Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Alliteration: what are your thoughts?

This past Sunday I had the great opportunity to attend a workshop in Princeton, NJ which was sponsored by the NJ Chapter of SCBWI.  The workshop was taught by the extraordinary, Ame Dyckman and was officially titled a PB Word Count SMACKDOWN!  And Ame indeed did provide many awesome tips to keeping that word count low.

Ame Dyckman is a wonderful presenter.  If you ever get the chance to attend a workshop taught by her...run to it!  She is just dynamite in her knowledge and energy.  And is the the perfect person to teach a workshop on word count.  Her own picture books, including the ever-popular BOY + BOT usually weigh in around 300 words or less.  Yet, no one can argue that her stories do not pack a whole lotta heart and punch in those few words.  In fact, my first  encounter with Ame was when I found BOY + BOT on the shelves of my local indie bookstore.  I was compelled right away to write this blog post: BOY + BOT: A lesson in simplicity.

And then I was lucky enough to become FRIENDS with Ame and she graciously appeared on the blog again for the WriWOPi (Writing Without Pictures series).  The post is one of my most popular on the blog to this very day.  You can read it here.

Anyway, you get the picture.  Ame Dyckman knows her stuff when it comes to word count.

So...this workshop not only included listening to Ame and her tips to SMACKDOWN word count, it also gave participants the opportunity to have their "long" manuscripts read aloud and to have Ame weigh in on how to slice 'em up a bit.

Which brings me to the idea of alliteration.

I use alliteration.  Its one of my Picture Book tools like onomatopoeia.  I use it to spice up a manuscript.  It makes the wording "fun".

However, in this workshop it became very clear that reading alliteration aloud can sometimes bog down a story and make it seem longer than it is.

Perhaps alliteration does the exact opposite of what we want it to do.

In a few manuscript examples which were read aloud, alliteration slowed down the reader.

Back in June I had Ame critique one of my manuscripts at conference and she flagged my moments of alliteration with this very thought.  And to be honest, I didn't really listen to her...until Sunday.  It was so obvious that the alliteration seemed forced...too literary in a way. 

I think to the SKIPPYJON JONES books.  They are packed with alliteration and internal-rhyme.  Of course they also weigh in extremely long at over 1000 words.  However, when I read them aloud I get tired, my tongue gets twisted and the kids get a little lost.  It is only when I pop in the cd that comes with the book that I enjoy the story.

So, I wanted to start a dialogue.  What do you think of alliteration?  Do you use it?  What are your experiences? Let's talk...