The making of a rhyme…

28 03 2013


When I posted yesterday’s rhyme, Itchy Eric, I’d intended to include some waffle about how I wrote it, but forgot. Blame the over-tiredness! So I’m going to do it today instead. Probably a good thing in hindsight, otherwise yesterday’s post would have been massive.

This isn’t meant as a ‘how to’ guide, or even hints and tips – it’s just me writing down the thought processes that went through my head when I was penning Itchy Eric.

So. As yesterday was a Crazy Rhymey Challenge day, to start off with I had no idea what the subject or storyline would be. Crazy Rhymey Challenge started when one day I asked the lovely people on Twitter for a word or two which I’d then use in a rhyme. I’ve done a few of these now – they’re great fun! They usually happen when I’m on a train travelling to or from a work shift, so have a few hours to kill between home and London, Crewe, Newcastle, Edinburgh and various other places. I’ll generally do all the writing and subsequent posting to WordPress on my iPhone in a yellow note, but if I’m heading home (or to a hotel I know has free wi-fi) I’ll use Pages on my iPad.

The first word to be tweeted in yesterday’s challenge was reciprocation, closely followed by sausages, treacle, and pancakes. Not much story there yet, although reciprocation had good rhymey potential, and the others suggested a vaguely foody theme. These words were dutifully noted down in a new Pages document on my iPad.

Then came another wordy tweet – euouae. I know, that’s what I thought! It rang a distant bell however, in a musical kind of way, so I popped over to Google (other search engines are available) and did the business:

Euouae is a mnemonic which was used in medieval music to denote the sequence of tones in the “seculorum Amen” passage of the lesser doxology, Gloria Patri, which ends with the phrase In saecula saeculorum, Amen.” (Wikipedia)

Aha! I had an inkling of a subject now… medieval… monkish… The word was pasted into Pages, along with seculorum Amen, just in case.

Then I sat on the train (did I mention I was on a train? I was on a train – the 1007 Crewe to Derby if you’re interested) muttering into my scarf for a while, trying to work out how to pronounce it, which is quite important if you’re rhyming…

Popping back over to Twitter on my iPhone, pantaloons, esoteric, and cinnamon had arrived. Hurrah for pantalooooooons! It rhymes with macarooooooons! And macaroons always remind me of my mum – she always pronounced it macaroooooon! (With the exclamation mark after it).

Jot down new words in Pages.

Sometimes a bit of a rhyme jumps out at me straight away, which is always nice as it gives me a sort of base-rhythm (and a bit of story) to work from. This popped into my head:

Eric pulled a docket from the pocket in his pantaloons,
And took it to the cook who swapped it for a bag of macaroons.

It had to be Eric, by the way, in view of esoteric and the great Mr Morcambe.

If you read yesterday’s rhyme, you’ll notice that the above bit isn’t there – that’s because I decided the multiple rhymyness (docket/pocket and took/cook) would take far too long, and unless I stayed on the train until it went back to Crewe then back to Derby again a few times, I probably wouldn’t finish it by the time I got home. So I saved that thought for possible later use.

I was beginning to get a vague nobbley-shaped story in my head, to do with a monk called Eric, something about food, and trousers. Why was he wearing trousers and not a habit? Hmmm.

I jotted down a few rhyme thoughts:

Reciprocation – dedication, the nation, altercation, abomination, acceleration, manipulation, circumbobulation, constipation, standard deviation, decapitation, participation
Treacle – faecal
Pancake – mandrake
Esoteric – eric, derrick, generic, hysteric, atmospheric
Cinnamon – minimum, Wimbledon, persimmon

…and paused a bit to chuckle at ‘treacle‘ and ‘faecal‘. Dare I?

I always start finding rhymes by jotting down the obvious ones, then running through the alphabet in my head. If I’m stuck, I’ll also nip over to the extremely useful Rhymezone for a bit of help – it’s so much lighter than carrying round my rhyming dictionary. Not all the suggested words end up getting rhymed – some work better mid-sentence (like sausages in this case, although I did rather dubiously rhyme sausages here) just because they do, or because they’re un-rhymeable. Or I can’t conjure up a made-up word that fits. Or the available rhymes don’t work with the story. And so on…

Then I went back to muttering euouae into my scarf. With a bit of, er, artistic licence, perpetuum mobile sort of worked. As did pooey, which fitted in nicely with treacle and faecal.

A small pause to snigger into my scarf as I pictured an unfortunate monk with a rather bad case of wind, causing endless, stuttering, perpetuum-mobile-bottom-burps to echo round a church…

Okay, I was getting somewhere now, in a smelly kind of way. But why the pantaloons? Then ‘itchy habit‘ popped into my head, and I jotted down the first two verses:

Long ago in Flanders, in a place called Sparton Perrick,
There was a lonely novice who went by the name of Eric.

The other monks they teased him as he was so very twitchy –
Poor Eric was too shy to say his habit felt all itchy.

Not being able to think of any places that rhymed with Eric, I made one up. and Flanders just appeared and sounded right. Twitching sort of worked with kitchen, so next came:

To cover his embarrassment he hung out in the kitchen;
The servants didn’t comment on his shyness or his twitching.

Which bought the foody words into play, and the fabulous pantaloons:

He helped to stuff the sausages and fill the macaroons;
They let him take his habit off and just wear pantaloons.

And then came the little story breakthrough – he makes up his own recipe, it goes horribly wrong, gives him a terrible case of wind, so he hides in the church which is unfortunately very echoey…

So back to food:

And sometimes in the mornings when the kitchen was all quiet,
He’d make up his own recipes to supplement his diet.

Cut to the church, and to introduce a bit of music in preparation for euouae:

One evening during vespers, midst the singing of the choir,
Some strange unholy noises were heard coming from the spire.

I realised another character or two would be required to help Eric out of his itchy predicament, so introduced them…

The Abbott gave a sniff and said “I’m sure I can smell treacle,”
“I’m not so sure,” the Friar said, “I think it smells more faecal.”

And then it was time to use that word:

The noises echoed all around and drowned out the euouae,
And everyone agreed the smell was definitely pooey.

Next poor Eric needed to be found…

The Friar and the Abbott climbed up high into the steeple,
To try and find out what it was disturbing all the people.

And there right at the top they found the miserable Eric,
Regretting that his latest dish had been so esoteric.

And then an explanation for his sorry state. I liked Pancake and mandrake, so decided he’d mistakenly tripped himself out:

All alone and itchy he had tried to make a pancake,
But accidentally sprinkled it with freshly ground-up mandrake.

…then gone on a bit of a food frenzy to try and come down from the mandrake high…

To try and stop the shudders he’d then scoffed a persimmon,
Lightly stewed with chilli and a dash of cinnamon.

…which caused a bit of a blockage so I could use the rhyme for reciprocation that appealed to me most…

The sorry meal resulted in a bout of constipation,
So he’d eaten lots of figs and prunes to aid reciprocation.

Okay, I bent the meaning of reciprocation, but in my mind it works! Next, an explanation from Eric is required:

The Abbott and the Friar shook their heads and said “Oh Eric!
It’s no surprise your meal proved so very atmospheric.”

Eric hung his head and told them of his chronic itching,
Explaining that was why he spent so much time in the kitchen.

And then Eric gets some help, and what the help is…

The Friar and the Abbott found his misery distressing,
And so they bent the rules to solve the problem with his dressing.

Next morning in the chapel as they sang their matins tunes,
The monks all gaped in awe at Eric, in his pantaloons.

And last but not least, a happy ending:

He stood erect and proud, and sang without a single twitch,
So happy to be wearing clothes that didn’t make him itch!

And there you have it. All that was left to do was read it back to myself a few times to check for rhythm, rhyme, sense (or nonsense, ha!) and typos. If I’m alone I’ll read it out loud, otherwise I’ll mutter it into my scarf/jumper/any other available muffler.

Itchy Eric took around five hours start to finish, and included three trains, three large lattes to keep me awake and one banana. It was polished and posted into WordPress using the excellent little WordPress App from my iPad – with the aid of a cup of tea – when I got home.

The Pages document magically floats through the air on a little fluffy iCloud to my MacBook Pro for safekeeping, and if I’ve just been using Notes on my iPhone, when I get connected to wifi the Note’ll pop up on my iPad and I’ll paste it into a new Pages document to make sure it gets the iCloud treatment too.

And that, me dears, is how Itchy Eric came into being! I have no idea if there’s a right or wrong way to write rhymes, I just a-fuddle and a-muddle my way along in whatever manner feels right at the time. If any of the above proves useful to you, then hurrah! If not, then… well, I hope you enjoyed peeping into the workings of my mind!




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