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Take it away, Shari.
It seems to me, verse novels are everywhere…although I might possibly have highly-developed verse-novel radar. ;-) I do seek them out, because I love the form so much, and I’ve written two verse novels myself. (The second one is brand new! MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS launches in the U.S. on May 15. Details below.)
I’m often asked why verse? so I’ve given it some thought. Whether you’re a reader curious about the form, or a writer wondering if verse might be right for your next story, here are five reasons why you might choose to write in verse.
- It suits the story: A story element may lend itself to verse, to the techniques and structure of a verse novel. For example, a bleak setting or subject can be reflected in short, stark lines; or the setting may be enriched by using verse that reflects the rhythm of a culture’s language or music; or the subject matter may be directly related to poetry or writing, making verse a natural fit.
- It lightens the load: Difficult or demanding subject matter can be more palatable in verse. The economy of words and the abundance of white space may help the reader to absorb what’s happening without being overwhelmed.
- It gets to the heart: Because verse tends to be intimate, immediate, and often intense, it can be easier to get to the heart of a story by using poetry. This may be partly because of the economy of words, the spareness, but also because things like spacing and alignment—the visual elements of the poems—can become a metaphor for the character’s emotion or state of mind, hitting the reader on a subconscious level and increasing the emotional impact.
- It helps readers: For kids (and adults) who struggle with reading or who think they don’t really like reading, verse novels can be much less intimidating – readers aren’t hit with a huge block of text when they open the book. And since verse novels often are fairly quick reads, less enthusiastic readers are more likely to finish them, giving them a sense of competence and confidence. Rhythm and repetition can be a huge help to struggling readers in processing & retaining what they read, too.
- It feels right: Sometimes verse just feels right, which probably sounds a bit vague, but it was certainly my experience when I began writing novels in verse. Verse was not only how I heard my characters’ voices, but also a natural fit for my own voice and style. And I must say, playing with poetry and the musicality of words is a joy!
Olivia has been Macy McMillan’s best friend ever since Macy transferred to Hamilton Elementary from Braeside School for the Deaf. But then their sixth grade teacher assigned that embarrassing family tree project, and Olivia made a joke about Macy’s father, and now neither girl is speaking—or signing—to the other.
It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. With her mother getting married and an ugly For Sale sign jammed into their yard, Macy could really use a best friend right now. But it seems the only person who has time for her these days is Iris Gillan from next door. And it’s not like a crabby, old woman who doesn’t even know sign language is going to be any comfort. Right?
MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS is a Junior Library Guild 2017 selection. A summer read for fans of Sharon Creech and Kate DiCamillo, from Pajama Press.
Shari Green writes fiction for kids and teens. She lives on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, with her husband, kids, and the worst watchdog ever. Visit her online at www.sharigreen.com.