Monday, March 1, 2010

The Waltz Between Reader & Writer



There is a rhythm to the writing, and there is a rhythm to the reading. The writer through the language places words, phrases, paragraphs onto the page, much as a musician writes his or her music and then sends it out to the world for listeners to enjoy. When I am writing, I am not aware of the rhythm. I am manipulating the language, but its rhythm comes from instinct, not from controlled purpose. When I am reading, I am not aware of the rhythm; it is only when I’ve put away the book and reflect on it that the rhythm, or lack of it, becomes apparent.

Not long ago, I read a novel and in the first two chapters, I had the urge to put away the book; something just wasn’t right. But curiosity kept me reading to the third chapter, then the fourth, and somewhere along the way, I tapped into the rhythm of the writer’s words and began to enjoy the book. I thought, I’m so glad I didn’t put the book away, or I’d have missed this waltz between writer and reader. I thought back to other books I’ve read when I’ve almost stopped reading, but when I kept on, I’d soon find I enjoyed the experience—not always, but many times. I simply needed to fall in step with the writer, one two three, one two three, one two three…

The writer has no awareness of how in-tuned we are to one another in the moment of my reading his or her words. He doesn’t know I am swaying in time, lifting up then setting down, dipping, rising falling—our dance. The writer and I have never been closer and I wish I could tell her, turn my head, look up into her face, say the words, “Your words have affected me, or moved me, or made me laugh, or entertained me, or made me think.” The characters dance along with us, apparitions who become solid and real through the sure hand of his writing, the hand at my back that guides me here there here there, to places and events and people.

When I put down the book I am reading, I have to re-orient myself to space and time, to the silence in the room, the absence of character, language, song—rhythm, and I can’t wait until tomorrow night when Writer and I meet again, when the writer will take me in his or her arms and move me about the room. We are perfect partners: writer and reader.

I have this hope, that when others read my work they feel the rhythm with me, that I lead them through the beauty of the language, that together we dance. That they stay with me until we are the perfect partner: Writer and Reader.
What about you? Do you feel that rhythm when you read, or when you write?
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(the next stop on my blog tour will be Janna's Place . . . I hope you've gone by and wrote a hello to the other wondeful blog friends who have hosted me -thank you!)

15 comments:

jinksy said...

Rhythm keeps me in tune with the great dance, be it writing or reading. I loved the lilt in this post...

Kelly Bryson said...

Beautiful post. Nice reminder to slow down and enjoy the words. Sometimes I wonder if people in crit groups especially get into a 'got to get through this' mindset and thus miss the dance.

Patience-please said...

I think I am keenly aware of the rhythm of the words as I read. One of the many reasons your writing is magnetic. one two three, two two three, twirl two three, wheeeeeee!
I love the cover design for your next book, by the way :-)

Eryl Shields said...

I was never consciously aware of the rhythms of prose, whilst reading, until I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I actually found the first hundred or so pages quite exhausting until I fell in step with it. It definitely wasn't like a dance though!

I know I do feel rhythm, both when I read and when I write. It's like the score in a movie, in that when it's done well it contributes to the story without hijacking it.

Judith Mercado said...

Kathryn,
One of the reasons I try to read my material out loud is precisely to catch the rhythm you so ably discuss in this post. I sometimes am reminded of my orchestra teacher in grade school who used to make us clap out the rhythm of the musical notes we were to play. Somehow that always made it easier to play the musical piece afterwards. Perhaps, though, it also taught me about finding the rhythm already placed there by the composer. Since in this case, I am the “composer,” it is up to me not only to create the rhythm in the first place but also to catch in revision all the false notes I might have inserted. This was a wonderful post.
Judy

Debbie said...

I do! Especially a well-written book. Some of them never quite get their rhythm going! I sure felt it with yours. It was like you were just talking to me.

Karen said...

Amazing thoughts. I have read books like that, now that you brought it to light. But I don't recognize anything like that in my writing. Hummmm.

Susan R. Mills said...

This is a great point. I'd never thought of it this way, but yes, there is a rhythm to writing and reading. I also hope that my readers will fell the rhythm.

Sheila Deeth said...

Interesting. When my sons were complaining about books they had to read in high school I used to tell them you had to read far enough to catch the rhythm of the writing. It worked. Once they'd gone far enough the reading got faster and easier.

K.M. Weiland said...

Great post! I've always appreciated the idea that a story was a contract between writer and reader, with each having their own responsibilities. The analogy to dancing is particularly apt. The writer has to lead the dance, but the reader has a responsibility to follow *where* the author leads and not fight the book because it's not what he expected. I love what you said about having to "tap into" an author whose style is maybe a little bit different from what we're used to. I've read countless books that didn't hit me until I'd given myself time to match the writer's pace.

Glynis said...

True words! There are some books that keep me tapping my foot after I have finished. The tune stays with me and I want more. I want to keep on dancing with the author.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Well said Kat. So many rhythms so little time! I'm not aware of the rhythm when I'm writing, it comes with the reading..

Rick said...

I love the idea in this post. Although I'm not sure when I'm writing if I pay any attention to the reader or myself at all. I'm just caught up in the flow. Everything else comes later for me. Scenes are a big focus for me to, especially the transition between them. Thanks, Kathryn, for discussing this. Very helpful.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Ooo, your posts are almost as captivating as the real live you!

Putting a link up at my blog today. :)

Small Footprints said...

Years ago, I wrote poetry and I was very aware of the rhythm ... the cadence of the syllables. Now, when I write for my blog, or even a letter ... I read it out loud so that I can feel the rhythm. If it's not there or doesn't "feel" good ... I have to fix it.

I never really thought about the rhythm in terms of what I read ... but ... you're right ... it's there. I've read some authors who change their rhythm throughout the book ... it's a very powerful technique for changing the "voice" of a piece ... the feel or presence of a scene.

Love the rhythm of this post! :)