Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Creating Coherence: Music & Writing
There are many ways to create coherence and flow in a paragraph. The most important one is for the writer to think in large blocks–to think in units of several sentences instead of one sentence at a time. It is very helpful to read your writing out loud. If your writing sounds choppy, it reads choppy.
Writing prose is much like composing music. A composer doesn't compose note by note or even phrase by phrase. Rather, a composer thinks in large blocks and establishes long-range goals. Music is constantly going forward toward a goal or relaxing from that goal. Each phrase has a dynamic curve; there are peaks and valleys of loudness and emphasis. For example, most musical phrases increase in loudness until about two-thirds of the way into the phrase then get softer. Phrases combine into larger groups, and these larger groups also possess a dynamic curve. The combination of phrases flows because of this dynamic curve and because one phrase derives from another. Finally, most works have a single goal (the climax) and a single large-scale dynamic curve.
Like music, prose has a dynamic curve. When you speak, your voice changes in tone and loudness, depending on the emphasis desired, punctuation, and place in the sentence. When a writer is aware of the dynamics of the prose, he can use these dynamics to create continuity. Each sentence should have a dynamic curve, and the dynamic curves of adjacent sentences should flow together naturally. In addition, the writer should consider the dynamic flow of the paragraph. The curve should start with the topic sentence and push to the concluding one.
A composer also carefully organizes the phrases in order to create a coherent unit. Each phrases flows from the previous one. Phrases that belong together have only brief articulations between them, while medium-size units are separated by longer articulations. Repetitions connect phrases, and short transitional phrases connect longer units. Primary and subordinate material are properly placed.
In prose, each sentence should flow from the previous one. Phrases or sentences that belong together should use punctuation that produces brief pauses (commas, semicolons, etc.). Distinct units should be separated by long pauses (paragraph breaks). A writer can connect sentences by subtle repetitions and using connecting words or phrases. The writer should properly place primary and subordinate materials.