To me, the written word is like music. It has a beat, a melody, a rhythm, a pattern. Changing any of these can make or break a mood, or cause the reader to wonder at what point the character has strayed from his or her true self.
When I write, there’s a certain cadence. I don’t follow one deliberately, but it blooms as the tale’s true voice. I don’t sit there and tap out a beat and make my words follow it. I can’t even imagine how work would screech to a halt if I did. It happens, though, through some unconscious process.
I’ll often read passages aloud that I’ve written, ones that don’t seem quite right, and usually it’s because the pattern has broken down. Other times I read them with joy because they are singing. I guess I may be listening with a different type of ear altogether.
There are times, of course, when pattern is deliberately altered, the same way it might be in musical composition, leading the listener (as with the reader) in a certain direction or to make them recognize a particular atmosphere or frame of mind. One couldn’t compose a concerto with the same three notes and hope for success, after all (although there is probably music out there somewhere that would prove me quite wrong).
Right now, I’m working on a young adult novel told in first person with three points of view. The one character’s beat is a bit shattered, somewhat chaotic, with stretches of lyricism, indicating his damaged, hectic but methodical mind. Another’s has a pounding cadence interspersed with surprisingly elegant interludes. He possesses a lumbering acceptance of life occasionally spattered with guilt and sparkling revelation. The third is eloquent, filled with the poeticism of her soul, but yet her music falters, too, when appropriate to the moment. As I’ve said, I don’t do this deliberately. The music appears with the character in my head and I strongly believe helps identify his or her voice to the reader, as well as to me.
I’m positive I’m not the only writer to recognize the music in writing, or to acknowledge its value. When I was young and first reading, the books with the most distinct rhythm were those I enjoyed the most. There was rhyme, yes, but with rhyme there exists, usually and especially in children’s books, rhythm. Perhaps that’s where it all began for me, the connection between writing and music’s flow—with Green Eggs and Ham.