by Renée M. LaTulippe

We all know that writing – any kind of writing – must be tight and engaging. No extra words. No tangents. Every syllable must push push push that poem or story forward toward its inevitable end. And those syllables have to sing.

A good way to become familiar with the economy and choice of words necessary for such writing is to read and write free verse. As rhymers, we can learn so much by stripping away our rhyme schemes and meter and letting our stories or poems stand there as naked as jaybirds. Without all the fancy plumes, do they still hold up?

The three free verse poems below illustrate how much can be done with character development, rhythm, and story structure in just a few well-chosen words. Read them and try the quick exercises to see how you can apply the techniques to hone your rhyming poems and stories.

 

Character Development

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Points to ponder:

Try it!

Write a short free verse poem that encapsulates your main character and includes clues to his/her personality, problem, and emotional state, and/or relationship to another character. Then rewrite it as a rhyming stanza.

 

Rhythm and Sound

beavers-AngiePost

 

Points to ponder:

Try it!

Choose a short section of your manuscript or poem and rewrite it as a free verse poem that captures the desired rhythm of your story/character. Is it fast-paced and bouncy or slow and lyrical? Consider the properties of the sounds you choose.

 

Story Structure

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Points to ponder:

Try it!

Write your whole rhyming story or poem in free verse. What did you leave out that was in the rhyming version? Do you really need it?

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Remember that when trying these exercises, the idea is not to merely write your whole rhyming story or poem down the page instead of across it – that’s not what free verse is. Rather, the idea is to distill your work into one or a series of short free verse poems with the goal of seeing

Getting to the essence of your story through free verse can help you approach your work with a more critical eye and refine it into a tight, engaging, and musical piece of writing.

Now fly! Be free!

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(C) 2014 Renee M. LaTulippe. This article is partially excerpted from a lesson in the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry. All rights reserved.