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When writing there is one area I am not great at leveraging. That's rhythm or meter. I don't hear meter naturally like some people do so I have to really break down the meter in order to work on it. And then what? I'm not even sure what I'm going to convey if I do manage to restructure the writing in a particular way. However, I am aware that it is a moderately useful tool and so I'd like to add it to my bag.

For instance, I know that very quick paced writing can add a feeling of breathlessness that can evoke excitement or anxiety.

Then what? I don't really know any others. That's the only one I've ever used.

What are some ways I can use the rhythm and meter of the words to evoke emotions beyond just what the words say?

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  • Do I understand correctly that this would be an example of what you're trying to achieve? "In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face." (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, book 5, chapter 4 - The Siege of Gondor) Mar 4, 2019 at 21:47
  • @Galastel It's hard for me to dissever what emotions are coming from the meter and what are coming from the word (both ideally) but I think so. (This is my biggest weakness, scansion was difficult for me in college)
    – Summer
    Mar 4, 2019 at 21:51

2 Answers 2

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Take a dance class.

I'm not joking. If you feel the rhythm in your body, you will be better able to evoke it on the page.

Going to dance performances is also helpful but you need to understand the feeling first before you can see how the professional do it.

It's not just the beat of the music in dance. It's the breath. The juxtaposition of quiet movement with the grande. Musicians and singers understand this as well. But dancers show it in every part of their bodies. Even without a sound.

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The use of the triple dot can come in very handy, I've found.

For example, Shock/horror/suspension can look like this:

The blood...

It was on the walls...

On the floor...

Around the body... And a limp hand... was lying on the soaked wood floor, the sleeves drinking up every last drop they could.

By doing this, it's like a camera panning around the scene, picking up pieces of an event already done with, leading the readers forward, closer to the main focus.

Waiting with abated breath/silence/inability to hear someone:

I leaned in closer to the crack in the door.
"Didn't you say Annabelle was your worst enemy?" Katherine tittered between laughs.
I gasped at the door. Me?? Somebody's enemy!?
Unheard of.
Quickly quieting myself, I leaned in again.
...
Why weren't they saying anything?
...
Were they whispering?
...
Finally, I heard the telltale snickering from the ladies of the court and determined that, yes, they'd just whispered something nasty about me between themselves. I tsked and turned around.
Who needed them anyway?

You can also use it for breaks in a conversation over a phone:

"Don't you think it's strange that..."
I put a finger in my ear and walked around the room, trying to get better reception. "Carl, I can't hear you!" I shouted into the crackling phone.
"I said, Shelly isn't..." he cut out, "and the mailman... The mayor couldn't think of anything to say so I just... and google maps certainly won't help... best dang muffins I ever... Am I right?" he laughed.
I could not make heads or tails of what Carl was saying. When had the mailman gotten involved!? Did he know something I didn't?
"Carl, I'm gonna call you back, I—"
"WHAT!? I can't hear you!"
"I said I'll call you back!!"

These are just a few possible uses of the triple dot, and I'm sure there's lots of other ways to create rhythm in writing that don't involve it, but I hope this helps. :)

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