Friday, November 21, 2014

The Beauty of Rhythm and Repetition

My favorite authors all use rhythm and repetition to draw me into their stories' realities. A great example was found this morning while I read Charlotte's Web with my five-year-old:

"The next day was rainy and dark. Rain fell on the roof of the barn and dripped steadily from the eaves. Rain fell in the barnyard and ran in crooked courses down into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew. Rain spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman's kitchen windows and came gushing out of the downspouts. Rain fell on the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow. When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they walked slowly up the lane and into the fold.
Rain upset Wilbur's plans." (p 25)

The poetry of this prose impressed me. As a freelance copy editor, I am often pointing out frequently used words to prevent overuse. It's worth exploring the cases in which repetition is warranted and even beautiful.

1. In dialogue, when someone is experiencing an overwhelming emotion. "Oh no, oh no, oh no."


2. When you want to evoke a certain emotion. "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"

Repetition of words in The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
3. When the mood or content requires rhythm. "We danced until the sun sank. We danced like strangers, holding new love in aching arms. We danced like we hadn't danced in over a decade, a decade of wasted wandering, when we danced with true strangers, and felt nothing. We danced until nothing else mattered but the tangible beating of two hearts, until neither of us remembered the last, empty decade at all."

The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano
Read more about writing with rhythm from author Jami Gold.


  1. I love me some well place repetition. Great post!

  2. I'm a big believer in repetition--too big, perhaps.

  3. “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone,
    Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

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