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.