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Poetry For Novelists

Poetry For Novelists

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Published by LJCohen
5 session workshop on poetic tools to enhance fiction writing
5 session workshop on poetic tools to enhance fiction writing

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Published by: LJCohen on Aug 04, 2008
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09/06/2012

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Poetry: Tools for the NovelistLisa Janice Cohen(Originally written for 2008's series of virtual workshops, LB&LI' (Left Behind and Loving It),organized by Lynn Viehl, aka paperback writer.) (http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/)  I. Verbs Rule, Adjectives DroolII. The Comparison--Metaphor and SimileIII. The Forgotten SensesIV. Sound Effects--Consonance, Assonance, AlliterationV. Look for the Music--Assess Your ProseFor references, this workshop series is expanded from "Punch up your Prose with Poetry,"(http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue27/punchpoetry.htm) first published in Vision: A Resourcefor Writers. (http://lazette.net/vision/)Adapted from a workshop originally run on theOnce in a Blue Muse Blog(http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com) in July/Aug 2008.Contact Lisa Cohen:ljcblue@gmail.comwww.ljcohen.net
Poetry for the Novelist/ LJCohen page 1
 
Verbs Rule, Adjectives Drool
If you ask the average person how to describe something, they are likely to use adjectives andadverbs. But in writing, (especially in poetry, but also in prose) adjectives and adverbs weigh down theread. The more modified a noun or verb is, the less powerful.It's easiest to see this with an example:
 Lilly ran slowly. The heavy, cold rain had soaked through her now sodden shirt.
It's serviceable writing. We can visualize the scene, but it feels like obvious narration, as if acamera's eye is describing events. In two sentences, we have 1 adverb, 3 adjectives, and 2 verbs. Let's play with some stronger verbs and see what happens.
 Lilly slogged through rain slick streets. She shivered, her shirt plastered to her skin.
In the second example, we omitted the adverb, "
slowly
," and replaced it (and its weak verb'
ran
') with one strong verb: "
slogged
." We use "
slick 
"--which can be both a noun and a verb--as anadjective as in '
rain slick 
' to modify streets. In the second sentence, we have 2 strong verbs: "
shivered
"and "
plastered
" and no adjectives at all.The second example also has more emotion and atmosphere than the first. That's because strongverbs carry nuance and emotion better than weaker verbs. Strong verbs are descriptive on their own
Poetry for the Novelist/ LJCohen page 2
 
without the need for additional modification.Furthermore, if we change the verbs, we can change the emotion.
 Lilly sprinted through rain sweetened air. She welcomed the caress of shirt against skin.
 Now we have a different atmosphere with "
sprinted
" and "
welcomed
." "
Caress,
" both a verband a noun, is used as a descriptive noun here to carry emotion. "
Sweetened
," a verb, is used here as anadjective paired with rain and again conveys a positive mood.In prose, you have at least some wiggle room to use flatter language. In a 300 page novel, a fewadverbs and adjectives won't stand out too much, but in a brief poem in which every word must carryits weight? Be ruthless. Strip out those adverbs. Prune the adjectives.Let's take a look at a classic poem. Here is one of Shakespeare's most famous sonnets. He knewa thing or two about strong verbs.Let me not to the marriage of 
true
minds
Admit
impediments. Love
is
not loveWhich
alters
when it alteration
finds
,Or 
bends
with the remover to
remove
:O no! it
is
an
ever-fixed 
mark That
looks
on tempests and
is
never shaken;It
is
the star to every
wandering 
bark,Whose worth
's
unknown, although his height
be
taken.Love
's
not Time's fool, though
 
rosy
lips and cheeksWithin his
bending 
sickle's compass
come
:Love
alters
not with his
brief 
hours and weeks,But
bears
it out even to the edge of doom.If this
be
error and upon me
proved
,I never 
writ
, nor no man ever 
loved
.
Poetry for the Novelist/ LJCohen page 3

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