Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Writing and Reading Rhythm

June 30th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments


Emerald Lake, Canada.

As both a writer and reader, I’ve come to appreciate the rhythm behind prose. Understanding why it’s important, and what it does for readers emotionally, is easier when I liken it to a well-composed piece of music. I love this piece, Haunted by Waters, by Mark Isham, written for the movie A River Runs Through It.

While it mimics the feeling of fly fishing, Isham says he was also struck by the poetry of the script’s words. Consequently this song is a reminder of how sentence structure, length, and syntax evoke feeling. Hit play on the link to the song (above) and then read along noting the timing of it…

Sometimes, like up to the :30 point, sentences are best short. Minimal. Simple. Withholding. Anticipatory. Repetitive. But too simple too long? That’s boring. Dulling.

So, like Isham’s next refrains (:30–:52), sentences also need to be a bit more complex, adding in commas, breaths. A few highs, and some lows, propel us along. Repeating this pacing, as he does after :53, adds extra emphasis for a lead-up to something more impactful.

Consequently at 1:17, when the strings come in, his sentences flow with even more complexity, adding in emotionally charged refrains, long or languishing melodies, and then swirling higher right up to 1:40. Then he adds a crescendo of repetition again, and that second-by-second, word-by-word feeling builds even more until he meanders back down to… a pause.

A paragraph break.

Then he brings in staccato at 2:00–a brief repeating–and that begins another little meandering through several seconds, or sentences, that allows us to return to a comfortable refrain we’ve heard before. The rest of his song, takes us through a variety of pacing and structures, again and again, until we have a gorgeous closing that feels not only right, but leaves us, in the end, with the feeling of wanting more.

If you’ve not been reading or writing with such rhythms, I urge you to listen to classical soundtracks like this one. Composers build soundtracks to increase emotional impact, and as E.M. Forster once said, “In music fiction is likely to find it nearest parallel.”

For more on this topic, I also suggest David Jauss’ book On Writing Fiction, and especially Part III on flow.

5 years. 4 Goodreads Giveaways.

February 22nd, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Bonjour 40 by Karen A. Chase

Bonjour 40

by Karen A. Chase

Giveaway ends March 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Mon dieu! How has it been 5 years since my BONJOUR 40 trip to Paris? Five years since I met Dorothée and Bandit. Sixty months since I wandered those streets delighting in the joy of getting lost… Since then, the book has reached thousands, resulting in some amazing new relationships, and some lovely comments from readers both complimentary and inspiring.

As a thanks, I’m running a Goodreads Giveaway now through March 4th. Sign up for a chance to win one of 4 copies of BONJOUR 40: A PARIS TRAVEL LOG. It’s a world-wide giveaway (so share far and wide). And to Worth, Greg, Brenda, Jackie, and all my sweet readers and supporters… You have inspired me, too. The pen is still in my hand, and travel still moves my feet. Hugs and merci to all of you have come along on this delightful journey.

“This reads with the same pleasing, conversational, witty, engaging lope of Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux.”

“I literally cried while I wandered, with you, through Shakespeare and Company and sat, just behind you at the Mad Hatter’s Party. It is without a doubt, and I’ve many years on you lass, one of the finest pieces of travel writing I’ve enjoyed.”

“For my 60th, 8 women and I rented a chateau in Provence… Met so many people who are now lifelong friends. The magic of travel is awesome. Keep writing you owe it to your soul……”

“You helped me through a very lonely Christmas Eve. I have the flu and pneuma and could not be at my family’s Christmas Eve dinner. I fixed a pot of tea and read your book Bonjour 40. I felt like I was on vacation with you. Thank you for getting me through a difficult holiday experience.”



Supporting Characters

February 19th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments


This week legendary character actor George Gaynes passed away. Despite his handsome looks and rumbling voice, despite dozens of plays and films, he was never really considered leading man material. Instead he was most known for supporting roles, like that of the photographer/building manager on Punky Brewster.

But I see high value in such roles. Like Samwise in Lord of the Rings, secondary characters sometimes give us a glimpse into what the main character, who is often wallowing around in the quagmire of becoming, might actually become. We needed the kind, wise mentor of Gaynes’ Henry, to believe that Punky Brewster might also grow up to be kind after being orphaned.

Writer’s Digest has a great article on how to write sizzling secondary characters. Primarily though, it comes down to writing supporting characters who, through their own journeys, help us and our protagonists reach a believable end.

I suspect Dustin Hoffman would not have been as convincing as a woman in Tootsie, had it not be for George Gaynes’ character so believably coming on to him as a “her.”

So thanks for the great character work, George. Thanks for the memories, and the laughs. You can see George Gaynes in this Tootsie original trailer around :40.