The Sound of Writing Music

I’ve been thinking about Christmas and Christmas carols; which has brought me to a writing topic I’ve put off posting about because of the nebulous nature of my thoughts. I’ve wanted to write this post for a bit, but hesitant to do. Lyricism in narrative—that is, other than in poetry—is the slippery topic I’m referring to. But I’m finally writing this post at the risk of being labeled a loony. But that’s okay, it’s a classification I can accept and work with!(smile)

Here’s a quickie little back-storyI’m tone-deaf and monotone(1) when it comes to musical hearing and singing songs. The short synopsis of a long younger-life story is: in grammar school I was instructed to just move my lips during mass hymns, and in high school I was excused from Gee-Club (not a small concession for the time and environment) So, you get the picture—music is not my forte. But lyricism in writing is something I can hear. And feel.

I think lyricism is more complicated than my explanation—but it’s the best I can do so far. It’s the juxtaposition of short sentences, long sentences, paragraph breaks, even scene breaks that carry our minds forward. Sing to our minds. Pleasant to the earreading wise. It’s the mechanics, (or is it the art?), of intermixing heavy and tedious words or sentences with the short and snappy. For me, it’s also a kind of a coaxing music that moves me along in the story. It’s that little “something” that makes you want to keep reading, keep listening to the author’s song. Regardless of whether a good or bad story.

And for me, it’s often very hard to do—but when it’s there in other’s writings—easy to hear. In the final edits I do make a lot of changes to try to make my writing “sing.” Especially since I’m habitually fond of writing long and tedious sentences. Not sure if “literary lyricism” is a craft-of-writing kind of thing that can be learned, or a talent you either have or don’t. Sure hope it’s at least an improvable skill.

musicpictureAnd indeed, this may be something only I “hear.” A concept only important to me. And there are enough hurdles and “things” to think about already in writingI certainly don’t want to build artificial new ones. But bringing music to your writing is something to think aboutespecially for those of you who can tell C from D, and a flat from a sharp when you’re singing all those lovely Christmas Carols!

If you have a thought/insight into what I’ve dubbed “literary-lyricism,” and would like to share, I’d love to hear your comments.

 Happy writing trails throughout the holidays!


(1) From Internet — “Tone deafness is the lack of relative pitch, or the inability to distinguish between musical notes and between linguistic tones that is not due to the lack of musical training or education It is also known as tune deafness, “tin ear”, dysmelodia and dysmusia.”

“Monotone a continuing sound, especially of someone’s voice, that is unchanging in pitch and without intonation…(of a voice or other sound) unchanging in pitch; without intonation or expressiveness.

10 thoughts on “The Sound of Writing Music”

  1. You are so right! I hadn’t thought about it,but perhaps that is why your narrative flows. Why your locations become characters in your stories. Maybe it’s because it is about rhythm rather than pitch. I bet you would play a mean set of drums!

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  2. I find the “music” in some people’s work. Ray Bradbury wrote The Long Rain and this is the opening: “The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles…” You can hear and almost feel the wetness as you read. Not every writer strives for that element, but when it’s done well, it sings. Alliteration makes a story sing, too, if it’s done right. Yeah, I like listening to it, too. Thanks for pointing it out, Mad.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Patricia! It’s interesting how we all see writing–different eyes, different life experiences, different receptors (sp). Cora Ramos, in a comment I re-posted here talks about writing and art… Isn’t writing grand?

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  3. Here’s a FB comment from Cora Ramos. She couldn’t get the WPress thing to work for her, but I just loved her thought about writing and art. ” I loved this post. I couldn’t comment on the blog because Wirdpress doesn’t recognize me with the same password twice. Anyway, I loved your comparison to music. I see the same things but relate them to art. There is a visual and emotional pacing to sentence structure that I view as an art form. That’s what keeps me engaged.”

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  4. Some writers seem to have a gift for lyrical prose, for sure. One of my writer friends has a background in music, and I can spot her work anywhere because of the rhythm and flow. It’s a joy to read. I share your tone-deafness, Mad, but thanks for the reminder that we can all strive to achieve that kind of grace.

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    1. That’s so interesting you can spot your friends work from her “rhythm and flow.” I think there really is something to lyrical writing. And so happy to find a fellow tone-deaf traveler…

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