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Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:47 pm

Alliteration is the repetition of same or similar beginning sounds in words that are close together.

Remember tongue twisters? They’re the epitome of alliteration, and you’ve been using them since you were a kid. Alliteration is one of the easiest literary terms to find and to use.

Most people think of alliteration as a tool for poets, and it’s true that good poets use it often to add to the moods of their poems. Lots of “s” sounds might suggest the whisper of waves on the shore—lots of “t” or “k” sounds might suggest quick, crisp action. I incorporated quite a bit of alliteration into the poem Do Not Linger Here. In this case, I used it simply to give the poem flow in the unity of sounds in specific phrases.

Alliterative titles are eye-catching, as are alliterative names. And if your piece is humorous, alliteration can really help to set the tone. Years ago, I had a light-hearted writing challenge entry called “Jingles by Joyce” that used alliteration in the title to set the tone.

However, if you choose to use alliteration in a title, be sure that it fits the mood of your work. Too often I see an alliterative title that suggests that the piece will be whimsical, and it turns out to be a serious story. Some of us (myself included) have a hard time thinking of titles, and a little trick like alliteration sometimes seems like a clever idea—but if the title is Penny’s Persnickety Problem and her problem turns out to be an abusive husband, it’s off-putting for the reader. I made that mistake with a piece called “Tantalizing Tidbits,” where the title doesn’t fit the mood of the entry at all.

Alliteration has a place in prose writing, even though it’s often thought of as more of a poet’s tool. When I was writing for the challenge, I wrote Smoke and Shadows as an exercise in alliteration. See if you can find the paragraphs where I worked it in; one of your homework questions will be about this story.

I've said this before, but I'll repeat it: I don't link to my own stories because they're better than anyone else's. I just know where to find examples of many of these terms. Please, please, please feel free to link to your own works, and of course to freely critique mine.

Homework (do as few or as many as you wish; I'll respond to each post):

1. Write 50 words or less, either prose or poetry, with some alliteration. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be of the “Peter Piper Picked a Peck” variety—the words don’t have to be right next to each other, and you’re not writing a tongue twister. Pick the beginning letter that you repeat for the effect it will have on the passage.

2. Comment on the use of alliteration in either of the linked pieces. Don’t be afraid to critique (I can take it). Too much? Too little? Was there any alliteration that you found particularly effective or ineffective?

3. If you use alliteration, tell why you think it works for you. Link to a challenge entry with alliteration, if you have one.

4. If you have not used alliteration in your writing, tell why.

5. If there's a work of literature that you like that has some good examples of alliteration, share an excerpt with us.

6. Make a comment or ask a question about alliteration.


Please share this forum with other writers on this site.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby lish1936 » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:01 pm

Jan,

Here's my link to a Challenge article that I wrote for the topic, "On The Telephone." I think titles of articles are suppose to have quotes.

Culture Connection

Including the title, I found five examples of alliteration. I think. ( An acceptable, simple sentence, yes?)

1. Culture Connection 2. Pungent smell of poverty 3. Deodorant deprivation 4. Beast of burden
5. Culture of convenience.

I love alliteration because I am part wannabe poet. In fact, I dabbled in poetry long before non-fiction grabbed me. It's ironic that my first Challenge win was a poem.

Quintessential Rebel

I also found a few alliterations in that piece:

1. Feld the fields... 2. ... Wander in the wilderness of wistful thinking.

The latter prompts a question. Is there a limit to using alliteration in one sentence? Because now that I read it, it sounds a bit much.

Thanks,

Lillian
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:26 pm

Lillian, thanks for sharing your use of alliteration in both prose and poetry. The more examples people read, the better.

As to your question about too much alliteration, the answer is yes--there is too much alliteration in a piece if it annoys the reader. So there's no set number or rule such as you should not have more than three alliterative words in one sentence. Some readers might really enjoy alliteration, while others might feel that more than two words in one phrase or sentence is far too many. And since you, the writer, don't know all of your readers' preferences, you get to decide. But a good thing to do might be to read your work out loud; if it seems like too much to you, then it probably is.

Obviously, if it starts to become a gimmick, it's too much. Here's a real-world example: there's a pastor who's a guest speaker in my church once a year or so. He's a fellow who loves word play, and his sermons are always full of alliteration and other clever verbal exercises. The first time I heard him speak, I was delighted with his wit. But after hearing a few dozen of his sermons, all jam-packed with tongue twisters and rhyming words and the like, I got very weary of them. It was as if he was calling attention to his cleverness and inviting the congregation to be delighted by his verbal gymnastics, and it was totally detracting from his message.

So if the use of alliteration starts to call attention to the writer and not to the message, then it's too much.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:57 am

Just giving this new lesson a little bump,
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby lish1936 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:55 am

Jan wrote:Just giving this new lesson a little bump,


:?: :roll:

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I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:22 pm

Lillian, some recent comments on previous lessons had sent them to the top of this forum, and I wanted to be sure that this one was seen.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby lish1936 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:28 pm

Oh, okay. The comma threw me. I was expecting more. (LOL)

Lillian
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby JayDavidKing » Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:32 pm

Jan, after your comment about too much alliteration being annoying, I thought I would ask a question. Is it annoying if the "too much" is intentional? I wrote a poem that, from the outset, I had planned to use excessive alliteration to make it more fun to read. I didn't expect it to get Editor's Choice (and it didn't) but I never even gave a thought to it being possibly irritating to the reader.
It is "Snappy Rat's Final Snap" http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=25575
Also, just for fun, I wrote a tongue twister about a hummingbird.
"Filmore Flitterfast fluttered faster that Filmore's father but Filmore's father wasn't flustered by Filmore's faster flitter because Filmore's father's flitter only fluttered fast for Filmore's mother."

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 28, 2013 2:22 pm

JayDavidKing wrote:Jan, after your comment about too much alliteration being annoying, I thought I would ask a question. Is it annoying if the "too much" is intentional? I wrote a poem that, from the outset, I had planned to use excessive alliteration to make it more fun to read. I didn't expect it to get Editor's Choice (and it didn't) but I never even gave a thought to it being possibly irritating to the reader.
It is "Snappy Rat's Final Snap" http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=25575
Also, just for fun, I wrote a tongue twister about a hummingbird.
"Filmore Flitterfast fluttered faster that Filmore's father but Filmore's father wasn't flustered by Filmore's faster flitter because Filmore's father's flitter only fluttered fast for Filmore's mother."


Jay, I think that light-hearted pieces like the one you linked to will not annoy the readers with their alliteration. It's delightful. I think it's more likely to seem gimmicky if it's in an otherwise serious piece, or if it's so excessive that it becomes a tongue twister.

Your hummingbird tongue twister, for example, is great fun--but not too many people would want to read a whole page like that.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 28, 2013 8:14 pm

lish1936 wrote:Oh, okay. The comma threw me. I was expecting more. (LOL)

Lillian


Typed one-handed without my glasses, holding a sleeping baby on my shoulder. I didn't notice the comma.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby GracefulWarrior » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:40 am

Hi Jan, very glad you are doing this again!

I don't think I've ever used alliteration. I hadn't really thought about incorporating anything like this into my writing.

Can you mix it up and use different letters throughout? Below is my attempt.

1. During our monthly visit to the zoo, we made our way to the monkeys. This was a mob scene as they were the main attraction. Pushing through the crowd, it was a competition to be the nearest to the smudged Plexiglas partition. We braved odors, sounds and unwanted closeness to briefly view them hanging out in their habitat. Feeling rude in my resolve to reach the desired destination, I came to the realization that we were the ones on display.

2. I'm thinking Dr. Seuss the Sneetches would be an example?
http://papahere.com/dr-seuss-book-list/ ... sneetches/

Thanks!

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:14 am

GracefulWarrior wrote:Hi Jan, very glad you are doing this again!

I don't think I've ever used alliteration. I hadn't really thought about incorporating anything like this into my writing.

Can you mix it up and use different letters throughout? Below is my attempt.

1. During our monthly visit to the zoo, we made our way to the monkeys. This was a mob scene as they were the main attraction. Pushing through the crowd, it was a competition to be the nearest to the smudged Plexiglas partition. We braved odors, sounds and unwanted closeness to briefly view them hanging out in their habitat. Feeling rude in my resolve to reach the desired destination, I came to the realization that we were the ones on display.

2. I'm thinking Dr. Seuss the Sneetches would be an example?
http://papahere.com/dr-seuss-book-list/ ... sneetches/

Thanks!


Yes, you can mix up the letters that you choose for your alliteration, as you've done with your zoo example. I like that you didn't always put the alliterative words right next to each other, as in hanging...habitat and rude...resolve...reach. This paragraph is an excellent exercise in alliteration.

However, if you choose to use alliteration in prose, be sure that you use if purposefully, for the effect on the reader or to increase flow. If I read this paragraph as part of a longer work, I'd notice the alliteration--and it's not so much as to be annoying--but my analytical mind would wonder why you chose it there. A word device that would be more effective in a zoo piece might be onomatopoeia, which could also incorporate alliteration: the monkeys could go jeet-jeet-jeet, for example.

Thanks for writing this so thoughtfully--as homework, it's an A+!

And you're absolutely right about Dr. Seuss. Almost everything he wrote was rich with alliteration or other word play. What a master he was, appreciated by children and adults alike.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby GracefulWarrior » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:05 pm

:thankssign

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby Mike Newman » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:28 pm

Jan,

I read Smoke and Shadows, and enjoyed your use of alliteration. The bleak picture paragraph was where you really got your alliterative boogie going, and it was wonderfully done.

Occasionally we string together words and out comes a beautiful sentence or two. Here is the gem I found in your story:

Our Light is seen in the touch of fingertips, as sacred syllables pass from person to person, and in the narrow space between a barely breathed affirmation and an ear inclined to capture the whispered words.

Wow.

Mike

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ALLITERATION

Postby glorybee » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:50 am

Thank you, Mike. This is another story that the judges didn't care for and some readers didn't understand, but I'm rather fond of it, and especially happy with its ambiguous ending.
Jan Ackerson

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