Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poetry, Fiction and Payoff

So I'm a sap when it comes to well written music. Any genre, any singer; if the lyrics are good, I'm hooked.

This often leads me down a rabbit-hole of folk music, and lately I've been hooked by Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. And on a recent road trip, while I was thinking about the two graphic novels I've just reviewed (Archeologists of Shadows and Akira), it occurred to me that what I want is for the two books to be like Both Sides Now.

Let me explain.

Both AoS and Akira are first installments in their respective series. Openings are tricky- reveal too much and the reader is bored; reveal too little and the reader is confused. The author has to hint that there is more without giving it all away.

Mitchell does that in her song, though she does it with rhyme.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way
But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away
capital = end rhyme
lower case = alliteration
number = slant rhyme

The busy-ness of the first half of the stanza, its tightly wrapped rhymes, repeats in each verse and gives it urgency.

The chorus is comparatively simple:

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all
The real trick, and it only comes through in the recording, is that until the final chorus the "at all" is virtually inaudible. This gives each chorus a hanging, unfinished quality, especially when it's immediately followed by the alliterations and rhymes of the next verse.

And that's what I want from first installments in a book series- a cliffhanger, followed by a real, meaningful payoff- one like "at all" that is at the same time surprising and leaves us saying, 'of course, how could it have been any other way?'

No comments:

Post a Comment