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Writing by Ear

How Tuning into the Sound of Language Can Elevate Your Story

Tom Bentley

There’s a passage in Huckleberry Finn where Huck is describing how he and Jim travel down the river at night, hiding at dawn on the overgrown banks:

Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywhere—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe.

The entire passage is a marvel of cadence and rhythm, a singing vernacular that rolls through your mind. The reason I excerpted this particular paragraph is because it mentions sound—or its absence—directly and ...

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