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They are the good in lyrics and poems, but what about prose?

An example from my own writing:

I fall to the ceramic floor, blood and bile dripping from my lips, my stomach full but my muscles lacking the slightest drop of energy. But that's all right. I don't have to move. I don't have to do anything. Because I'm happy. Because Kazuo and I will be one from now on. We will be together.

Wholly. Forever.

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  • Where is the rhyme?
    – user5645
    Feb 11 '17 at 19:59
  • Perfectly fine, imo. Particularly since the paragraph break helps distance them a bit, and since they are (in standard dialects) only a slant rhyme, not a perfect one. The reader's speed and emphasis will determine whether they even hear it. In fact, the rhyme only really stands out because of the rhythm underpinning of these short sentences, which give it a sing-song quality. But whether it's rhyme or rhythm, I think @KaranSeraph's answer does a good job of showing a case where it becomes too noticeable and distracts from the piece. Feb 26 '17 at 4:37
9

What rhymes? None stand out in that piece. Prose is full of words that rhyme with each other, but you only notice when they occur in the same rhythmic position, as they do in poetry. It takes rhythm to make rhyme.

EDIT: To demonstrate what I mean, since Neil disagrees:

Old Mrs Smith went to the post office and sent her nephew letter.

There are two pairs of words that rhyme in this sentence. went/sent and letter/her. You are highly unlikely to notice either one of them because nothing calls your attention to them.

Old Mrs Smith to the post office went
And to her nephew a letter she sent

Put the same thought into verse, however, and the rhyme jumps out at you because the rhythm throws it in your face.

There are all kinds of rhyming pairs scattered through ordinary prose. They don't surface as rhymes until something in the rhythm of the piece pairs them up.

Note some other pairs in this post that you did not notice reading it, and I did not notice writing it: surface/piece, notice/office, what/that/at, none/one, stand/and, words/kinds, with/Smith, other/either, highly/unlikely, nothing/rhyming/something/writing/reading.

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  • 1
    Quite a few of your "rhyming pairs" don't qualify as rhymes in my view.
    – celtschk
    May 25 '18 at 14:38
  • 1
    @celtschk - "Of your pairs that are rhyming, quite a few / don't qualify as rhymes in my view" would have been funnier. I can see that some look odd out of context, but I've seen worse in published poetry/lyrics. May 26 '18 at 11:35
7

Rhyming in prose is neither inherently bad nor inherently good.

If the rhyming in some way adds to the story, then it's a good use.

If the rhyming distracts the reader such that it detracts from the story, then it's not a good use.

As with other literary devices, used in moderation and with intention, rhyming can be used to give import to a particular line. "We will be together. Forever."

Too much can seem silly. "I explained the strain sprain I received on the lane, again."

5

Are rhymes bad in prose? Sometimes yes, it depends on the prose and the rhyme and how it's used.

Poetic devices like rhyming and alliteration can be used in prose but it's not at all easy to do well. The rhymes here, "together" and "forever" are noticeable, and I think they do the piece a disservice. I'd simply remove the last two words.

I disagree with Mark's answer: Rhyme exists whether or not there's rhythm. It's just not nearly as noticeable in prose, and readers are seeing it out of context. (It's also worth noting that poetry doesn't have to rhyme.)

You've written a potentially powerful paragraph, but then end it with "We will be together. / Wholly. Forever." All of a sudden we're getting into something that reads to me like something you'd put on a greeting card or that a high school kid would write in an awkward love poem.

I'd just stick with words that move the story forward. The imagery here is powerful, there's no need to bookmark it with a rhyme.

3

First of all, congratulations. That's an interesting piece of prose.

Secondly, yeah, rhyme can improve the quality of prose, because it gives it a sense of finality and emphasis.

However, this must be kept as minimal as possible and only used whenever necessary. It will come out best if it seems unintended, as if the words just happened to rhyme, without the writer trying too hard.

All the best!!

2

As @MarkBaker said, there are lots of "accidental" rhymes in prose that no one notices. But if you structure your prose to call attention to a rhyme, I think in practice it's not prose any more, it's poetry. Maybe a very short snippet of poetry, but poetry. Or at least, I think that's how the reader will perceive it.

So the question becomes, When is it appropriate to include poetry in your story? To which the answer would be, If it's the sort of thing that people write poetry about.

If two characters are describing how to repair diesel engines, and one of them lapses into poetry with no explanation, this would be very strange and probably ludicrous. (If you had just been explaining how the one character is totally fascinated by diesel engines and loves diesel engines more than he loves his wife and children and so on, it might work that he is writing poems about diesel engines. But that's a pretty far out case.)

If a man is talking about how he just met the most beautiful girl in the world and he is swept off his feet and then he makes up a couple of lines of poetry about her, it could work, if you do it well.

The example you gave ... I don't know. "Together forever" is a commonly used rhyme, you see it on jewelry and greeting cards a lot, kind of a cliche, so it might work. Or if as this guy is dying he makes up a couple of poetic lines about his girlfriend (or whatever is going on here), that could work if you do it well. I don't think your example is bad. I just don't know that it adds much.

(I am reminded of a book I read years ago, "The Blue Adept", where a character is unaware that he has acquired magic powers that are exercised by casting spells in rhyme. And so he accidentally causes strange things to happen every time he inadvertently says words that rhyme. Like one time he casually says, "It has somewhat the form of an electrical storm." I thought that was a pretty clever plot device.)

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