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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: michelledrag on November 11, 2020, 08:29 AM

Title: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: michelledrag on November 11, 2020, 08:29 AM
I have been writing a few manuscripts in iambic heptameter or "fourteeners."  These lines are often divided into one that is 8 syllables and one that is 6. I realize that lines read really well when they are perfectly divided that way, but no book I've come across perfectly keeps that pattern. I see a lot of 7/7, 6/8, 8/7, 9/6, 7/6, 10/4, 4/10 etc. which still read well as long as the stresses are in the correct places. Is it critical to keep the 8/6 pattern? And if I break that pattern frequently in a text, is it better and less distracting to just write in a single 14-er line without breaking the line up into two?

I hope this question makes sense! Forgive my ignorance if the answer is in fact obvious.
Title: Re: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: Pons on November 11, 2020, 09:07 AM
A fourteen foot line is very long to read and can look odd on the page. That is one reason why it is often broken into two lines. It is more important to count stresses than syllables, because a skillful poet can add an extra syllable or ellide a syllable or use a pause as a syllable. As long as your line reads well, you can divide it however you want. Be careful not to force the words' accents, though. The accent in "history" falls on the first syllable, not the second or third - even though that might make you meter work better. Have other people read your work to make sure it sounds right.

Title: Re: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: JulieM on November 11, 2020, 03:10 PM
I think you already answered your first question, in that you say no book you've read keeps to the pattern. Sometimes a break gives the reader relief from the "singsong-ness" of a consistent pattern. I believe a break must be done for a good reason though - i.e. to fit the content
I am no poet, but attended a recent SCBWI workshop on writing poetry.
Title: Re: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: michelledrag on November 11, 2020, 04:19 PM
Thank you for that feedback. I just watched a tutorial on iambic meter, and as she analyzed a text similar to what I was referring to, she outlined the meter and rhyme pattern as:

A -  iambic tetrameter
B -  iambic trimeter
C -  iambic tetrameter
B -  iambic trimeter

Is there such a thing as iambic heptameter that doesn't require this perfect 4/3/4/3 pattern? The rhyme still ends up at the same beat (i.e., after the seventh iamb). I mostly have natural line breaks that allow that 4/3/4/3 pattern of stressed syllables. But I also have lots of lines that end up as 3/4 (or 7/7 by syllable count) or even occasionally a 5/2 (which is 10/4 by syllable count). Is it a big problem to have too many of these anomalies, even if the meter and rhyme still flow?
Title: Re: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: dkshumaker on November 11, 2020, 06:30 PM
I wouldn't get too fixated on "naming" your meter. I write in rhyme sometimes and I truthfully can't name my meter. But I know it works.

But, don't rely on your ear alone as you know where you want the stresses to hit, so you'll make them work sometimes without realizing it. Have someone who hasn't seen it before read it aloud to you. Join a critique group. Post it on the boards in our critique section and get some feedback. Here 's the link: https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?board=121.0

I hope this helps!
Title: Re: Question about writing in iambic heptameter
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on November 11, 2020, 07:08 PM
I believe anything can work if done well. That's the key. But in this case, consistency will help. Readers will use the rhymes scheme above to predict what is below. Change the meter for a story reason. And now I see I'm repeating what's above.