As a ghostwriter I deal with lots of new ‘authors.’ One scenario I come across now and then is when someone sends me a story with rhyme in it.
When this happens, it’s never done right and it’s my job to guide these authors to the path of ‘doing it right.’
A recent manuscript I received had rhyming here and there throughout the story. And, some of the rhyming words were forced. This means in order to to make two words rhyme, the sentence is put together awkwardly (unnaturally) or one of the rhyming words is used unnaturally just to make it rhyme.
Two examples of awkward rhyme:
Whenever I go to the park,
I run around and sing like a lark.
The forced rhyme below is from The Turtles’ “Happy Together” (1967):
“So happy together. And how is the weather?”
Notice the unnatural way these sentences sound. They don’t make sense. It’s easy to see that they’re put together simply to rhyme the last two words. This causes the reader to pause. Pausing is never a good thing, especially in children’s books.
One of the important things that happens when a story’s rhyme is off is it causes the reader to pause. It can even cause confusion. When a child gets the rhyme hook, she will be anticipating that rhythm and pattern throughout the story. At the first spot when it’s not there, you’ve caused a PAUSE. And, if you’ve got rhyme awkwardly here and there, you’ve lost the focus of the story. You’ve lost the message you were trying to convey.
You never-ever want to cause a pause or confusion in a story, especially a children’s story.
But, if you REALLY want to rhyme.
Below is a slightly more natural way to do this:
“Now it’s time to close your eyes my dear. (8 syllables)
Beside you lies your favorite bear.” (8 syllables if you say favorite as fav-rite)
(From “Day’s End Lullaby.”)
Keep in mind that even this verse has its problems. For one thing, ‘favorite’ is used with two syllables in that verse: fav rit. Technically, ‘favorite’ has three syllables: fav or ite.
So, you can see that while getting two words to rhyme isn’t that difficult, there’s lots more involved in rhyming ‘right.’
The bare-bottom elements of children’s rhyme:
• Each sentence needs to be relevant to the story and move the story forward.
• There needs to be a continuing rhythm or beat to the sentences. This has to do with the stressed and unstressed syllables of each word used.
• There needs to be a pattern throughout the story.
• It should be written without forcing words – without using unnatural sounding sentences or unnatural meanings.
• And, it should all be wrapped up in a great story.
Taking all this into account, if you’re thinking of writing a rhyming children’s book, read lots and lots of traditionally published rhyming books. And, read those from the major publishers. Analyze how they’re written. Break them down.
You might even take an offline or online course on rhyming for children.
You can also check out Dori Chaconas’ website. She has an example of a syllable template you can use. Find it at: Icing the Cake (it’s at the bottom of the page).
Rhyming can be fun and kids LOVE it, but please take care to do it right.
MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.
Shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700.