Tag Archives: writing

The Modern Rap Fan’s Guide to Rhyming

I have a minor obsession with poetic techniques, rhyme schemes and suchlike. I also love wordplay. This gives me a whole new level of joy when listening to rap music. I’m always like, ‘Fierce internal rhymes’ and ‘Did you hear the enjambment on that?!’ The fun never ends in my house. This is my quick guide to poetic techniques that are in vogue in the educational medium we call hip hop music. You’re welcome. drake

  1. The Drake: Actually reputedly invented by Big Sean (who is actually medium sized for an adult human), the technique is to throw something on the end to be the rhyming word or phrase – a word that isn’t integrated into the previous sentence. See ‘Forever‘:
    She insists she got more class, we know
    Swimming in the money, come and find me, Nemo
    This makes every line a punchline; it can be witty, irreverent, and is a good way to slip in a topical reference (perhaps to a clown-fish-based Disney film).  Kanye-Creative-Genius
  2. The Kanye: The key is to find as many words as possible that rhyme with your own name and insert them as end rhymes in an A-A rhyme scheme. See ‘Famous‘:
    For all the girls that got d*** from Kanye West
    If you see ’em in the streets give ’em Kanye’s best
    Well I’m Kanye impressed. This technique is self-referential, perhaps self-mocking, and a way to marry braggadocio and punning in a meta society. Also, it’s an entertaining way to practise rhyming – look up your own name in a rhyming dictionary and go to town.
    Gambino
  3. The Gambino: This chap did not invent the rhetorical question; he’s not even the most famous proponent e.g. What’s a goon to a goblin? or Can I get an encore? However he often combines the rhetorical question with anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, to have a cumulative, powerful effect: See ‘Heartbeat‘:
    Are we dating? Are we f****ing?
    Are we best friends? Are we something…
    See also ‘Bonfire‘:
    You want to see my girl? I ain’t that dumb.
    You want to see
    my girl? Check Maxim.
    And ‘III. Telegraph Ave.‘: 
    Can we just roll with the feeling?
    Can we just roll for a minute?
    Choose a start to a question then vary the ending to have a hectoring, bold effect.
    nicki-minaj-whats-good_nu0iffukzj1qzwh14o1_500
  4. The Minaj: Go full meta and just announce what rhyming couplet you’re aiming for and hope the populous are happy to go along with it. See ‘Only‘:
    My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape
    Yeah, that was a set up for a punchline on duct tape
    She’s actually great at assonance (no pun intended), consonance and internal rhymes, but her ‘I’m going to include something about this because it rhymes with this’ speaks to what we all know poetry really is.
    kendrick
  5. The Kendrick: Mix every linguistic technique with extraordinary realism, conscience and a bit of free jazz and be king of everything.

Of course these clever souls use a vast array of techniques; I’ve just picked out a few that I think you should all try to employ in the rhymes (or poems or novels) you’re secretly writing in your bedrooms. You know who you are.

Are there any other rap or poetic techniques that are tickling your brainboxes at the moment? Share please!

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry, Writing, Writing Advice

Capitalising Seasons

birtish-weatherSpring, summer, autumn (or fall) and winter generally do not need capital letters. So why do people write them with capitals so often?

Well they do take capitals as part of proper nouns, like the names of events, e.g. ‘Winter Olympics’.

Also, months have initial capital letters and they’re the other unit we regularly split the year into. My favourite summer month is June.

They need capitals at the beginning of sentences too, obviously.

Otherwise, all small case please. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Errors, Editing, Proofreading

‘We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.’ – Maria Mitchell, Astronomer

This is a chapter from the ebook ‘The Brilliant Women Collection’, posted here in honour of International Women’s Day. The whole book is available here for free.  

Maria Mitchell with her students.

Maria Mitchell with her students.

One starry night in the autumn of 1847 in Nantucket, USA, Maria Mitchell discovered a comet. She noticed through her telescope that 5 degrees above the North Star there shone a light that hadn’t been there before. She wrote down its coordinates and checked again the following night. Her father had taught her astronomy and she knew the skies well; she was confident that what she had seen was a comet. King Frederick VI of Denmark had promised a gold medal to anyone who discovered a comet through a telescope (because that’s just the sort of thing Kings did in those days). Typically, a man surfaced who claimed to have seen it first and he was awarded the medal. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was cleared up after some stern letter-writing; Maria claimed her prize a year later.

She was 29 when ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet’ (now officially known as C/1847 T1) propelled her to fame; tourists came to see the woman astronomer (a shocking rarity in those days). Maria became the first female member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848; the fact that no other women members were admitted until 1943 shows how ahead of her time she was. Two years later she became the only female member of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Maria began to attend scientific meetings and became respected by many in the astronomical community. She got a job as a computer (a person that does computations, not like a human MacBook) monitoring the position of Venus.

In 1956, a rich gent by the name of General Swift employed her to escort his daughter, Prudence, on a trip around Europe. She jumped at the chance to see the stars from the other side of the world. Maria went to the Greenwich Observatory, and then travelled on without Prudence to France and Italy. When in Rome, she did as any Roman astronomer would do, and requested to see the Vatican Observatory. Again, she was stymied by foolish men who decided at first that they could not let a woman in. She finally succeeded in gaining special permission to enter, but only during the day, which rather defeated the object!

On her return to the USA, she was met with a more heartening surprise; women had collected money for the first woman astronomer and bought Maria her own telescope. She used this for many years to study sunspots. In 1865 she began work at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie in New York where she was Director of the Observatory and Professor of Astronomy. She was an enthusiastic teacher: before she became an astronomer, she had hired a room and started her own school. She was very keen on active learning and often called her students in overnight to watch a spectacular meteor shower.
maria2

She was also an early advocate of women’s rights and was active in the women’s suffrage movement. Maria believed that being born a woman should never be a disadvantage. She said, ‘Born a woman, born with the average brain of humanity, born with more than an average heart, if you are mortal what higher destiny could you have? No matter where you are nor what you are, you are a power.’ When Maria found out that younger, less senior male astronomers were being paid more than her, she successfully negotiated for higher pay. She was friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton who famously rewrote a version of the constitution to say ‘All men and women are created equal’, and was a famous early female trouser-wearer. Together they vociferously opposed slavery. Throughout her life, Maria taught young women that they could be anything they wanted to be and encouraged their pursuit of science, echoing what her progressive father had taught her. She is remembered for her outstanding contributions to astronomy, teaching, human rights and women’s rights. An observatory in Nantucket bears her name, as does the 30km Mitchell crater on the moon (next to Aristoteles, near the north-eastern lunar limb if you were wondering. Come on, telescopes out!).

She famously said, ‘We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.’ The pursuit of discovery and learning more about the universe was her life’s work. She inspires me to constantly be curious about science and particularly the fascinating frontiers of space. She demonstrates that despite the awkward obstacles instituted by traditional male attitudes, great discoveries have been made by women. An inspirational teacher, she has also shown how important it is to pass on your knowledge and be a pioneer for the sake of future generations.

Read about more brilliant women here

Who inspires you? Comments Please! Likes and shares are also deeply appreciated.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Give-aways

Mr. George Baker and Mr. Morris Lessmore: Two Perfect Books About Reading

Journey-2I’ve been planning story times for the library which allows me the unrivaled pleasure of reading some of the funniest, loveliest books around. Children’s books have to be succinct, and often have depth and moral messages. They also have pictures. I wrote a post last week for Momentum Books about the most gorgeous wordless novels I’ve come across: Silence is Golden: The Particular Loveliness of Wordless Books. These visual books are particularly good for people who have dyslexia or other reading issues. They are universally accessible and are undeniably works of art. Journey, pictured right, is a particular favourite.

Mr GeorgeHowever, I’ve also been reading books with words in them (the parents do prefer that when they’ve brought their toddler to story time). I like to choose books with the theme of reading, to doubly encourage it. I am completely in love with Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest and Jon J Muth.  Mr. George Baker is narrated by a little boy called Harry. The eponymous character is one hundred years old, a famous drummer, and going on the school bus with Harry, because he is learning to read too. It’s lively, beautiful and moving.

Also essential reading is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm. The stunning animation it inspired is an award-winning combination of Up and The Wizard of Oz, but for book-lovers. Like Oz, once colour kicks in it becomes even more of a visual treat. The book is retro, heart-warming and, I think, even better than the film. Watch the film though – it’s fifteen minutes extremely well spent.

Did you like it?

2 Comments

Filed under books

‘Further’ or ‘Farther’?

These are often used interchangeably and are commonly accepted to be synonyms. Both words share the sense of going beyond. However, there is still a proper, formal way to use them.

Farther is used for a physical distance. Think far away. If you could fit the words a greater physical distance in place of it, it is correct to use farther.

“Is there farther to go before we turn?”

“Is there a greater physical distance to go before we turn?”

green-light

F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to use them.

Further can be used for less concrete notions and all that metaphysical jazz:

“Without further ado…”

Further to your letter…”

“We’ve made further progress on the research.”

If you would like to see further posts from me, please follow this blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading

‘Stationary’ or ‘Stationery’?

stationaryBack to school time: a time when proprietors try to cash in on young ones’ collective desire for decorative protractors, pens and paraphernalia. It is also a time when signage misspelling abounds. The A-board to the right was in my shopping precinct. Homophones are tricky. Here’s the correct usage: 

Stationary: adjective; not moving.

Stationery: noun; writing materials. 

The way that I was taught to remember this is to think of the -er in paper. “I bought pap-er from a station-er.”

stationeryTheir etymology is linked. They both originate in the Latin stationarius, which comes from stare which means ‘to stand’. You are stationary when you are standing in one place. Also, stationer (a person who sells stationery) was a tradesperson who had set up at a fixed location and was therefore standing in the same spot, stationary

One more time: 

“The paper is stationery.”

“The car is stationary.”

I hope that was helpful. How do you remember it? Comments welcome!

4 Comments

Filed under Common Errors, Editing, Proofreading

Thirteen Thoughts On Dialogue

Readers love dialogue, or so I’ve read; apparently the white space is less daunting than solid paragraphs. In your novel make sure dialogue is achieving something – plot or character development. The dream is to create a level of naturalism.

  1. frozenInclude interruptions and partial sentences. In real life people often tail off, or leave the other person to fill in the end of their sentence.
  2. Think about how each of your characters would speak.
  3. People’s vocabularies vary with up-bringing, situation, where they live or have lived, level of education etc. Give your characters different vocabularies, though avoid stereotyping.
  4. Related to this, it is worth considering whether they would use different colloquialisms, sayings, cultural references or slang. Evan Kingston is excellent at this.
  5. To create pace with your dialogue and to reflect stress in the characters keep it short and sharp. To create more intrigue and drag things out use longer exchanges.
  6. Sadness or anxiety can be expressed by someone stammering or falling over their words, not quite knowing what to say.
  7. Dialogue is as much about what characters don’t say as what they do. Subtext and mystery will keep your readers intrigued.
  8. Avoid expository dialogue: the dreaded ‘info-dump’. Never let one character lecture another with information just because you want your audience to know it. Make it an exchange of questions and answers. Leave things unsaid or imply them.
  9. Make sure your characters don’t stop or sit down to have conversations. In real life conversation happens while people are doing other things. Please don’t have dialogue meetings.
  10. Use adverbs sparingly when you’re not using tone or accompanying actions to show mood.
  11. To check whether your dialogue flows like real human conversation, read it out loud. Get your friends to join in and make an evening of it. If it doesn’t sound like you intend it to coming from your volunteer thespians, then it probably won’t read right either.
  12. Dialogue should be realistic, but as with everything in novels, it can be more exciting, quicker, wittier and more convenient than real life.
  13. funny-english-men-drinking-teaRelated to the above, do start chapters or sections in the middle of conversations. The start can be dreadfully dull. If books were real life we’d be twelve pages in and still only have established that everyone is fine, weather is happening, and we’d all love a cup of tea, if it’s not too much trouble.

Do you have any further thoughts on dialogue? I would love to see them in the comments. Please do like or share if this has been of any use to you.

If you’d like to have a dialogue with me, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

4 Comments

Filed under Editing, Writing, Writing Advice

Hyphenating Compound Adjectives

The aim of hyphenation is usually to make things easier to read. In general, if the two words modifying the noun appear before it then they should be hyphenated. If they are post-modifiers then the hyphen is not necessary.

Here’s an example:

‘She was a well-known scientist.’

‘The scientist was well known.’

Hyphens can also be helpful in demonstrating that the two adjectives are combined.

A ‘first-class discussion’ is quite different from a ‘first class discussion’.

huge man

“Oh, you want to see a man-eating plant.”

There are exceptions to any rule, for example if the left modifier has an -ly ending and the right modifier has an -ed then they are usually not hyphenated e.g. ‘a distantly related cousin’. Compound modifiers with comparatives or superlatives are generally not hyphenated either e.g. ‘the most recent change’.

If you’re not sure, check a dictionary or ask a proofreader.

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading

Ngrams: A Magnificent Editing Tool

Basically, Google Ngrams searches all of the 5.2 million books digitized by Google for whatever word(s) or phrase(s) you want to look for or compare. It then plots them on a graph. This is extremely useful when proofreading as it helps me to choose between variant spellings, particularly if an author has used more than one in their work. 

Have a look at this example:
nerves
Charts like the one below also show which version of a phrase was in common use in a particular era. You can even use it to check whether a word you’re considering using in your period piece was in common usage at that time.

hat

In general, it’s rather interesting to see how words or phrases have risen or fallen in popularity. Here’s the trajectory of ‘twerk’:

twerk

You can also search in many languages, including British or American English, and choose a shorter time span. It can even be used to explore cultural change and the popularity of ideas.

women

It’s a handy and rather interesting tool. Click here to have a go.

What do you think? Have you used it in your editing?

 

3 Comments

Filed under Editing, Proofreading

Failure and The American Writer: A Literary History by Gavin Jones

Failure and The American WriterI was so deeply engrossed in this book that I read it in an evening and then dreamt of living in the woods with Henry David Thoreau and Edith Wharton. Gavin Jones, Stanford professor and expert on American literature, explores the theme of failure in nineteenth century writing. In opposition to the ‘American Dream’ narrative, failure as a theme has compelling realism, and great potential for social critique, the author argues.

He explores the theme of failure in the works, for example, the decline of Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. But beyond plot, he considers narrative and stylistic failure, botched manuscripts and critical flops. Henry James: marvellous author, terrible playwright. Edgar Allan Poe: wrote bad poetry as purposeful subversion.

What I particularly enjoyed, as an editor, was reading about how novels were reworked, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson started out as a novel about conjoined twins. Late on in the drafting, he decided they should be separate twins, though didn’t tidy the manuscript very thoroughly: some scenes make far more sense in the former scenario. His drastic change of plot also meant that he had characters who no longer seemed directly relevant. He toyed with the idea of drowning one in a well to remove the plotting problem she posed.

This book raises fascinating questions about whether authors should write simply for popular success or to challenge readers, risking commercial failure. Melville, for example, wrote two books, ‘for money – being forced to do it as other men are to sawing wood…my only desire for ‘success’ (as it is called) springs from my pocket and not from my heart…independent of my pocket, it is my earnest desire to write those sorts of books which are said to ‘fail’.’

The best lesson for writers to be found in this book comes from Herman Melville: ‘It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation…Failure is the true test of greatness.’

This exceptional work on failure is a success.

Thanks to Cambridge University Press for the review copy.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Reviews