-find your cadence!
A.P. Cairns ©2018
When the idea of cadence-in-writing took hold, it refused to let go. I thought putting a name to that je ne sais quoi was an original thought, however, a quick search of the Internet proved me wrong.
Dozens of articles have been written on the element of cadence in writing and each one has a slightly different explanation of what it is.
Cadence in writing is a sense of rhythm and pace, it lifts the narrative from the page and makes it dynamic; brings a certain tempo to the words and sentences; it’s what makes prose poetic, layered and fluid without it being extravagant. Cadence makes the writing visual and evocative, and to an extent, beautiful. It’s an important element in fiction writing, because without it, narrative certainly won’t be as effective. — A.J. Humbage, Cadence in Writing
Essentially, the words of a piece of writing will catch our attention. but it’s the composition, the rhythm and the pace that make a piece of writing memorable.
Although Ms. Humbage mentions only fiction writing, to have cadence within any written form is necessary, regardless of whether it’s a speech, ad copy, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and even technical writing like textbooks and reports.
All written compositions need to flow. The easier the flow, the more appealing the piece. And the more appealing the piece, the more we engage and remember. So, how does one develop cadence in their writing?
The Original Voice
Begin at the beginning. Write as much as you can. As you go along, you develop the freedom to be yourself. It is this freedom of self that becomes the original voice, and like anything worth having, you need to take the time and practice. Some writers are born with the ability to express themselves in a unique and engaging manner. Most of us, however, have to write hundreds of pieces before our voice comes through. It is when we allow our writing to move from crafted to craft that we find the original voice.
The problem lies in trying to craft writing, rather than simply, writing.
It is when we relax and allow our words to flow freely without managing them that we find a free and easy style that becomes our original voice. And when that comes out, a cadence naturally accompanies it. It would be fair to say that a person’s verbal voice will most likely parallel their written voice.
Once you freely express yourself in life, with honesty, you will most often be viewed as endearing. So too, once you write freely, with honesty, your writing will also become more unique. For example, if you see a blue duck waddling across the road. Say so.
It was a sunny morning. Traffic was light and flowing at a normal pace, for the most part. Up ahead something had stopped the on-coming traffic. Being a cautious person, I slowed down, just in case. When I got to where things had stopped, the reason was clear. A blue duck and her seven fluffy little ducklings had decided to take a rest in the middle of the road.
Don’t go on and on with adjectives that describe every little detail in six different ways—it stops the flow of the story. Don’t do it, unless that is exactly how you speak.
The brilliant, shining, beams of radiant sunlight, exploded with a cacophony of light onto my iris even though I was wearing dark, Ray Ban, black rimmed sunglasses …
If you’re still looking for that unique and compelling original voice then read your work out loud. If you find yourself stumbling across the words, your original voice is not there. And, when you read out loud, there will be times when you find yourself saying something different that what you’ve written. If that happens, it’s best to immediately change the written word to match what you said. By the way, it’s important to ready out loud in any case as that will help you find most of those nasty, little, elusive typos. (Most, not all.)
Read, Read, Read
The one thing that has been said over and over is to read. If you want to be a writer you need to read. It’s in the reading that you learn to write.
This is truly one of the most important things that any writer is ever going to do. A voracious reader will become a decent writer through osmosis alone. They will find a cadence that speaks to them. Then through design that decent writer can become a good and successful writer. Needless to say, you will want to read literary excellence, not literary nonsense.
Read everything you can. Don’t limit yourself to a single genre. If you’re a die-hard Asimov fan, don’t let that stop you from reading stories by different genre giants such as Cervantes, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Lawrence, Steele, Michener, King, Rowling, and the list goes on and on.
You’ve heard it before so I won’t belabour the point. Just one last time…Read!
Why is Cadence Important?
Cadence creates readability and interest in any written work. It can be created with punctuation, phrasing, grouping of concepts and varied sentence lengths. It shapes your words to wrap others in a specific mood?
Thoughts bubble up in your brain, cascade down your arms, spill over the keyboard then pool onto the white canvas as single, unconnected words join to become phrases. Phrases rally around each other to become sentences; then, paragraphs form—their final act, is to capture the imagination.
Without cadence, the written is just boring information. Facts without life.
In my previous work I wrote hundreds of pages of information. There was very little room for the poetry of cadence. It was, “the facts, just the facts.” Regardless, the cadence in which the facts were presented provided a readability to the information. Without that readability, the pages would have been cumbersome and annoying. That annoyance would have translated into a loss of business.
The bottom line here, is that no matter what it is you intend to convey with your words, it is important to find your rhythm. That is what makes you, you. And, that is what makes me and others want to read what you write.
A.P. Cairns is a writer and editor