Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Symmetry in Writing (KaLyn)

When I first began writing, all my focus was on characters, plots, settings, and themes. I delved into story structure and, later, ventured deeper to discover how to build it with harmonious symmetry to create a lasting impression. In fact, it's a topic I previously visited on my blog (if you are inclined to read it, you can find the post here).

But, at that point in time, I often overlooked elements like pace and tone. Those were elusive ghosts roaming the halls, their essence unobtainable.

Today, I want to share with you a recent area of exploration: how sounds and syllables affect tone and pace.


Paragraphs, sentences, and words - the length of these can effectively reinforce the pace and tone of a scene. Think of it as a dance. Drawing in your arms shortens the distance between you and your partner, creating intimacy and allowing for a faster tempo. Whereas, extending your arms lengthens the distance, thus adding a sense of formality and a softer flow to the rhythm.


The sound of a word, whether soft or hard, affects the tone of a scene. Softer sounds are associated with a more relaxed scene, while harder ones leave the reader with a harsher impression of the events.

Telling the difference isn't always easy, but here are a few tips I have learned.
  • Words beginning with b, c, d, g, k, p, q, t usually have hard sounds.
  • Words beginning with e, f, h, i, j, l, m, n, o, s, w, y usually have soft sounds.
  • Exceptions are often determined by the letter sounds following the first one. Is it a plosive sound? Can the word be said in one breath or does it have a longer sound made with a continuing breath? For example, 'take' is short, plosive sound, while 'theater' is a long sound made with a continuing breath. 


If symmetry in writing begins with story structure and cascades down to the tiniest level of prose, how then does it play out with syllable structure? Much like iambic pentameter creates a rhythm, to what end and effect would a particular syllabic rhythm in similar types scenes create in a body of prose?

Considering the discussion of length and sound, imagine a short syllabic rhythm with a cadence that matches the scene or the emotions of a scene - like the rapid heartbeat of your main character as they run from danger. How would a more complex rhythm - like a waltz or an epic ballad - be woven into the syllables of a scene, paralleling the same story or theme as the song?

Something to ponder and experiment.

A lifetime is not long enough to master the craft of fiction writing.

Share your tips, tricks, thoughts, or questions in the comments. And if you know of any good resources, be sure to include those too!


  1. Wonderful post, KaLyn! I'm with you - I never thought about this kind of thing when I first started writing, but now I really enjoy using sentence structure to set a certain tone. But I totally agree, I'm sure I'll never master it!

    1. Thanks, Laurie! I was intrigued the first time I heard someone talk about it. Playing with sentence structure is a fun challenge.

  2. KaLyn, great post! I love to use short sentences to heighten tension and enhance action scenes, but it's something I'm still learning.

    1. Thank you, Jill! I agree. Faster pace, suspence, tension... makes for a fun read.

  3. Those are great things to think about when writing and editing. Thanks for the reminder, KaLyn.


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