Goodness, what a strange-looking word that is. Rhythm. Looking at it standing alone I wondered if I’d gotten it right and looked it up. Yes, correct placement of correct letters. The word is derived from the Latin rhythmus which comes from the Greek rhythmos and is akin to rhein, “to flow.” How can anyone learn to spell this language!
I became aware of rhythm in writing when I was proofing the British edition of Herman Wouk’s hilarious book Don’t Stop The Carnival. I read a paragraph about half-way along, stopped, read it again, shrugged my shoulders; there was nothing wrong with it. Bu it bothered me. An hour later I went back to it. It’d was perfect. But it still bothered me. It didn’t seem to fit his style. Finally I turned to the US edition and read the same page.
Aha! Yes indeed there was something wrong with the UK version. A long clause was missing from the UK version. The sentence made perfect sense but omitted a clause that changed the meaning of the whole.
What had bothered me was that the rhythm if the UK version was wrong. It wasn’t Herman Wouk’s rhythm in writing.
What has brought on this observation is that I am being complimented on my style of writing in Tea On The Great Wall, and that is causing me to consider what I am doing that is distinctly good enough to be commented on.
Three elements, I believe, affect my writing.
—I like people; I like to feel that I’m telling my story to a friend at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee. Or tea. Or champagne. Further, Herman Wouk taught me to write simply; he would not use a word that was not generally understood; he didn’t have to prove that he had a vast vocabulary. Nor would he enter explicit sex scenes. He wrote to entertain the whole family. I think he told me that he learned this from Dickens. I share his feeling about writing.
—I feel rhythm: this is expressed in my writing by long melodic lines, sequences of semi-colons, followed by shorter staccato bits for variety. I vary these with what I call pop-up (known as “show-and-tell” that I’ve never been able to relate to) –a bit like hip-hop music — where if you turn the page the next scene jumps up. This becomes alternated with straight reportage. The variety of rhythms is partly deliberate, to hold the interest of the reader; but sometimes I am grabbed with an imperative creative urgency not to interrupt the thought–so the semi-colons hold and develop the idea together.
–I like variety in the formation of sentences: thus I don’t (nor does anyone else) like to repeat the same format over and over. “I went to the store, then I went to the club, then I went to school.” Boring.
Now will someone let me know what you DON’T like about my writing? I’m open to suggestions.