Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rhyme: Tips on Writing Stories in Rhyme

Master Isolated Images
R is for rhyme: Tips on Writing Stories in Rhyme. Today I’m going to talk about rhyming picture books or as Kari-Lynn Winters calls them “picture book poems.”  We all know that children love Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose because of their delightful rhyme, silly stories, and fun illustrations. But not all rhyme is good rhyme.  Not all stories should be told in rhyme.  In a moment I will share some tips on how to improve upon a story written in rhyme.

Last May, I went to my very first Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators conference, in which I had the chance to see Kari-Lynn Winters perform. I say perform because she brought along props to help in teaching us writers about writing picture books in rhyme. When I started putting this poetry challenge together, and I knew I was going to do a post on rhyme, I contacted Kari-Lynn for some help. Not only did she grant me an interview (click here to read the interview), but she also gave me an article that she wrote in preparation for her presentation at last year’s conference.  Without further ado, I’m going to share the highlights of that article with you: 

1. Why are rhyming texts more difficult to get published then non-rhyming texts? Well, according to poet Carol-Ann Hoyte, “Many submitted poems have been poorly executed. Editors get tired of it.” This often happens when a story is sent in before it’s truly ready.
2.     In order for a text to be well written it should be multimodal. “This means that they not only need to work for the eye, but for the ear, the mouth, and the body as well… If the words do not flow, you may need to go back and rework them.”
3.     You also need to take the time to make sure your story not only looks good on paper, but can also be performed. When Kari-Lynn writes a story she tries to “imagine the little kids flapping their arms and roaring.”  Her reasoning is writers have no control over illustration so concentrate on what you do have control over (the words and the actions).
Kari-Lynn performing aRHYTHMetic
4.     Coming up with actions to go along with your story can help help you be successful “because books don’t sell themselves and because publishers want to know how you will promote their product.” 
5.     Another problem with rhyming texts is sometimes a writer “is more focused on the form or patterning rather than on the story itself.” This can lead to stories that sound robotic or don’t make sense. Kari-Lynn’s “number rule for poems and rhyming picture books is never compromise the meaning for the sake of making a rhyme; doing this only makes you appear lazy to editors and publishers.”

On a final note Kari-Lynn Winters leaves us with these suggestions:

                                       Read other rhyming texts.
                                                 Ensure your rhymes tell a good story.
        Compromising meaning for rhYmes appears careless or amateur.
                                         Make your poems Multimodal.
                               Take your time. SubmIt only when you are 110% ready
           Choose the less obvious word, makiNg your poem more delicious.
         Within stanzas, line lengths can chanGe.

Thanks so much Kari-Lynn for your help. Now for today’s challenge.

--Write a poem for kids in rhyme. Come up with some actions that can go along with your poem (keeping in mind your audience).

--Author Eric VanRaepenbusch has a Pinterest board full of activities that relate to this story Three Ghost Friends. 
--If you are looking to learn more about writing non-fiction in rhyme check out my interview with author Bill Kirk by clicking here
--How to Write Poems that Rhyme

If you liked this post please let others know. Tomorrow, poet and writer Linda Pedley will be joining us to talk about sonnets. I hope you come back for that.

*aRHYTHMetic written by Tiffany Stone, Kari-Lynn Winters, and Lori Sherritt-Flemming and Illustrated by Scot Ritchie. 

Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, performer, and academic scholar. Sixteen of her picture or poetry books have been published or are in press. An experienced teacher of writing, she has worked with students across Canada and the United States, including pre-school, special education, primary and intermediate, high school, and university teacher education. Kari-Lynn is an assistant professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Her research interests include drama in education, children’s literature, literacy, and multimodal forms of learning. More information about Kari-Lynn can be found at


  1. Thanks again for the much needed advice Kari-Lynna and Rena!!

    1. Here's mine

      Stuck in the Muck

      So, you ran and you tripped, now you’re stuck,
      Flat on your face with cheeks in the muck.
      Have you lifted your hands?
      Have you lifted your legs?
      Buster, I think you might be in luck.
      All you have to do is just jiggle.
      Can you try it without a giggle?
      Have you moved to the left?
      Have you moved to the right?
      All you have to do is just wiggle.

    2. Haha cute. I can see the actions in this poem. Good stuff.

    3. Fun, Jennifer! I like your actions! I got the rhyme on mine...but I fear it's lacking the action part. Just couldn't get it all together!

  2. Great advice Kari-Lynn and Rena! Thanks a lot. I like the term multimodal. Let's try this!

  3. Truly awesome post Rena. Thanks for digging more deeply into this topic - one we all have questions about.

  4. I've never been brave enough to write a story in rhyme before, so this was an interesting glimpse into the process for me.

    1. Even though I'm a poet I tend to shy away form rhyme when writing picture books.

  5. This is good stuff! Multimodal... might help me get out of my chair more!

  6. I just read Ann Whitford Paul's book on writing picture books. She has a FANTASTIC chapter on writing in rhyme. even though I don't write in rhyme, I must admit, I learned a lot.

    1. I will have to look that book up. The next couple of MSS I'm working on are going to be in rhyme.

  7. Perfect timing for me! Thank you for this blog post. Like many others I dont usually write in rhyme, until my 'accidental' April PB draft came flowing out...I will investigate further to make sure that I am including your suggested points! (Nicky Johnston)

  8. Thank you for this post, Rena. Kari-Lynn you give such great advice.

    1. Your welcome and I couldn't agree more!

  9. Great tips, Kari Lynn! I followed your lead and wrote about the rules of rhyme. Check it out here:

  10. Replies
    1. Thanks! Thanks to Kari-Lynn for helping me out.

  11. Oh...I'm so tired...that was my Day 18.

  12. Great suggestions. I've never tried writing a multimodal poem specifically. I'll give it a go (heave-ho!).

  13. Great post, Rena, thanks! I never thought about having actions to go along with the rhyme, but when I think about it, I can see how that would help a lot!

    1. It makes a lot of sense. Kari-Lynn is quite entertaining.


Thanks for your comments. Remember to keep them kid friendly.