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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Jeff L on July 21, 2014, 07:43 PM

Title: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Jeff L on July 21, 2014, 07:43 PM

I've finished a MS for a rhyming PB (I've tried it in different formats but it "works" best rhyming), but the rhymes seem simplistic and obvious.

I've tried near-rhymes, but it sounds forced. I've tried mixing one-, two-, and three-syllable words in the rhymes, but the rhythm always seems to get thrown off.

I've seen some good links and threads here, but I'm hoping for some "personal" advice and experience.

Thanks for any help!
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Arona on July 22, 2014, 07:38 AM
I'm not sure what you're asking, but I'll add that you might be able to sneak in one slant rhyme in a PB and that's about it. In other words, avoid it. Lyricists can get away with it; writers not so much.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Betsy on July 22, 2014, 08:20 AM
I apologize if my advice below doesn't address your problem. I was a bit thrown when you said that you'd "finished" a rhyming pb, but still need some help in writing it.

I'm sensing you're in a stuck place with getting everything to come together: rhyme, meter, meaning, and finding a way to make it funny and clever at the same time. I'm guessing that you've been looking at your manuscript for so long that you can't see it with fresh eyes.

If this isn't your problem, give us some more information.

The trick to creating rhyming books is flexibility. You have to try all kinds of different ways of saying things. In each verse, write the last line first--so you know the thought (and the rhyme) you're aiming for. Then let your mind run wild.

1. I think you're too concentrated on the end rhyme. Try using simple rhymes for the end rhymes, but maybe adding a clever twist or rhyme in the middle of the line. Here's just one simple example from my book THE SEVEN SEAS:

At first I had this--

So when I had to go to school
And study every map,
I knew I couldn't shut my eyes
And take a little nap.

Pretty boring. Here's the final version--a bit livelier:

I knew the rule that, when at school
And gazing at a map,
It wasn't wise to shut your eyes
And take a little nap.

Note the internal rhymes of rule/school and wise/eyes. The end rhymes are simple, but I added a little something in the middle.

2. Another trick--try coining a word or do some other kind of word play now and then. Again, from THE SEVEN SEAS:

The Red Sea looks like pizza sauce
A little or a lottle--
The roosters dine on ladybugs
With ketchup from a bottle.

You can't do this too often, but now and then--it's O.K.

3. Write verses in the morning when your mind is more flexible and you can think of more possibilities. People get into a perceptual rut. At least that's true of me. It really is easier to come up with ideas early in the morning--try it.

4. And, of course, check out lots of rhyming picture books from the library to see how other people do it. There are some good rhymers on this board, so maybe they'll chime in.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Pons on July 22, 2014, 09:07 AM
For me personally, it's good to learn the rules of poetry inside and out. This is a process and takes time, but it has served me well. You don't have to wait to write until you feel completely accomplished, but keep learning as you go.

Try reading The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry and do the exercises he recommends. In any trade, you have to spend time with the tools, before you can create what you want.

I agree with Betsy. I love internal rhymes. Also, once you conquer meter, you can play with it, too.

I have also found it useful to have a good rhyming dictionary.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: SarahW on July 23, 2014, 12:11 PM
Natural rhymes are the best, but I'm not sure of a good example.

I've also found it's not so important for every line to rhyme.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Vijaya on July 23, 2014, 12:16 PM
I don't have any personal advice per say, but love Dori Chaconas' books and tips on writing in rhyme:

Enjoy! Vijaya
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: heather-macht on July 25, 2014, 07:50 AM
Rhyming in a PB is difficult and you have to be careful, and watch for it sounding flat. 

Have you gone to the library and read through some of the top Rhyming Children's Picture Books?

The Llama, Llama series are really good. The best sellers list has Good Night, Good Night Construction Site on it (and that has great rhyme).

Reading/studying some really successful rhyming PB's might help inspire you and lead you in the right direction.  Good luck!
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Stephanie Shaw on July 25, 2014, 02:44 PM
Master pb rhymers I learn from include Jane Yolen, Kurt Cyrus and Anne Whitford Paul.

Truly helpful (well worth the money) critiques can be had from Tiffany Strelitz Haber:
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: carrots on July 25, 2014, 04:24 PM
Nothing to add, Jeff, but just have to say.....

Betsy!! That. Was. AWESOME! I feel like I just took a three and a half minute master class!!

 :carrot :carrot :carrot
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Jean Reidy on July 26, 2014, 03:30 PM
Jeff - I think the others have addressed much that you need to know already. But to your comment that your rhymes seems "simplistic and obvious" - this too can be problematic if the language is simplistic and obvious. Rhyme schemes and patterns can be simple but language should be innovative and fun.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Robertvs on July 27, 2014, 12:02 AM
I use RhymeZone ( to find rhymes and then I use the examples feature to see how other authors and musicians have used such words.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on July 28, 2014, 07:44 AM
There's a sticky in this section on writing in rhyme. It might help.

It may be that using the rhythm works best for your story without rhyming. Not all poetry has to rhyme. Here's a site to help you practice spotting rhythm.
Title: Re: Resources for Rhymes
Post by: Pczajak on July 29, 2014, 01:48 PM
First and foremost do not let the rhyme direct the story. If your rhyme is simple, that's ok as long as the scene you are building is exciting and worth illustrating.  For example when I first wrote Monster Needs A Costume I had this stanza

He wore his black pajamas and a scarf around his head.
Then Monster tried to vanish sliding underneath his bed.

Boring and all telling, so it was changed to.

Monster threw a shuto and some round kicks in the air
Then he tried to vanish sliding underneath a chair.

Air and chair are very simple rhymes, but the scene is filled with action and makes a great illustration.

So don't worry too much about the use of simplistic rhyme, make sure what you are writing will make great illustrations.