How Music Made Me a Better Writer and Understanding the Beat of Words



Lady with Harp

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about the “beat” and the “music” of words, but the logistics of it failed me…until now!

Kip Yes

I had dreams last night about fires, floods, and an alien-witch who turned into a spider and ate children; however, the alien-witch gave me the inspiration for this music post. Here is what she said to me:

Words are like music notes arranged on a page. The wrong words will strike the wrong chord.

The wrong chord I’m referring to here is analogous to the wrong emotion in writing. Words have a beat. Words are music.

She told me that while plucking the strings of my lap harp. Strange dream, indeed.

I’ve played the flute since I was ten. I’ve sang in several bands. I occasionally pick up the lap harp and ukulele when I want to feel inadequate.

Anyway, I think this dream was triggered by a post I saw on my FaceSpace feed from someone in the Fiction Writing group. This person was trying to write something poetic, and asked which word, “drop” or “fall,” was more appropriate in reference to a skyline. I said “fall.”

What kind of phrases do you think of when you hear/read the word “fall” vs. “drop?”

Egg drop.

Tear drop.

Drop the kids off at the pool.


Fall of Rome.

Fall in love.

Fall from grace.

Right now I just want to get you to see that words on a page have a certain timbre to them when it comes to evoking a readers emotions, to say nothing about the literal sound they make.


The skyline falls into the dark night.


The skyline drops into the dark night.

In the second example, the alliteration here between drops and dark can work, but I would venture to say it is ‘unlyrical’ when compared to ‘falls’, and the variety the ‘f’ consonant brings to the overall line is a better combination.

And like I said before, the word ‘fall’ has a more lyrical background, and is found in more poignant phrases than ‘drops.’ This gives the word certain credentials that will resonate with your reader on an intuitive, emotional level–remember that.

I’ve discussed things in a similar vein in these posts on tone and mood.

So, when crafting a piece, every single word must be precise. You are weaving a tapestry and every thread has its place.

Be aware of the sound a word makes, the literal sound, and the emotional sound. I also want you to be mindful of the number of syllables a word has. Make sure these all fit.

The next time you listen to music, listen very carefully to the words used, and how they fit into the song. If you want to write lyrically, you need to start internalizing this, and start thinking like a musician.

Think of these three components when writing: literal sound, emotional sound, and syllables.

It might even behoove you to read your work aloud so you can really get a feel for the beat of it.

Being aware of those components–literal sound, emotional sound, and syllables–will help you to write poignant, poetic, and lyrical prose without falling into a bed of thorny-ass purple roses. 





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