Monday, July 16, 2012

You Got Rhythm: Another Look A Walter Mosley

I love this instruction from This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley.

Poets know that poems are songs, but few of us realize that novels are too. If there is no music to your novel, no sound, then the book will be at best incomplete. You must have a rhythm to your characters, a unique cadence to the way each one speaks, an identifiable cacophony to the world(s) they inhabit, and a beat to the story that, when varied, gives the read an almost unconscious sign of events about to unfurl.

No one will tell you how to score your novel, so that means you have to discover the music for yourself.
I've finished reading This Year You Write Your Novel and I wasn't disappointed in it. It was wonderful all the way through, from beginning to end.  I might be quoting from it for a long time. Near the end of the book, Mosley writes: And so when you perused the previous pages, you may have been a little let down. Perhaps you were looking for an epiphany, and all you found was a joke. If you find that the previous paragraph expresses your feelings, I say, "Don't despair." This book is meant only to teach the rudiments of novel writing. Greatness lies in the heart of the writer, not in technique.
That comment from Mosley brought tears to my eyes. Why? Because of his honest voice. Because of his sincerity. Because I can look back on every word he wrote in this small book and know that his heart was open and sharing. When i finished This Year You Write Your Novel, I felt/feel rejuvenated and anxious to get back to my own rewriting. I have specific things I can look for, listen for as I revise. I also picked up Mosley's novel The Man In My Basement. The first page yanked me into the story and wouldn't let me go.
The Denver Post called Mosley one of the country's best writers.  The New York Times states: Mosley is a kind of jazz musician, a Wynton Marsalis of the printed page..."
We would do well to find our own rhythm, allow our characters to live and march to their own beat. One way we do that is to read other writers, read poetry, write, read aloud and rewrite. Do you think of your novel as a song? Do you think it makes sense to do so? Why or why not?
If you'd like to learn more about Walter Mosley, try THIS interesting article from 2010.


Charles Gramlich said...

I absolutely agree. I spend a lot of time on the rhythm of my work. It may not be a great rhythm but it's mine and I insist on it before I send anything out.

Anonymous said...

OK, I just ordered this from Amazon a few days ago. Now I really can't wait to read it!

Lexa Cain said...

The book sounds fabulous. I love the idea there needs to be music in my characters and setting. It makes sense. Too bad I'm no sure how to go about putting it in there! lol

Chris Baldauf said...

I'm on my way to the bookstore. Can't wait. Thanks Jess, really enjoyed the article, too.

Jayne said...

This I can relate to--the rhythm, cadence, sound of a story. Poem, short or novel--the ear is astute. So true.

I'm embarrassed to say I've never read Mosley. I'm about to rectify that. Thank you, thank you Jess, for the introduction! :)