.




From some shakespeare forum from way back when...'My English Teacher'(Username) added this:




Commas are rare in poetry because they break the rhyme of the line and/or verse. Enjambment (there are two spellings) is best used in shakespeare as a method for telling the reader to say something immediately after what was prevouisly said. In modern poetry enjambment is used to keep verse structure and creates an illusion similar to playing light music just before an action sequence in films - that is to keep a pretense of one thing while developing another idea.




Janus does not understand that when poetry was at its most prolific everyone would have understood what was meant, nowadays teenages don't have the cognative capabilites common to their historic counterparts.




Suffice to say the truth is somewhere in the middle: Enjambment is an outdated form(Since now prose (stories) is more common and verse (poetry) is limited to rhyming in the minds of most people. It is something which people who can use it rub in the face of people who can't and people who can't critise people who can.[/hide]






As to JP:


[hide=]Reading is a good way to become a better writer, but another way, a better way, is to write constructively. Rather than focusing on your plot you focus on your characters, their feelings and emotions. This is a more modern format because prevouisly people's emotions were defined by their actions or by their soliquies.


So to start I would think of a plot:


Tom was walking down the road.


Then ask yourself why he is walking down the road:


Tom was walking down the road to visit the store for eggs.


Why was he buy eggs.


Tom was walking down the road to visit the store to buy some eggs for his beloved boyfriend.


Add detail:


Tom strolled down the road with a smile on his face, he knew that James would be happy with the ommlete he was about to buy eggs for.


Add thoughts:


Tom strolled down the road with a smile on his face, not caring what other people thought of him, he was going to make James happy and what was all that mattered.


Add Detail:


Tom strolled gaily down the road, not caring what other people thought of him. It was James'...his boyfriend's birthday, his smile grew as he mouthed the words 'Boyfriend', he was going to buy some eggs for an ommlete.


Add detail:


Tom strolled gaily down the road, his smile greeting the people he met. It was James...his boyfriend's birthday. The thought made him smile wider, he had a boyfriend and he didn't care who knew it. James would be waking up any second now, seeing the note on his pillow 'Wait just there'.


Tom had got up early to make James a birthday breakfast, an ommlete, only to find that they were out of eggs and so had left a note in case James woke up and left for the store. It was only five minutes away but it was their first night together and he didn't want to give the wrong impression.




And so the simple sentance becomes a complex double paragraph which has alot of potential. If I had been writing that normally it would have looked something like this:


Tom was walking down the road to buy some eggs. He was going to make an ommlete for his boyfriend's birthday. James, his boyfriend, was turning 18 so it was a special occasion for both of them.




While I have developed a different point, that it is James' 18th, I have lost alot of the special details which would have made Tom into a realistic character:


The way he walked


His caring nature


That he got up early


That they had only just got together


That this was his first boyfriend




It is not the most realistic premise I grant you...buying eggs was not a good way to start a story but the point stands, any idea can be developed slowly into a bigger idea.


One of the major things that I have trouble with is the delete button, I don't want to get rid of older ideas even when newer ideas are better. It is something that I am slowly tackling but everyone should tackle it...Don't be afraid to develop ideas at the expense of other ideas.






Anyway that is my two cents on prose, but it can be easily adapted for poetry...Write a peice of prose, like the above bit and then select a meter, a rhyme structure and a format. Then begin the cutting process, which is one of the reasons I don't like poetry, you need to cut out the unecessary points, change words so they fit with meter and rhyme and then you have a poem.[/hide]




On What is Poetry:


[hide=]I like to think poetry is something like painting. You start with something blank, you sketch a plan, you develop the plan, you add meat to the plan and then you add detail to the meat. Painting, like poetry, is not something I like doing...You can't just dive in, spend a half hour working and then be free to refine what you have at your leisure, you have to spend a few solid hours working out the plan, then another few hours refining...some poets and painters spend months chosing a single brush stroke or word, but when it is done it fits perfectly. Prose on the otherhand is like painting a portrait, you don't need a plan because it is coming to you as you are writing, you just need to look up occationally to make sure you are on track.




That said it doesn't mean that you cannot get a moment of inspiration and write a beautiful peice of poetry in a half hour session, but that is rare and usually only occures when you are going though a period of emotional turmoil or you are deeply involved in a story where there is alot of turmoil (Either reading, writing or acting). These single gems are usually alot better than the months of poetry that are done which frustrates the hell out of me...so I stick to writing poetry only when inspiration grabs me.[/hide]




It seems like a good guide, very indepth and would be an asset to anyone studying the art of poetry in a proper sense...Just never be afraid to try something new: A Sonnet ends with a rhyming couplet but not always and any other line can rhyme, but it not common. A Ballad should rhyme but if the meter is strong enough it doesn't need to every line.


Imagine that you are an artist, you have an entire range of styles, but you can combine them into new styles or abuse the style to make a point...


An example


[hide=]An idea I have been toying with is writing a poem on the wonderous nature of life in the womb, in (and forgive the terminology I am not sure) Iambic Trochaic Quasi-Pentameter (In laymans terms, 9 words Iambically, new line, 9 words Trochaicly) across five verses; the point being the nine months of pregnacy but only completing five of them.


The sixth verse would be 'And now, comes the needle'.(Which is Unstressed, Stressed, Stressed, Unstressed, Unstressed, Unstressed...I think)


The point being that the most wonderous of things is ended by something barbaric.


Just waiting for the inspiration to come, and hoping that the price will not be too high(whenever, if ever, it does).[/hide]

Well I knew you wouldn't agree. I know how you hate facing facts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very good guide, deffinately what I was looking for when I got the idea for the Coffee Shoppe. I might need to do something with it now that it has been rediscovered from the depths of the second page.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the most important thing to understand if you want to write poetry is that every word is important. This guide does a good job in showing just how much depth there is to those few words and lines merely by having so many different things to talk about. A common mistake I see with poetry is that the writer does not discard their prose-mode thinking. Poetry is defined, if nothing else, by its structure and the way that unique structure creates meaning that can't be achieved through conventional prose. Every word you add to that structure contributes to the way the reader interprets the poem.




I'm going to set a precedent here and offer up a short piece by myself for review. It's the second stanza of a larger poem that I plan to use as an epigram for a larger work . . . anyway:




Above, below, mirrored they spread


The shelter a cruel facade.


The sun beats down indifferent


And a dead tree gives no shade.




I'm big on imagery, because to me, that's the best thing about poetry: the ability to create images and sensations with a few well-chosen words. I think I did a pretty decent job on this stanza, and I would love some feedback. I haven't had much on poetry.




Also, sorry if it's hard to get a meaning out of. It's intended to be thematic of the work it precludes and is only part of a larger poem. But I don't want to post all of that publicly.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Above, below, mirrored they spread


The shelter a cruel facade.


The sun beats down indifferent


And a dead tree gives no shade.




Maybe 'a' for 'the'(In the last line), call it prose like thinking if you wish but poetry is telling a story. A tree, general, anyone could stand beneath it, not 'you' (the reader that is adressed), but anyone. As an after thought: instead of 'And a dead tree gives no shade.' why not 'And dead trees give no shade.'*(see end)


Poetry, to me, is something that makes massive things merely huge...Huge things merely big, and big things life-sized. It brings something that is intangible down to a snapshot, but keeps all the force. Both club and an arrow can kill, but only the arrow inspires fear, because it is that second, that moment where all the force is released, not something that can be countered or parried, just something that is an undismissable fact.




Merely my own views:


'Above. Below. Mirrored, they spread' its more forced than a pentameter, and so it depends on the casual reader verses a prolific reader.


'Beats' to 'Beat'. Only partly gramatically (You have used mirrored, which although in context is correct, gives the impression of past tense which does a small amount to destroy the illusion). Mainly because 'beats' is not nearly as vicous as beat...Beats is something that hearts produce, think about the other times you have heard 'beats', occationally you hear 'the sun beats down' when you are describing a hot day because it is like a pulse, one after another after another...not monotony but growing suffering. I am be wrong but it seems you are creating desolation, not tension...pity not compassion (I would feel pity for someone in a desolated environment, my heart goes out to them but there is nothing I can do, but if the situation is slowly worsening then they need to get out of there, I need to rush to help them, do something....Pity is where you cannot feel despair because there is nothing you can do, compassion is where you feel you must do something because you cannot bare the despair.)


Beat on the other hand is used as a relentless term 'The rain beat down on the roof', 'The man beat against the door', a relentless force which, despite everything, cannot defeat what it is attacking or oppressing...It might just be me but beat is never ending, beats is forever growing.


'The shelter' could have a ? at the end. A sense of bitter irony, the reader asking 'Is there hope?' and receiving a cold slap of reality for their trouble. It also (in my reading) reinforces the line structure, forces the reader to pause before the blow is delievered.




All of which said, but for some positives:


'The shelter a cruel facade' is a very well worded line, being honest with myself I would have wrote 'The shelter's a cruel facade', which fuses the excellently divided line, preventing me from thinking about adding the question mark at all....My version is a statement of fact, resigned yet dignifed, yours is an emotion raw and coursing...Grammar does not control you, what need is there of grammar in this harsh wildernesse?


'Indifferent', at first I wasn't sure, but when I was exploring the word beat rather than beats it occured to me that the sun, though relentless in its passion, is not actively destroying this place, it is not actively affecting this writer, it is merely there...like themselves, not banes of each other's existances(Such terrible grammar there). The writer is beyond blaming the elements, beyond shouting at the sun to stop being so hot. They accept it...it is less about the sun and more about the writer, and what they feel.


The 'And' in the final line is a masterstroke. *Not only does this person suffer, not only does the sun beat down upon this person until they have nothing left to feel but indifference for their position, but there is also dark humour. And there is nothing else alive, I am alone in this place, not tree or animal for company, but I am reminded of the death each time I step out, each time I see what I am to become, no longer do I care, it is merely a fact to me. Dead tree offers no shade.




I hope my prosaic views have been helpful for you, your poetry has certainly been illuminating for me.

Well I knew you wouldn't agree. I know how you hate facing facts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[hide=On Enjambment]To be honest, I wanted to address the topic of line breaks, and the different techniques to give people an idea. I came across a few poems on this forum that ended every line with punctuation. Both end-stopping and enjambment are perfectly fine to use. The problem I saw was authors would sometimes cut up sentences with commas, splice sentences to together with commas, or end fragment sentences with a period. Usually, this stems from a belief that every line must end with punctuation. I wanted to point out that it is okay to continue your thought to the next line.




But you asked a very good question, and to be fair I should try to answer it. I would argue with archimage that enjambment is not an archaic form as he implies. In fact, I see more living contemporary poets today using enjambment than not. In relation to Shakespeare, we all know he wrote all of his plays in iambic pentameter, but his earlier works were mostly written with end-stops. Later in his life he began using enjambment to imitate a more conversational tone. Shakespearean scholars tend to date his undated materials by judging the frequency of his enjambed lines. I also want to point out that enjambment is not confined to free verse poems. Believe it or not, Ive come across some fine sonnets using enjambment. Using enjambment is not something to be arrogant about either. Its really a minor thing in the whole scope of poetry. Yes, many of the literary terms may sound like jargon, but thats the case in almost any field of study. I can be in a room full of doctors and not understand a word they are saying. Its not as important to memorize the terminology, as it is to recognize it and understand what it does. The terminology is really just something that we can use to identify whats going on.




Back to the question, whats the point of enjambment? Enjambment can be used, just like Shakespeare did, to create a better conversational flow in the poem. End-stopping tends to leave a hard pause at the end, essentially finalizing the stream of thought. Enjambment is a lighter pause at the end of the line, allowing you to make a subtle point while blending it into the next line. Enjambment can also be used to create tension at the end of a line before releasing it in the next line. Lets take the example I used in the guide:




Daddy always hated seeing me


Ride my bike without a helmet.




If I were intending on writing a poem about a difficult relationship with my father, then the first line has created a subtle tension that could serve to preface the rest of the poem. It would be subtle enough to seem unintentionally intentional, almost Freudian I would say.[/hide]




[hide=A word about C/C]C/C (or c&c) is short for comments and constructive criticism. It is important to remember that a c/c is nothing more than an opinion. Everybody tends to c/c work differently. Some want to completely rewrite your work in their own style. Some want to flaunt their knowledge of terminology. Some only offer their own interpretation of what you wrote. It really isnt important what style of c/c you receive. Out of every ten people who read your work, about one or two are going to really, really get you. They will seem to really understand what you are trying to do. These are the people that will be most important to you, and these are the ones you should pay close attention to what they have to say. In simple terms, they are your target audience.




The author has the luxury of taking some, all, or none of the advice given. I always keep this in mind when I offer a critique, so that I can feel free to say whatever I want. I dont blow in to critique someones work to try to show people how awesome I think I am at the expense of someones ego. The real secret is I critique others works because it helps me. It helps me to better identify what I feel works and what dont work. The more critiques I do, the clearer my own identity becomes. This helps me play on my own strengths while I work on my weaknesses.




The c/c you really have to take with a grain of salt are the ones that say nothing more than Thats great! or It sucks! because it offers no insight. Heck, you cant even be sure that they read it! What you want to know is why they think its great, or why they think its bad.




With all that said, I understand that this forum sort of straddles the line between a workshop and a vanity site. Some people post looking for feedback. Others post looking for help with a school assignment. Still, others post just to share and have fun. Unless the author specifically tells you what they are looking for, it can be tricky to know what kind of feedback to leave. The atmosphere in this forum is relatively polite, and that can make it quite inviting and refreshing to come here. In the real world, you are going to run into a lot of know-it-all smartasses who want to tear you down. It forces you to develop a thick skin about your own writing.




As a suggestion, for every one poem or story you post you should consider leaving 2 critiques for someone else. There are two reasons for this. The first is to help you get comfortable on learning how to critique as I outlined above. The second reason is its the polite thing to do. If you expect someone to read your work, then you should be willing to return the favor. If you are unsure of how to start critiquing, start by giving your interpretation of the poem or story, and mention anything that you liked or didnt understand.[/hide]




[hide=response to archimage]In a prose environment, this would be a matter of character development versus plot development. Both qualities are essential in my opinion. Typically, I wont read past the first 50-100 pages of a book if I dont care about the characters. If I dont care about the characters, then that means Im not going to care what will happen to them.




The flip-side to this is that if the plot isnt moving along then Im going to get bored really easy. Charles [bleep]ens would have a harder time publishing a novel like Great Expectations in this century, because we dont want to read about somebodys entire life from birth to death. We want to jump right to the action. As a result, we as writers are forced to begin our stories right when disaster strikes our protagonist, and do our best to fill in the background as we go.




Shakespeare and the Greek plays used to develop their characters with soliloquies because they had to overcompensate for what they lacked in effects. It was important that the audience could understand what was going through the characters head. Were not going to see Bruce Wayne in the next Batman movie step up to the front of the camera and deliver a four-page monologue on what he is feeling to the audience. It would bog down the plot movement.




What you gave was a good example of a character development exercise. It gives you, the author, a better understanding of the nature of your character, and how he might think and feel in certain situations. It is important to find the background of your character, however it runs the risk of slowing your story down and making it boring.




Im more of a plot-driven fan. Its good to know what your characters are thinking, but you dont want to drown out your entire scene with it. This process is called character internalization. Its important to remain focused on whats happening on the stage, and that means outside of your characters head. Your story should flow something like this: Something happens/Your character reacts/Your character internalizes what just happened, Something happens/Your character reacts/Your character internalizes what just happened.




The list of character traits you provided at the end are indeed valuable though. These are details you can throw in to flesh out your character as the story progresses.




Overall, I agree with your idea of writing constructively. Exercises such as these will help you better understand the details of your character and setting, and help you create a more vivid world.[/hide]




Very good guide, deffinately what I was looking for when I got the idea for the Coffee Shoppe. I might need to do something with it now that it has been rediscovered from the depths of the second page.




I think it is a great idea, and you should do something with it. Maybe it could become a subforum? That way discussion threads won't drown out people wanting to post their work. Whatever you choose to do, I'll be interested in seeing it.


Would you consider writing another guide soon about writing this time? Like writing stories?




I've thought about it after we finish this one. I would like these guides to become a collaborative project from all of us. Maybe archimage could help me write a prose guide. ;)




Nom, I do like the imagery in that stanza. I'll try to post something more about it later. I hope to finish this guide by tomorrow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites




Usually, this stems from a belief that every line must end with punctuation. I wanted to point out that it is okay to continue your thought to the next line.




Yes, I would also like to point out there is, to my knowladge, no style, Prosaic or Poetic, which requires punctuation at the end of every line. It would be kind of like coming to the end of a line and randomly putting a full stop in when you are writting...the only difference is that if you change the font size you are suddenly left with commas randomly everywhere :roll:




"Always remember. that punctuation. is-about, how, it's read. Not format."


That sentance is grammatically incorrect but is an accurate represenation of how I would say it, and (Please do not use this in coursework because it is me 'expanding the frontiers of literature' not me talking about prose) so therefore is grammatically correct. For instance


I stare across. This room.


The bodies move. Some long dance.


You stand out. Flame. In the wind.


Draw me too you. Snake to water.




Our eyes meet. A stolen glance.


I turn away. You stare on.


Turn back. Hypnotic. In a way.


Entwine out gaze. Mental embrace.




From dream. To life.


My heart lingers. You think it over.


Hand raised. Shaking. A little.


Clasp together. I feel your breath.




Quicken. We continue.


Passion erupts. Our lips lock.


But. The image fades. Dream away.


You look away. I stare on...




It reads how I want it to be read WITHOUT using meter or rhyme...I would call it Prose Poetry, since it is a prosaic take on poetry.




I would argue with archimage that enjambment is not an archaic form as he implies.


Ok, enjambament does not have the same cultural significance in the eyes of the whole population that it used to, and so is noticed less by readers, even if it is growing in useage. We have already seen that certain 'myths' about poetery have developed(Punctuation requirements) and so (and this is from talking to people not just me theorising) that funny lines is just what poets do.




Using enjambment is not something to be arrogant about either.


No, it isn't. I rescind that remark, I remembered someone saying it and as a prose writer I felt a bit annoyed with the poetic groups so...well yeah. Poetry and Prose are largely isolated forms, and while there is overlap it is not a massively massive amount. Prose has the strict laws of grammar and poetry has meter....and so on.




In relation to Shakespeare


[hide=]Hehe, I believe you are mistaken. Shakespeare never wrote any plays, he wrote alot of lines and distributed them to the actors. It was only much later that they were collected into one body...now while I may be wrong, there has been no manuscript written in shakespeare's hand found and according to 'My English Teacher' Shakespeare used very little punctuation because he was always on hand during rehershals, so he would say exactly how he wanted whatever to be played. Now end-stops might have been something else but given all of that I believe that you are mistaken.[/hide]







With all that said, I understand that this forum sort of straddles the line between a workshop and a vanity site....In the real world, you are going to run into a lot of know-it-all smartasses who want to tear you down. It forces you to develop a thick skin about your own writing.




I wouldn't say vanity as such, I would say that people using the library generally feel good about themselves because of their shared literary interest and being able to express themselves openly and honestly. People no doubt do get a bit of vanity relief from posting here, but you would get that anywhere. To me writing is like love and love is not vain it is an expression of emotions and feelings in a way that other people understand, identical to writing.




But as to developing a thick skin, there needs to be a balance. I know I probably come across as someone who...can...be arrogant, I am a very arrogant person because I tend to be in the minority because of my beliefs. That does not change the fact that I am, to quote Ratchet, a master writer(though I consider myself as merely a good writer who has flaws like anyone else), and while it maybe difficult to except my critisms I am not on the attack.


There are people out there who are solely on the attack, who just want to be an annoying...person....I know I was one when I first joined. Those people need to be tolerated, helped if possible and ignored as a last resort.


Most everyone else is only trying to find what they like in what you have written and help you develop your talent into something they can enjoy. That isn't the point of poetry, which is about your expression, but that does not mean that they are worthless in what they say...You never know what other people will say and so listen to them, even if you can't see any use in what they are saying, you never know when it might be useful.[/hide]






[hide=]It is not only prose that character and plot development are important, in poetry they are much more essential because you have limited space and limited vocabulary. You need to convey who this person is in a line, what they are about in another line and their story in two or three.


I am talking about 'worthwhile' poetry rather than 'emotional' poetry, a worthwhile poem is something that has been designed to evoke a response of a certain type. An emotional poem is something that is about what you feel and express. I prefer emotional poetry because there is no requirement, you are not having an idea forced down your throat, but you are being given part of someone's life, some part that you can hold, feel and believe in. A poem of despair makes the reader more willing to think about things which exist that are despairable but ignorable. Love poems give you a sense of happiness inside because you know that something fundermentally right and true is occuring. A poem about the woes of Ireland though(Reading Seamus Heaney so...) only makes me feel that the world is a rather rubbish place, that even though this poem has been written it has changed nothing...and if someone talented and intelligent cannot stop the barbarism then it can only be left to fight itself out. Not only that, because I am an English person...and an objectivist...I tend to view things with distain but respect that there were valid reasons at the time, even if I don't agree with them now...You can't arrest someone from the past for a law that is written in the future...you cannot judge someone as wrong when it is only wrong in our eyes.


Anyway far off the deep end.




In prose the two subjects(Character and plot development) can be summed up in terms of 'Reader Interest Factor'. I may not be interested in the main characters but the background might be terribly interesting...For instance I wrote a fairly terrible story about a woman, whose husband was a banker and killed by rioters (Taking place in a socialist revolution, in Britain, in 1990, please contact me for more info), she basically lived in her house, had the socialist delivery man come and give her the food she needed to survive. She also had a daughter. She was not an interesting character and frankly I couldn't have cared less about what happened to her because of my social sensiblities, I cared more about her daughter because she was four and has a terrible mother, but not enough to keep me interested. The whole point was that this was one woman's take on what was happening...Because it is serial there are tonnes of things happening, Britain is going though social revolution...but she is there, (not)living her life. This story is important because of context, and relies on that to sustain the readers interest.


Another much more interesting story I wrote(Here) we interesting to me because of the subject matter, and dealt, again with the daility of life, so no action plot...but kept interest, partly because of subject matter but mainly, in my opinion, because of its style. It is written in the first person(I) talking to the second person(You), about the second person. Now from what people said about it there are three ways it was taken 'Thats disgusting', 'It was so real' and 'Is this about me?' It is me talking to the reader. The reader obvouisly cares about themselves, if they don't then they get a whole barrage of nice things said about them, and because of the subject matter they begin to grow attached to me(The Narrator) as well. Ultimately it goes down hill because I lost my inspirational moment and I could feel it getting worse so I stopped, but for what it is it is a good story.


Ironically the people who didn't like the beginning liked the end, why? Because in the beginning you have two characters, neither of which you know in any detail, and a very fast plot...Two repressed teenagers, finally come to terms with 'coming out' and bang the story is off. Then it slows down, life takes over and passion is recurrent...sort of like life.


Anyway all of this was prompted because of your saying of Great Expectations would not be published because we don't want to read someone's entire life...that may be true but that doesn't stop stories about someone's entire life being told...The Bible is a notable example, as are the books which are written about the life of Christ with a different spin.


Also it is not only disaster that strikes, but also joyous occation which grabs the readers attention...too many stories start with 'Blah item was stolen blah' or 'Blah a hero was born to fight an epic battle' or the ever popular 'It was a normal day when suddenly a lamp post exploded.'


I would like to also point out there a number of stories, big book stories, start with introducing the characters in a friendly environment. Peter F. Hamilton for instance does not jump in with 'The universe was in peril' but starts with


'It seemed to Louise Kavanagh as though the fearsome midsummer heat had persisted for endless, dreary weeks rather than just the four Duke-days since the last meagre shower of rain.'


It is in the next chapter that


'It was Mrs Charlsworth, their nanny. Variously tyrant and surrogate mother, confidante and tratior. A rotund, middle-aged woman, with prematurely greying here, and an otherwise sour face softened by hundreds of granny wrinkles.//She stabbed a knitting neddle straight into Grant Kavanagh's face, aiming for his left eye. 'Leave my girls alone, you bloody fiend,' she yelled definately.'




Sometimes things need to be normalised before the action starts or you feel nothing for the things that the characters feel.




Were not going to see Bruce Wayne in the next Batman movie step up to the front of the camera and deliver a four-page monologue on what he is feeling to the audience. It would bog down the plot movement.


Oh I don't know about a four pager but you frequently get characters giving soliquies to the camera...For instance in Spiderman, Peter Parker is always rabbiting on about 'I am spiderman no more.' 'No wait I am spiderman' 'No actually I'm not again.' They are not massive peices but they don't have to be...But frequently now we have double teams of villians who do a soliquie of sorts to each other... Its sort of a modern take on it because we want to know what is going on. Also in Spiderman, number 2, you have Doctor Octavais who has 4 metal arms who he reveals his plans to...Or more realistically the audiance.




however it runs the risk of slowing your story down and making it boring.


Naturually, but rushing though a period of boredem does not make for good reading...always. Sometimes you need boring bits and those boring bits need to have the same attention you give to the whole story...Its not like poetry where every word matters, its where every sentace and page matters. You have a page with one good peice surrounded by alot of rushed boring bits is a bad page. If you have one long bit which is a bit boring but gets everything out of the way and have a good bit before and after then you have a good page. An example in our good friend Shakespeare. Othello...During the first act the Duke has to say 'The Turks are doing whatever', Shakespeare doesn't sugarcoat it in poetry to make it sound good or rush it to stop the mediocraticy, but gives it honestly as what it is.




Ok I am a bit off tangent, so simply do not be afraid of boredem, you can always go back and edit, but if it is not there then you cannot read it back and get a sense of what you, as a writer, were feeling at the time.


And never, never, cycle. If something works once then that is great, but you can't use it again straight away. Going 'Something, reaction, emotion' is a good starting point but each time will be different, a good author will blend everything seemlessly, not tick boxes that are supposed to make a good story.




The list of character traits you provided at the end are indeed valuable though. These are details you can throw in to flesh out your character as the story progresses.


Hmmm, I have a different writing style to you. I don't flesh characters out, I present characters, this is someone these are things you could see them as but they are not limited to those things, this is just them in an example for one given moment, the aspects I HOPE the reader will notice.


When I was writing I was thinking 'This person is clearly naive, they are doing all of this and they are going to get back and the other person will have left.' But I was also thinking 'These two people have been together for ages, it is a special occation, finally lawful.' So I tried to harness the latter, even though I knew that I would later use the former. Try to always think about your character in five dimentions:


Physical, Your view, Emotional, The Audiances view, Their view.


Most people develop the first two and to some extent the third one. The forth is something that I am not good at, while the fifth is something I am better at. I don't know what you are thinking when you are reading this, but I know what I (The character, of sorts) is thinking. Bad example but it is something that you will get or you won't.






I think it is a great idea, and you should do something with it. Maybe it could become a subforum?




From prevouis times we need to demonstrate a powerful body which can discuss things here first before we get a subforum of our own.




I would like these guides to become a collaborative project from all of us. Maybe archimage could help me write a prose guide. ;)


I have no problem with that, if you can unpick what I write :thumbsup:[/hide]

Well I knew you wouldn't agree. I know how you hate facing facts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites





The main idea of the Coffee Shoppe was to get a sub forum for people completely dedicated to writing, not those who are going to spam or throw some story with absolutely no value.








To create a sub forum in which an author can post a story, and also get more than a two word, "Good Job". The person reading is not allowed to just write that they like it or something like that, or if they do, they must critique it to the best extent they can. Only specific members may post on this, and everyone can look at it.






The coffee shoppe started as an idea, and caught on apparently. Nom Anor was one of the main enthusiasts, and actually came up with the name for it. Beside that, I find Archimage to be a great member because of his gigantic critiques.




I've been working on this for a while, but ultimately, we have to convince a mod that this will actually be put to use. The one mod I talked to said "That's what the VL is for", but the VL has never been so full of critique ever. There are various people who do critique, and various people who just post saying "It sucked" or "It's good". A lot of authors like to know what they did right, or wrong, and learn from it. The VL is too full of people unwilling to actually sit down and tell them that it was crap or it was fine. They usually read it, say something nice or mean about it, and leave, without telling anyone why they thought this, no support for why they think it is good or bad.




Basically, it is a place for serious discussion on writing, not for the basic VL fare.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a prose guide floating around here somewhere. It sort of died. I'd be happy to resurrect it now that we seem to have renewed interest.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry folks. I had a busy day today. I posted a rough instruction for rhyming, but I plan on updating this and making it more thorough in the future. I'll try to post the guide for meter in a few days. I want to take my time with that one, because it can be a difficult subject to explain.




@ratchet= I still like the idea. I do agree with the mod you spoke with said though. This isn't a writing site, and so I guess we're lucky to even have the VL. At the same time, if we did grow then it would seem logical to create a subforum within the VL for the Coffee Shoppe. It could be dedicated for serious discussion and critiques, and maybe have an access restriction like the Falador Library has. I wouldn't want to scare off people who just want to come here and share, and end up finding a big discussion on writing like it was science class.




@NOM = I see you already bumped it up, and I'll go take a look at that tomorrow.




I'm happy to see a growing interest here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.