Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Using alliteration for sound echoes and for fun

In case you haven’t had a chance to experiment with alliteration, here are two types to practice in your poems or when you want to turn up the audio for emphasis or humor in other genres of writing.

Assonance – This type of alliteration with vowels is more subtle than consonance, which is more subtle than rhyme. If words end in a vowel, they might rhyme too, but assonance typically comes in the sound of vowels at the beginning of a word or inside it.

For example, read the following question aloud and listen for the repetition of the uuuu (ew,ew,ew) sound in every word but “as.”

Would you choose Hugh as true?

Consonance – The alliteration most people notice when they’re reading is consonance where two or more words in close proximity begin with the same consonantal letter of the alphabet.

Generally speaking two or three repeated consonantal sounds on one line of poetry lend musicality to a poem. As you read aloud the following, listen especially for the echoing m, r, and g.

…the murmuring sounds of morning

Like end-line and internal rhymes, consonance emphasizes word, but much more subtly. A big exception is if you use multiple words with alliteration. Then you have a tongue twister, such as Suzy sells seashells by the seashore. Try saying that aloud a few times to see how long your tongue lasts without twisting!

Now, go back, reread that last sentence above and notice the alliterative use of l’s and t’s. You can slip that type of consonance into descriptive scenes in novels or other forms of fiction to add a touch of musicality. And, you can use light alliteration in nonfiction to lighten a mood.

As you increase the volume of sound echoes with consonance, you also increase the humor to a certain point before getting just plain silly:

Susie’s sale of seashells
makes no sense to me!
Why does she sell seashells
when, on the beach,
they’re free?

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.

For more help with poetry techniques, terminology, and forms to play with, order Mary’s e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, based on the study course she wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students. The guide is for almost any poet, but the poetry examples come from a Christian perspective. Hopefully, the title also lets poet-readers know that the poems used to illustrate various principles are G-rated. :)

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