Monday, June 8, 2009

"What's that?" she whispered wearily.

My name is Melanie, and I adore alliteration. If there's a way to work a word into a sentence that sounds similar to the one before, I'll do it. When I worked in advertising, my boss berated me (jokingly) for always asserting my ingenious ideas into our brainstorming sessions, but I can't help myself. It's like a gift.

Over the weekend I came upon a passage that I'd passed over once before, a simple scene in a strip club parking lot. I was trying to describe the sound of several SUV engines starting all at once. "Mechanical melody" had been burrowed into my head from the beginning, but I knew I should avoid alliteration at all costs. I tested (my go-to guy for all things word related) and it hinted at harmony as another possibility. I still wasn't sure, so I went to facebook.

My writing friends all (mostly) agreed that a little alliteration* is fine -- it's when it disrupts the reader that you should stop. After some back and forth, in which Spy explained that "harmony" is more musically accurate than "melody", my friend Jen suggested "symphony." I settled on that, and moved on.

But then I noticed more alliteration. Seems it's snuck into every scene. On the very next page I'd written "...he felt a connection with the fleeing coyote and sensed a warning in its wake." I think that falls into the category of not pulling the reader from the story, but I'm worried my words have gotten away from me!

I'm keeping my eye out for more. Any odd writing devices that you can't help but include?

*That one just made my day, and I swear it rolled off my tongue that way.

Bonus Track: another weakness of mine is looking up words on and clicking the button to hear the pronunciation. I think I need to get out more.


EriCan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EriCan said...

Sorry- posted too soon!

I too use alliteration. I think it comes from the poet in me. I was always a poet first!

I also check the dictionary a lot. I'm paranoid about using the wrong word for something since I tend to do that when I talk at times. The words come out before I have time to think about the correct meaning!

Nice Post- glad to hear you are keeping the alliteration :)

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, I wonder if it started with me from poetry as well. Hmm...

I'm the same way with the dictionary. I don't ever use words that I wouldn't normally use in conversation, but even that doesn't mean I'm always using them correctly. So I double-check.

After writing this post, I have to fight to keep all my words from starting with the same letter, lol.

Turkey Lurkey said...

*Ponders if Mel should join AAA* Alliteration Addicts Anonymous. :)

Melanie Avila said...

As long as we can pronounce it "aaahhhhh".

spyscribbler said...

Goodness, poor Melanie! Were you tired this morning? First of all, the very awesome phrase that I hope someday you get to use was, "Mechanical melody," not "musical melody."

And you sorta mixed it up: I explained that "harmony" was more accurate than "melody." :-) "Mechanical symphony" is way cool.

I see alliteration like "warning in its wake," all the time in my stuff. Why is it bad, again? I'll have to cut it out, huh? *pouts*

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, what would I do without you? I fixed the post for those two things. Gah.

Yes, I was tired. I keep asking Ibis to wake me up by 7am so I can get my post up (if I haven't written it the night before) but he forgot, so I wrote this as soon as I rolled out of bed.

I don't think you need to cut it. There's a fine line between lyrical writing and obnoxious writing, and I think as long as you stay on the right side, you're fine.

God I hope that makes sense. I think I'm still tired, lol.

Nadine said... has a button you can click to pronounce the word? Gah! I've been there so much and never noticed!

I think alliteration makes your writing sound poetic!

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, it's so fun! And, there are usually more than one option so you can hear both a man and a woman. Sometimes there's even a British version.

I'm hoping it sounds poetic... :)

spyscribbler said...

Oooh, but I love to be obnoxious!

Speaking of obnoxious, did you know that Firefox has a plug-in for and one for that puts them in the drop-down list in your search bar? So you can type it there, instead of going to and then typing it. ;-)

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I saw something on the site about adding it to your bar or something. I just leave the window open while I'm writing, but that would be cool.

Melanie Avila said...

Oh, and I'm laughing about the types of things that you and I get distracted by. You look up cool things to help the writing process, while I slog through celebrity gossip sites.

Did you know that Jennifer Aniston and John Stamos would be perfect together, even though she allegedly think she's too good for him?

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I like to use the thesaurus in Word, and then click on words in the thesaurus listing to get more words. I do it again and again, until I find what I really meant to say.

I think alliteration is effective and literary - as long as it's used wisely.

So be wary and wise when you write. ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, I'm realizing that I don't use the Word tools nearly as much as I should. There's a thesaurus function?

I should explain that as a designer, I did everything I could to avoid using Word. Needless to say, my one subordinate is very good in Word because I passed all those projects on to him. Ahh, delegation is a wonderful thing.

That said, I lurve your advice. :)

LurkerMonkey said...

Alliteration makes me merry!

Melanie Avila said...

Me too!

Robin said...

"A little alliteration". I love it! :)

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, it just rolls of the tongue, eh?