Cadence: The Rhythm of a Story

Have you ever heard someone sing or play a song using the wrong timing or using some wrong notes? You recognize the song, even through the flaw, but the faulty rhythm is disturbing, and listening becomes an irritation rather than a joy. When the flow is off, the beauty of the music is lost. It’s the same with writing a novel. Sentence structure and verbiage are important pieces in bringing the reading experience to its full potential. The plot can be rock-solid, the characterization impeccable, the hero and heroine the type of people you root for and want to get to know, but if the cadence of the story doesn’t flow properly, it creates a niggling in the back of the mind that constantly pulls the reader out of the story.

So, what can be done to fix it? I’m sure many of you have heard the advice, “make sure you don’t have too many short sentences in a row.” (Or long ones.) And, you’ve probably been told, “If you want to pick up the pace, use short sentences.” This is all true, and it’s all part of the cadence, but there’s more to look at than just sentence length and/or how often long/short sentence appear in a row.

Paragraph length, even the number of syllables in a sentence—or how those syllables are arranged—vocabulary, and word choice, impact how a story is read. Yes, if you want a fast pace, shorter sentences create a sense of urgency and speed, but don’t forget to look at the actual words in those sentences. How are they arranged? Do they roll off the tongue (or mind) easily? Just as rhythm and meter affect music and poetry, so they do prose.

When editing for cadence, check the flow of the syllables, sentences and paragraphs. If your sentence reads with a flow of “da—ta—da—dada—ta—da—?“ what is the next logical and rhythmic step? I’ll bet the majority of you did not say, “dada.”

When your structure is out of the natural timing that the reader’s ear expects, he/she will be thrown out of the story.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. I love to write, and I know you do, also.”

Admit it, you thought, “too.” The words “also” and “too” mean the same thing. The sentence conveys exactly what it would if I had written, “Roses are red, violets are blue. I love to write, and I know you do, too.” But the mind doesn’t like “also” as much as “too” in this instance because it’s waiting for the rhyme. We’ve heard the “roses are red…” thing so often, we balk at something that sounds different. Now, don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying your sentences should rhyme, but read your work and get a feel for how it flows. At any given place, is there an instance where you think the sentence should end, but it goes on for one or two words more? Or vice-versa. Perhaps you have a sentence that ends.

…when it really should go on.

So, if you end that rhythmic phrase with a “dada” when it should be a “da,” reword or rearrange the sentences. If you really want to end with that “dada” because it creates a great hook, then change the cadence of your paragraph, so that by the time the reader gets to that final “dada,” they are ready for it.

Meet Author, Wendy Davy

Let's give a warm welcome to Wendy Davy and then settle in to get to know her a
little better.

WRP: How many books/stories have you had published?

WD: Night Waves is my third published novel. I also have two free reads available now, and a short story due to be released in February 2010.

Newspaper reporter, Cali Stevens, boldly walks into Sheriff Nick Justice’s office, with one goal in mind: To find her best friend who disappeared while vacationing. When the no-nonsense sheriff refuses to give her details of the investigation, Cali takes matters into her own hands and starts her own investigation. She never intends to fall for the sheriff…or into the clutches of the Coral Isle’s first serial kidnapper.

Coral Isle’s recnt abductions give Nick Justice enough to worry about without adding any complications into the mix, and his attraction to Cali Stevens is definitely a complication. When Nick encourages Cali to leave the island, she refuses. Now he must manage to find the missing women while keeping Cali and the rest of the women on Coral Isle safe.

WRP: How long does it take you to write a book?

WD: It takes me about four to five months to write a full length novel. Then I spend several more weeks editing. Overall, it takes about six months.

WRP: What is your writing schedule like?

WD: Crazy. I write around three kids, a husband, a dog and two cats. My quiet time is limited, so I guard it with a passion, and use it to write.

WRP: How did you come up with the title, "Night Waves"?

WD: I was vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the inspiration for the setting of my story, and I brainstormed with my friends about the plot and the best title to come up with. At the time, I was swimming in the "bean shaped pool." I wrote about in the early part of the book.

WRP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

WD: Absolutely. So many people struggle with the issue of control, and I am one of them.
I like things to go my way, but they usually don't. Of course, that's part of life. But, I wanted to emphasize the importance of realizing God is in control, and we aren't.

WRP: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

WD: Writing the query letter and synopsis. There's always so much I want to include, it's hard for me to narrow it down to only a few pages. Also, by time I get to end of my book, I'm anxious to start on the next one, so I have to put extra effort in staying focused on my current project.

WRP: Do you have any advice for other writers?

WD: Pray first. Write next. And, never give up.

If you'd like to learn more about Wendy, visit her website at

Purchase Wendy's titles:
Night Waves
Drake's Retreat
A Matter of Trust

What A WRP Story Is...And What It Is Not...

Rejections are difficult—for the author to receive, and also for the editor to write. Many times, an author will write a quick response thanking us for the feedback, or to let us know they will work on revisions. These emails are great. Unfortunately, there’s a flip-side to great. Sometimes we get a response where the author feels compelled to state that we have misunderstood his/her reason for writing the book. After all, he/she intended to convey a message so that readers could become better at a specific task.

Whenever I receive one of these emails, I feel the resignation that many editors feel, and the frustration that makes me go once again to check our guidelines. Yes, we editors, even though we know our guidelines well, often revisit them to be sure we’ve not given our authors a reason to write something other than what is stated.

WRP readers read romance.

We don’t sell self-help, how to get rich quick, how to meditate, how to become a nurse, how to become a millionaire, or how to become a celebrity. We don’t sell stories on when you should get life insurance, where to find a dairy farm that sells milk in glass bottles, or what portion of your paycheck should be invested in whatever investors say it should be.

WRP readers read romance.

Romance is the relationship between two people that develops when they are attracted to one another.

What romance is NOT:

Romance is not about the heroine’s complete past history all the way back to second grade and every crush she’s ever had. The heroine’s story should begin when she meets the hero. All past history that is relevant to that romance can be mentioned in a sentence or two at a time sprinkled through out the story at appropriate moments. If you need more than this, then re-evaluate what you are writing, because the heroine’s whole persona should be focused on the hero, from the first chapter to the last.

Romance is not the hero’s obsession with a particular sport, vehicle, job or hobby. The hero, from the moment he meets the heroine, should be completely focused on the heroine. You may mention his passions for other things, including the fact he’s a football player, race car driver, spy or woodworker…but even while engaged in these hobbies, he can and should be thinking about the heroine.

There can be plot devices that take their attention – and please note that I said “their.” Whatever the device is, in some way, both need to be involved. Both do not need to be the active participant in the plot device. If one is a police officer and the other is not, it is not expected that the non-officer would know the details of the officer’s job. One can simply be the observer as the other goes through the plot in an active role.

Romance is not about a secondary character. In many manuscripts I evaluate, the secondary character figures so prominently that much of the book is about that person instead of the hero and heroine. It doesn’t matter if the secondary character is a Siamese twin, if the story is a romance, it must be about the heroine and hero and the twin needs only to be a confidante or observer to the development of the romance. He/she doesn’t even need a Point Of View unless it can be added seamlessly and promotes the romance.

This brings me to the secondary character who serves the purpose of making sure the heroine knows all the hero’s sterling qualities (or vice-versa). Instead, allow the hero and heroine to notice each other. Show them actively observing and interacting with each other.

Romance is not about preaching to the masses. If the author has a message, she/he needs to write a non-fiction book that conveys that message more thoroughly. Romance is not the vehicle to get your personal teachings or experiences across to many people. The hero and heroine can do good deeds, they can be preachers, teachers or self-help gurus. You can use your experience in these fields to make the romance sound authentic—and perhaps even get a subtle message across—but an overt message from the hero and/or heroine is not for the reader of a WRP book…romance is what our readers are interested in. That’s why our readers buy the books. If they wanted self-help messages, they’d buy a different book.

I know authors complain that editors don’t want a good plot. Actually, we do. But the romance, which is what this company sells exclusively, must be foremost. Romance is not about anything that takes the focus off the hero and heroine – including all the details of how a job is done. I’ve read endless pages of job details that have nothing to do with hero and heroine…their jobs, yes. Their developing relationship, no.

Developing your character goes further in a romance than any plot. How a hero or heroine reacts, responds and resolves the plot around him/her develops a rapport with the reader and clearly allows them to identify with him/her. Since romance focuses on Happily Ever After, by its nature, the hero and heroine should have a clear sense of self, and the confidence to pursue their resolution, even if they are scared, sad, unhappy or terrified of the situation. That sense of self must be uplifting – the plot can be something shocking, but the hero and heroine must show character and growth through it.

Therein lies the crux of romance. Romance is not about making readers think in a different way. Romance is not about improving their lifestyles. Romance is not about preaching right from wrong. Romance is not about teaching them a skill. Romance is not about learning to overcome addiction, alcoholism or some other trait. You can include these issues—use them as conflict points—and perhaps touch a reader’s heart, but those heavy-hitting messages need to be so subliminal that the reader doesn’t realize they are there until some relevant “ah-ha” moment much later.

What message do WRP romance readers want to read?

There should be only one criteria: The developing relationship between two people who love each other and who work and plan to spend a lifetime together.

Romance IS the message.

As Christians privy to the greatest romance ever written, we know how powerful and life-changing that message can be.

Go forth, and write it.

Whose Head are We in, Anyway?

Our poll “Hero, Heroine or Both? Whose Point-of-View do you prefer?” has come to a close. We asked the following questions:

Who’s point of view do you prefer? The tally, after 97 votes came in as such:

72.2 percent like both Hero's and Heroine's
17.5% prefer the heroine’s POV only, as told in first person
5.2% have no preference when it come to POV
An equal percentage prefer the hero’s POV only, with third person and first person points of view tying at 2.1% each
And finally, only 1% of voters like the heroine’s point of view exclusively as told in third person.

Interesting! The majority of those polled like to see both the heroine’s and hero’s points of view.

Our next poll takes a look at edgy Christian romance as opposed to traditional Christian romance. Which do you prefer? Let us know!

Author Spotlight on JoAnn Carter

Today, we're spotlighting White Rose author, JoAnn Carter. Please, take a moment to enjoy getting to know JoAnn as we have. You'll not be disappointed!

WRP: Where are you from?

JC: Originally, I'm from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. However, in 2001 we moved to Vermont.

WRP: You're latest release is a short story. Tell us about it. JC: By the Book was the first story I ever had published (2007). It was released through a small publishing house which has since gone out of business. I was thrilled when White Rose Publishing offered me a contract on it. I've had the pleasure of working with a teriffic editor, Elizabeth West. She's amazing! What a blessing it has been to work with her. So while this book has the same fun plot, it will be polished to a shine thanks to Elizabeth's efforts. Here a brief summary:

Perky 24 year-old police dispatcher, Sarah Murphy, is held captive by images of her past. She doesn't trust men and is determined to hold on to her heart at all costs. Lieutenant Dylan Eldredge of the Hampton Police Department believes she’s the woman God has intended for him and is equally determined to have her for his wife. But can he prove he’s the man for her?

I've dedicated this book to my sister, Cheryl. In the past she worked as a police dispatcher. She was instrumental in helping me understand their roles and responsibilitites. I also dedicated this book to God, my Savior. To Him be the glory.

WRP: How did you come up with the title?

JC: By the Book is a play on words. You know how in those detective shows they always said, "Book'um." That holds to the idea that Police officer's go by the book--well, there's even a greater book that we need to consider. It's God's word. Thus the title; By the Book.

WRP: In addition to By the Book, you've recently seen another short story release. Tell us about that

JC: Sweet Rest was released 5/22/09. Here's the back cover blurb:

Soft spoken, twenty-eight-year-old Mike Anderson prepares to join his brother on a short-term mission trip to Florida. Here he plans on helping build new facilities for New Hopes Mission Agency. However, before he leaves, Mike learns there was an accident at the building site. Now the person who was injured is missing. Could these two incidents be mere coincidence or is something more sinister at work? And then there is the five-two spit-fire, Leah Rizzo, with whom he agreed to swap photography projects. Taking her with him could prove to be the colossal mistake of his lifetime—or perhaps God has a plan even in the midst of the mystery that shrouds the project.

This was another fun book to write. The idea came about when someone challenged me to write a book where the heroine who was atypical from the romance books I had written in the past. She wanted to see an agressive female. Hence, Leah Rizzo.

WRP: What book are you reading now?

JC: On the side I write book reviews for our local Christian Radio station so I'm in the middle of a few titles. Unleashing Courageous Faith by Paul Coughlin, and Finding an Unseen God by Alicia Britt Chole are what I'm working through now. But, for a special treat today I bought a title from White Rose Publishing, Forever From Paris. I can't wait to dig into it! Inspirational Romance is my favorite.

WRP: What is your next project? I have many projects in the works, but the one you'll hear about next here at White Rose Publishing is a short story called, Smuggler of the Heart. Here's a short blurb:

Disheartened and tired, Samantha Warren returns to Vermont during the winter break. Her passion for history rekindles after finding an old smuggler’s chest hidden in her grandparents' attic. Will she be able to return to New Jersey without her heart being smuggled like the chest once was? Or is it already too late?

WRP: How can readers contact you? Do you have a website?

JC: I love to hear from readers. They can contact me by e-mailing, jo.glenncarter @ or by visiting my web page:


Order By the Book

Order Sweet Rest

The Story In You

I tend to wax long about the components that make a good story. I’ve written on the subject at length in several articles at

That said, I constantly go on and on about character. However, there is another part of character that I don’t see discussed too often except in a superficial way. That issue is the “story of your heart.” You hear editors say it all the time, but what does it mean?

The story of your heart means that it must be a novel you care deeply about, perhaps a barely disguised personal account based on a true story. Or the book written on an issue close to your heart, due to personal or extenuating circumstances. Whatever the descriptor, the story is part and parcel of who you are. For some reason, you care about it more than any other work you’ve done.

So why is it so difficult to get the words on paper?

Simply put, most authors struggle to write emotions. People don’t feel just one emotion when something happens. They are a confused mess of many feelings. That is why it is an effort to really nail down the driving force behind great characterization.

The other part of the equation is that exposing those emotions makes an author feel vulnerable. At the same time, writers willing to open up are usually the ones who can wring tears out of a rock.

So, how do you get there? Take a deep breath, relax and drift into your subconcious. Go to that place deep in your soul and find the feelings that rocked your world. Ride that roller-coaster of personal experience - the time you were afraid as a child, or joyful about something you received, in tears over a lost pet, or feeling the aching sadness of a Mom when a child grows wings and leaves the nest.

Start to see your character through other people’s eyes. You don’t have to see every detail. You don’t have to use the same circumstances or fear or pain. But scour the depths of that spiritual lost-ness. Use it.

Look for the cry, “Where is God when I need him?”

Or the forlorn emotional wrench of , “I don’t understand, why me?”

Or the fragile, miraculous joy of “This is my newborn child, my miracle!”

It isn’t the story that needs to be told. It is the character. The story can be anything. But what the character does and reacts to – that’s the story right there. You can put the character in the same setting or completely different but you can still call on the emotions you felt at the time.

The story isn’t yours…but it is you.

Codependent Independence

Here in the United States, we’re gearing up to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend. With a holiday celebrating our country’s independence so close, it has me thinking about what it means to be independent, which, of course, leads me to writing.

In a romance novel, we all want to see strong, independent women and strong, independent men. But just like the United States is a member of the UN and relies on its allies, the hero and heroine of a romance need to rely on each other. Yes, I’m saying the independent man and woman need to be dependent on each other. How does that work?

Well, think about it for a moment. Independence is great; so is self-reliance. However, I’m sure all of us have had to rely on others at one time or another, whether at work or in our personal lives. No matter how independent the hero and heroine are, their strengths should support the weaknesses of the other half of the relationship. That teamwork, that completion of a person is what romance is all about: finding that one person who makes you whole and loves you through everything.

The next time you read a romance--or write one, for that matter--think about the hero and heroine. Do they show strength and independence? Do they also show weakness that only the one they love can fulfill? That codependence and knowing they can rely on each other no matter what happens is one of the signs of a strong relationship, and a strong, lasting relationship is what brings the true happily ever after ending essential to a romance novel.