Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

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 -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by glorybee » Sat May 09, 2015 7:31 am

Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the ends of the lines in a poem. It’s indicated by assigning letters to sets of rhyming words. This won’t be a very long lesson, as rhyme scheme is a fairly simple concept—but as usual, I’ll be encouraging you to break out of old habits, to stretch, to grow.

Let’s examine the rhyme scheme of a typical limerick, to see how it works. Here’s a nice clean one by Edward Lear:

There was an Old Man who supposed, A
That the street door was partially closed; A
But some very large rats, B
Ate his coats and his hats, B
While that futile old gentleman dozed A


You can see that supposed, closed, and dozed all rhyme, and therefore they’ve all been assigned the letter “A”. Likewise, rats and hats rhyme, so they get a “B”. We’d write the rhyme scheme of a limerick as aabba.

Couplets, by definition, have an aa rhyme scheme. Here’s an example from the king of short, humorous poetry, Ogden Nash:

The cow is of the bovine ilk; A
One end is moo, the other, milk. A


Of course, 2-line poems are rare, but it’s quite common to find a poem made up of a series of couplets. I’ll bet you’re very familiar with this one:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house A
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. A
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care B
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; B
The children were nestled all snug in their beds C
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads… C


Some kinds of poems have specifically prescribed rhyme schemes; a Shakespearean sonnet, for example, is abab cdcd efef gg. Several people on this site have attempted sestinas, villanelles, and pantoums, each with their own specific rhyme schemes. Those of you who enjoy experimenting with new forms of poetry and who like working within a certain structure may consider researching those forms and attempting one.

Fancy new verse forms are fun, but the most common kind of rhymed poetry in the Writing Challenge is made up of a series of quatrains. Even though quatrains only have 4 lines, there are several possible rhyme schemes. If you’re used to writing aabb quatrains, like this:

To God be the glory, great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His son
Who yielded His life, an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in...


Think about writing an abab quatrain next time. Like this:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed…


Or you could write in abcb quatrains:

Rejoice, ye pure in heart
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing
Your festal banner wave on high
The cross of Christ your King…


There are so many ways that you can mix it up; other common quatrain rhyme schemes are aaba, abba, and even aaab. With an aaab quatrain, the ”b” word often becomes the rhyme in the next stanza, which goes bbbc, followed by a cccd verse, and so on in a lovely, rhyming chain.

(Can you think of other rhyme schemes that would form a chain?)

Of course, there are rhyme schemes for 5- and 6-line poems, and 13-line poems, and any other length of rhyming poem, too.

It’s usually best to use the same rhyme scheme for each stanza, but there’s nothing that says you can’t add...

~a refrain with a different rhyme scheme (and a different meter, perhaps)
~a little couplet at the end of a series of quatrains
~a 5th line every other stanza
~something else to "shake up" the rhyme scheme a bit

What I’m saying, I guess, is that the judges will appreciate variety in the poems they read, and that finding a creative rhyme scheme is definitely one way to add variety to your poetry.

Homework:

1. Write a poem with a rhyme scheme that you’ve never attempted before. OR

2. Link to a Challenge piece that has a unique rhyme scheme. OR

3. Ask a question, or respond to something I wrote about rhyme scheme.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by beff » Mon May 11, 2015 12:32 pm

Hi Jan,
I'm popping in this week for this lesson.

I think this poem would be considered aabc ddec
Beth LaBuff

..in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son... Hebrews 1:2

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by glorybee » Mon May 11, 2015 4:06 pm

You're right, Beth, and I'm copying and pasting a bit of it here, so that people can see what a fresh and original rhyme scheme looks like.

Betwixt svelte emerald spikes of grass, A
Within the loam they thrive en masse, A
And toil to lay-up treasured foods -- B
An ant hill colony. C

Martha Ant, a lively worker, D
Never was a slacker-shirker. D
Gathered foodstuff for her queen -- E
She served most faithfully. C

I always love it when you pop in on the poetry lessons, Beth. I should have you teach them!
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by Smithmk » Mon May 11, 2015 7:55 pm

Thanks, Jan, for reminding me about the rhyming of poetry and how using different schemes make a poem more catchy and gives it proper emphasis where it's needed most. Loved your examples. Will go now and practice! :wink:

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by dmbowman » Mon May 11, 2015 10:10 pm

To attempt a chain rhyme,
My talent to increase,
Required a bit of time.


A topic for the piece
Came from within my mind.
I wrapped myself in fleece,


Endeavored to unwind.
Typing on my keyboard,
My skill I have refined.

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by glorybee » Tue May 12, 2015 11:55 am

Well done, Diane!
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by Shann » Wed May 13, 2015 11:00 am

I can rhyme fairly well, but have no rhythm at all. What do you feel is more effective, a good rhyme or the right rhythm? I figure different things stand out to different people. The reason I found FaithWriters is because I'd been working on a poem that I was hoping to understand how to make the rhythm work better. I still dream of doing something with it at some point, but can see it needs a lot of work.

I think the rhyme is a repeat of a, b, c, b.

Here's the first couple of stanzas (or is it verse? Is there a difference?)

I'm a little girl lost
Scared and all alone.
Trapped in a woman's body
A little girl all on her own.

I search through my body
Full of anger fear and pity.
Wondering if God is real,
Why would he do this to me.

I'm just a little girl lost
Not strong at all.
I'm weak and cowering,
Not strong and tall.

As I copy it down, I can see some things I'd tweak. I noticed I repeated several times in the first few verses. I also see my tense is switching from past to present. I can also see the difference in the number of syllables, which is one of the reasons the rhythm isn't that great.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by glorybee » Wed May 13, 2015 11:33 am

Shann wrote:I can rhyme fairly well, but have no rhythm at all. What do you feel is more effective, a good rhyme or the right rhythm? I figure different things stand out to different people. The reason I found FaithWriters is because I'd been working on a poem that I was hoping to understand how to make the rhythm work better. I still dream of doing something with it at some point, but can see it needs a lot of work.
That's a hard question to answer--it's like asking 'what do you think is better, air or water?' They're both vital.
Shann wrote:I think the rhyme is a repeat of a, b, c, b.
Yes, you're right.
Shann wrote:Here's the first couple of stanzas (or is it verse? Is there a difference?)
They mean the same thing.
Shann wrote:I'm a little girl lost
Scared and all alone.
Trapped in a woman's body
A little girl all on her own.

I search through my body
Full of anger fear and pity.
Wondering if God is real,
Why would he do this to me.

I'm just a little girl lost
Not strong at all.
I'm weak and cowering,
Not strong and tall.

As I copy it down, I can see some things I'd tweak. I noticed I repeated several times in the first few verses. I also see my tense is switching from past to present. I can also see the difference in the number of syllables, which is one of the reasons the rhythm isn't that great.
I'm not sure that I'm seeing a switch in tenses here. You've got a few past tense verbs (scared and trapped), but they're functioning as adjectives, describing you; they don't change the tense of the stanza.

You're right about the meter. A possible change to the first stanza, for example, would be

I'm a little girl lost (6)
I'm scared and alone (5)
My body--a woman's (6)
But I'm on my own (5)

If I re-write it to show the stressed and unstressed syllables, it looks like this:

i'm a LIT tle girl LOST
i'm SCARED and a LONE
my BOD y a WOM an's
but I"M on my OWN

That's not perfect, but in general, there are two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed one.

I hope that clarified things a bit.
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by Shann » Wed May 13, 2015 7:26 pm

Thank you so much. I chuckled about the difference in air and water. I was hoping there would be a way I could not worry so much about the meter. I just need to find someone who can help me with it. Your examples are great, but I never would have heard them on my own. I'll take what I can get though and thank God I can hear the rhymes and keep working on the rhythm! :D
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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by dmbowman » Tue May 19, 2015 12:16 am

Just a question.

In my challenge entry for this week,The Yielding of a Heart, I tried to use a chain rhyme. Does it work the way I did it or does the extra line interrupt it too much and make it lose the chain effect?

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Re: Be a Better Writer -- RHYME SCHEME

Post by glorybee » Tue May 19, 2015 7:49 am

dmbowman wrote:Just a question.

In my challenge entry for this week,The Yielding of a Heart, I tried to use a chain rhyme. Does it work the way I did it or does the extra line interrupt it too much and make it lose the chain effect?
I think maybe it did, Diane. I tried reading it both ways, and I appreciated the chain rhyme better when the single line between each stanza was gone. But I can't tell you how much I appreciated the unique rhyme scheme, either way. If I'd been a judge, I definitely would have taken notice of that!

If you want to retain the 5th line, maybe a more regular meter would help? It was a bit uneven in parts and that may have been a part of why the chain effect got a little bit lost.

Nevertheless, your poem was really good, and I'm so glad you shared it here.
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