Thursday, November 13, 2014

Renée LaTulippe – Mood, Effect, and Emotion: Sentence Transformation


Photo: M. H. Barnes

All aboard!!!
Renée LaTulippe's Lyrical Language Express is about to leave the station, and trust me, you don't want to miss it!

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Mood, Effect, and Emotion: Sentence Transformation

In my last lyrical language post, “Sound Bites: Making Writing Musical,” we looked at the properties of sounds in the English language and how we can use them to enhance our writing. In this post, we’re going to put those ideas into practice with a little writing exercise. 

A heightened awareness of sound and the knowledge of how to use sounds in your writing has several benefits:
  1. Style: It takes your writing from humdrum to engaging.
  2. Tone: It helps you set the tone of your poem or story from the very first line.
  3. Mood/Emotion: It helps you elicit specific emotions or reactions in your reader.
  4. Scene: It helps you show setting or character without "telling."
  5. Pacing: It gives you more control over the dynamics and pacing of your writing (when and where to change tone, mood, or pacing, for example).

Let's look at those five points a bit closer. Suppose I want to write a story about a train. I start with this first line:

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Geof Sheppard
  1. Style: This humdrum sentence uses everyday language that doesn't engage. There is no craft to it.
  2. Tone: No particular tone has been set. I'm not sure what to expect.
  3. Mood/Emotion: I have no emotional reaction to this sentence.
  4. Scene: It tells me nothing about the character or setting.
  5. Pacing: The sentence is neutral in terms of pacing.

Using sound devices, I could put several different spins on the train idea.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Albert Jankowski (public domain)
  1. Style: The language is engaging and fun to say out loud.
  2. Tone: The tone is light-hearted. The consonance on the CK and T and the assonance on the short I create an upbeat rhythm.
  3. Mood/Emotion: The train seems happy and therefore elicits a feeling of happiness and excitement in me.
  4. Scene: I can feel the jaunty movement of the bouncing train. The word rickety and the way the train moves makes me think he's not in the best repair but that he's okay with his lot in life. I know he's on an old track, which is also rickety, so I have some clue to setting.
  5. Pacing: The CK, T, and short I are sounds that are spoken quickly and naturally speed up the pacing. The sentence forces me to read it quickly.

Since not all sounds have the same properties or produce the same effects, I could focus the assonance and consonance on different letters and see what happens.

Photo: Flikr Creative Commons, David Spigolon
  1. Style: The language is engaging and fun to say out loud.
  2. Tone: The tone is heavier. The assonance on the short U combined with the consonance on the DGE and G sounds weigh this sentence down. The line is broken up a bit by the two short A-CK sounds in the slant rhyme fractured track, which is not a soothing phrase at all.
  3. Mood/Emotion: Gus the train seems sad or tired. I might worry a bit and wonder why he feels this way. I hope he'll find a happy ending or a good night's sleep wherever he is going. (And if he does, the writer will need to pay attention to the sounds as the story goes from heavy and sad to light and happy.)
  4. Scene: The character is clearly down in the dumps and is leaving a town. Is it his home? The track is broken. Maybe the town is run-down too? Maybe there's no work left? Maybe he's leaving loved ones behind as he goes in search of new possibilities?
  5. Pacing: The short U, DGE, G, CH, and even the TR are heavier in the mouth and spoken more slowly, so the pacing is slower in this version.

This story could also take a lyrical turn by playing more with assonance, alliteration, and voiced sounds.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Geof Sheppard
  1. Style: The language is musical and pleasing to say out loud.
  2. Tone: The tone is pensive. The assonance on the long O and OO sounds combines with the consonance on the voiced M and N to create a moan that lingers throughout the sentence and conveys a mournful mood. I would expect this to be a sad story, too, though completely different in tone and style than the story about Gus.
  3. Mood/Emotion: Rather than make me sad, all those mournful sounds make me curious and suspenseful. This could even be a scary story.
  4. Scene: I'm not sure if the character is the locomotive or the night or the shadows or the moon or none of the above, but I would like to find out. Since there are shadows and moonlight, I picture this train going through the woods. I may be wrong, but the phrase at least puts images in my head.
  5. Pacing: The assonance on the long O and OO sounds gives the phrase a languid pace and encourages the reader to linger over the sentence.

The number of transformations this sentence could undergo to create different effects is limited only by our imagination. But I hope these three examples will give you a good idea of how we can choose and manipulate specific sounds to add music to our poetry and prose.

Of course, diction (word choice) plays a significant role in these transformations as well, and we'll be talking about that in a later post. But sound and diction go hand in hand as we must consider sound when choosing which words to use.


Give it a try!

Take the first sentence in a work in progress or a line from a poem and put it through the transformation test. Or use this sentence: Birds took to the sky and flew south for the winter. Feel free to share your transformations in the comments.

In the next lyrical language post, a flock of dodo birds will show us how to manage our stress(ed beats). Until then, happy writing!


© 2014 Renée M. LaTulippe. This article is partially excerpted from a lesson in the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry. All rights reserved.


An editor and writer, Renée LaTulippe has co-authored nine early readers and a collection of poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new (Moonbeam Children’s Book Award) and has poems in several editions of The Poetry Friday Anthology. She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and blogs on children’s poetry at NoWaterRiver.com.




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If you read last week's spotlight interview with Bob Raczka, you know that he's challenged us to write monster-inspired haiku this month.  This week's daily ditties included haiku by Tabatha Yeatts, Joyce Ray, and Donna Smith. Stay tuned... there's more to come!

I'm also delighted to share some good news. I've had two poems selected for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books), edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. Keep your eyes peeled for this newest edition of the Poetry Friday Anthology series coming in April 2015.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Keri Collins Lewis at Keri Recommends.  Please join her as she pays tribute to someone very special.



42 comments:

  1. Great advice, Renee - I love your different takes on the scene of the train. Here's mine:

    Steam Train

    Firebox flares,
    steam shoots high
    as smoky billows
    shake the sky.

    - Matt Forrest Esenwine

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  2. That's lovely, Matt! I really like the smoky billows shaking the sky -- cool image. :)

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  3. Thanks for the great post, Renee -- and Congrats, Michelle on having your poems selected for the new PFAFC!

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  4. Great post. I am bookmarking this!

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  5. Love this--pleasing to the ear AND eye-opening. :-)

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  6. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! I have learned so much from you, Renee,

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  7. Trains are my favorite reminder of childhood -- thanks Renee and Michelle! I'm working on how to express that recollection.

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    1. So glad Renée's post this week hit the sweet spot with you, Pops! I'm so grateful to have her as a TLD contributor.

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  8. Renee, you have a way of making these concepts so clear! Lovely examples. Now I want to go take your Lyrical Language course again... I could go through it several times and still learn something new from it each time, I think.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Sandy. Sigh, one of my first students - and it already seems so long ago! Would love to have you back. :)

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  9. This is a wonderful lesson, Renee! Thanks for sharing it with us, Michelle, and congratulations on your poem acceptances!!! I just received Bob Raczka's book in the mail this week and am looking forward to a December of haiku poems! = )

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    1. Thanks so much, Becky! I'll be thinking about you as we read our copy of SANTA CLAUSES this December too.

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  10. Renee...you're the bomb! Is there a better way to say that? You be the bomb? Well, you get my point! Thanks for a great lesson.

    Thanks for having Renee, Michelle. And congrats on your poems! Yay!

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  11. Wow on so many levels, Renee and Michelle! I will be coming back to reread these pearls of wisdom over and over. Thank you! =)

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  12. This is the perfect exercise to get my sixth graders to dig a little deeper and play with language. And Michelle- bravo!

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  13. This one's a keeper! I'm enjoying the little lessons and look forward to more!

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  14. Like always, Renee, your lessons are terrific. Thanks for this, & congratulations Michelle-terrific news!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, everyone! Please do feel free to share these lessons with students. :)

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  15. What an amazing post. I'm thinking you (via this post) may be teaching these writing moves to my students in the near future!

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    1. Happy to oblige, Mary Lee -- as long as you share the results on your blog! :)

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  16. Great post Renee'. So looking forward to the LLL in a few months. Especially if this is a sample! Thanks Michelle for hosting this post.

    Will give it a try: Birds took to the sky and flew south for the winter:

    With a sudden feathery rustling the blackbird flock covering the pasture rose like a shaken blanket, snatched by brisk winter wind, fluttering away into gray southern sky.

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    1. Hey, thanks for playing, Damon! Love that "shaken blanket" image. Looking forward to having you in class in January - whoo!

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    2. Great job, Damon! I love that shaken blanket image as well!

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  17. It all becomes clear with great examples! Thanks for the post -anyone else craving a train ride?

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    1. I'm certainly in the mood for a train ride! I love how those similar sentences can give a totally different feel.

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  18. Wow! What a great post. Excellent examples, Renee! It makes a lot of sense. The challenge is for me to come up with examples that are wonderful as yours.

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    1. P.S. Michelle, I tried to sign up to follow your blog by email but this is the message I get: FeedBurner
      The feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled

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    2. Hi Romelle and welcome to TLD! Thanks for letting me know about the FeedBurner subscription service. Not sure what happened, but I just checked and you're listed as an active subscriber. Hopefully there won't be any other problems, but if there are, please let me know!

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  19. Great examples and illustrations, Renee!

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  20. Just getting this for some reason . . . wonderful! I can't wait to try my hand at migrating birds.

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