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Alliteration

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Alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds. It’s the foundation of rhyme and, along with meter, forms the cornerstone of the sonic effects available to writers. There are two major kinds:

assonance - the repetition of similar vowels
consonance - the repetition of similar consonants.

The important thing to remember is that this is a repetition of similar sounds, not similar letters. Many letters and letter combinations can indicate more than one sound, and many sounds can be represented by more than one letter.

Rhyme is a specific type of alliteration. Again, there are two major kinds:

In true rhyme, the rhyming words share the last syllable exactly.
In slant rhyme, the rhyming words share one component, either the same vowel sound or the same consonants.

Furthermore, the last syllable of rhyming words is commonly stressed. Rhyming unstressed syllables often sounds strange to people.

Anything beyond this is a matter of practice and personal judgment, so let’s jump to exercises.

Exercises

Assonance

  1. Pick three different vowel sounds.
  2. For each sound, write two sentences that assonate that sound.
  3. Each sentence must have at least three words, and at least two of the words must contain the chosen vowel. (Preferably, all of the stressed syllables and nearly all of the unstressed syllables will have the chosen vowel.)
  4. For example, if you choose the long "e" vowel, this might be one of the sentences:

    Free sheep bleat feeble dreams.

    And for the long "o" vowel:

    Old stones boastfully groan.

  5. These sentences don’t have to make sense. The important part, for now, is getting acquainted with the sound.
  6. When you’ve written the sentences, read each pair out loud three times, emphasizing the assonance. Pay attention to the difference in sound and feel of each pair. Hearing the effect is just as important, maybe more so, as being able to see the effect in writing.

Consonance

  1. Pick three different consonant sounds.
  2. For each sound, write two sentences that contain that consonant’s consonance.
  3. Each sentence must have at least three words, and at least two of the words must contain the chosen consonant. (Preferably, all of the stressed syllables and nearly all of the unstressed syllables will also contain the chosen consonance.)
  4. For example, if you choose the "t" sound, this might be one of the sentences:

    Tit for tat takes too much time.

    And for the "s" sound:

    The simple, surprising susurration sings inspiration.

  5. These sentences don’t have to make sense. The important part, for now, is getting acquainted with the sound.
  6. When you’ve written the sentences, read each pair out loud three times, emphasizing the assonance. Pay attention to the difference in sound and feel of each pair. Hearing the effect is just as important, maybe more so, as being able to see the effect in writing.

True Rhyme

Since finding rhyming pairs of words is as simple as using a rhyming dictionary, let’s go for something a bit more difficult.

  1. Write five pairs of true rhyming lines. Try to keep each line between four and eight words.
  2. Next, write those lines again, but change the last word in the second line. Keep the meaning as close to the original as possible. (It’s ok to use a thesaurus.)
  3. For example, one rhyming pair might be:

    If you eat nachos in the rain
    And they get soggy, don’t complain.

    And the corresponding non-rhyming pair might be:

    If you eat nachos in the rain
    And they get soggy, don’t get mad.

  4. Read a rhyming pair out loud three times, then read the non-rhyming pair out loud three times. Pay attention to the difference in sound between the pairs.
  5. Do this for all the pairs you’ve written.

Slant Rhyme

It’s even easier to do slant rhyme than true rhyme, because you have more options.

  1. Choose three different vowel sounds. Long vowels tend to be easiest to hear.
  2. For each vowel sound, write a pair of slant rhyming lines. (The last syllables of each line should share the same vowel sound, but nothing else.)
  3. Next, write those lines again, but change the last word in the second line. Keep the meaning as close to the original as possible. (It’s ok to use a thesaurus.)
  4. For example, one slant rhyming pair of the long "a" vowel might be:

    Bill liked to eat carrot cake
    and always left one piece to save.

    The corresponding non-rhyming pair might be:

    Bill liked to eat carrot cake
    and always left one piece alone.

  5. Read a rhyming pair out loud three times, then read its non-rhyming twin out loud three times. Pay attention to the difference in sound between the pairs.
  6. Do this for all the pairs you’ve written.

The Google Says...

Thesaurus.com - Free online thesaurus
RhymeZone - Free online rhyming dictionary and thesaurus