Posts Tagged flash

How to Poem: How to Write Sonnets

vol2sonnet130websiteSo, it’s been a while, but this series is back, with the finicky world that is the Sonnet. And as if to make matters worse, I’ll be looking at two different types. The Shakespearean Sonnet and the Petrarchan Sonnet. There are more types, there are several types, but unfortunately I am not the great bard and cannot spend my entire day writing sonnets, so I’m just going to be covering the top two as it were.

There are a few key components in a sonnet which is why they are generally pretty fiddly to write. Firstly, they have a strict rhyming pattern which varies based in the type of sonnet you’re writing. They must be fourteen lines in length and each line must have ten syllables in iambic pentameter. They are either split into distinct sections, an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) or three quatrains (four lines) and a couplet (two lines). Sonnets also generally contain a volta, or ‘turn’ which is the point in the poem where the narrative changes. It commonly occurs on line nine, but with the two I have written for this post, they of course don’t.

Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is simple. Iambic – stressing every second syllable. Pentameter – in a group of five iambs (ten syllables).

the MAN is LOOKing AT the WINdow PANE.

There is, as is often the case with poetry, some license that can be had with this. There are plenty of sonnets which have a line of 8, 9 or 11 (or there abouts) syllables. It doesn’t make it not a sonnet. However, it’s generally good form to not have another stressed syllable or it tends to throw off the rhythm of the poem. By no means either is pentameter the only option, it’s simply the most commonly found. Sonnets can be written in tetrameter (four iambs), or even hexameter (six iambs) and still be a sonnet. The only rules which generally must be adhered to are the rhyme scheme and the number of lines.


A common subject for sonnets is that with the change in rhyme scheme at line nine, the subject also changes or turns on itself. Sonnets are often about a disparity between two lines of thinking, a change of mind or heart and often it’s this vibrant change of form which signifies it. However the volta can come at a different point in the poem, such as with the couplet at the end, or at any point in the latter half of the poem.

Petrarchan Sonnets

Petrarchan Sonnets weren’t created by Petrarch, but rather by various Italian renaissance poets, hence its alternative name: The Italian Sonnet. A Petrarchan Sonnet is split into an octave and a sestet. The octave always has the rhyme scheme:


Whereas the sestet’s rhyme scheme varies between:

CDECDE, CDCDCD, CDDCDD, CDDECE or various other formations of Cs Ds and Es, usually starting with CD.

Cottage Frustrations

Take me to a place that I’ve not yet seen.
Somewhere beyond the dull world that I know
to a new place where the street lamps glow,
where traffic is loud and air is unclean.
I’m tired of this nothing where I have been
I’m tired of stillness, of nowhere to go.
I’m tired of stagnancy, nothing to show.
This cottage is empty, and I am unseen.
I’ll pack up my bags and I’ll move away
I’ll run like a deer from a speeding car
And reach my new world, never looking back.
But I could sit here and say this all day
If ever I leave, I wouldn’t go far.
Just the old farm, with the overgrown track.

In my example, I have chosen to use the CDECDE format, and to have the volta on line twelve. In my mind this man is an old farmer, who longs for the buzz of living in the city but knows he’d never really be willing to leave his home and doesn’t really want to anyway.


Shakespearean Sonnets

The rhyme scheme for the Shakespearean sonnet is far more uniform than that of the Petrarchan variety:


As you can see, the poem is split into three quatrains and a couplet, rather than the traditional split of the Petrarchan sonnet. The volta is still commonly found on line nine, which is the case in my own example. The couplet is often inset in the Shakespearean sonnet, and acts as a summing statement for the sonnet as a whole. Notably, however, in my pictured example at the top of the, the volta is on line thirteen.

The Reluctant Construction Worker

He walks with his back bent low to the ground,
lifting the bricks and then placing them down,
his trowel on the clay makes a grating sound.
His slow but sure progress expands the town.
The earth beneath him is compacted tight,
he works in the dust, the grit and the dirt,
the soil is baked from relentless sunlight,
sweating, the worker removes his T-shirt.
He closes his eyes, remembers his past,
and looks at the land his work has defiled
he’d thought that those places he loved would last
but, these were the woods where he played as a child.
The work must be done, the foreman commands,
He has no qualms for his worker’s lost lands.

This is the sister poem to the first one, the character being the polar opposite of the farmer in the first one, he is a city working builder who laments the loss of the countryside, but cannot do anything about its destruction. Sonnets are frequently also elegies, or poems about love of one form or another. I tried to stay true to form with my examples.


So there you go! I hope someone finds this humble post useful, and if there’s anything you want me to clarify or add, please just ask! I may do another post in the future about the less commonly used sonnet forms. If you’re looking for sonnets which are better than mine, well, just look for Shakespeare’s although I’m sure you already have!

If anyone has a suggestion for a future topic for me to cover then feel free to drop it in the comments!


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The Saboteur – a 500 word story!

This is just a little story I wrote the other day, I had a vague idea about what I wanted to write and just decided to go ahead and try it out. I’d appreciate any feedback!


Brett Hardwick blamed the toaster. He woke when a north-westerly gust soared in through his open window, bringing with it the first few snowflakes of a blizzard which would last for the next two days. He had felt certain that he had locked the window before going to bed, but there it was as open as an unblinking eye.

He clambered out of his bed, scraping his leg on an exposed spring and reached the window just in time to see that his newspaper was missing. Was it too much to ask, he thought to himself, that the shiftless lout of a paper boy could deliver his paper through the letter box? Brett checked his leg, which was now oozing a glossy line of blood. He made his way downstairs.

The toaster sat in the kitchen, mocking him. He dressed his leg as best as he could, placed the roll of bandages on the worktop and set about making himself some breakfast. He glared at the polished stainless steel curvature of the infernal appliance as he slid two slices of bread into its inner workings. The toaster made a vague hum. Brett carefully studied the dial, which was set to ‘2.’ Any lighter than that and the bread would have come out of the toaster as a bag of flour. He reluctantly peeled his gaze away from it and turned his attention to the fridge, which had been unplugged. He kicked it with his bare foot, opened the door and took out a bottle of tepid orange juice and poured himself a glass.

The plug was stuck behind the metal grating on the back of the fridge, but no matter how hard he tried his arm wouldn’t stretch to it. Taking the weight of the fridge on his chest he pulled it away from the wall. With a clunk he heard the plug come free. He had just plugged it in when the familiar smell of burnt toast wafted graciously into his nostrils.


The toaster blamed Brett Hardwick. It watched as Brett wandered down the stairs, his eyes glazed over and milky, feeling in front of him. The toaster wondered what possessed Brett. Why did he keep stopping what he was doing? Why did he keep undoing the things he had done?

Every morning without fail Brett would place two slices of bread inside it, every morning he would set the dial to ‘2’ and study it for a while, and every morning he would glaze over and spin the dial up to ‘10’ as he went to the fridge (which he unplugged every night before bed) to get some warm orange juice.


Brett’s eyes went glassy. He whispered to himself, his voice rasping. He said nothing like any recognisable language, but meandered through a sequence of rhythmic sounds. Almost a chant. He picked up his keys and placed them behind his TV set. His eyes grew bright again.

“Right… Keys, keys… Damn it all I left them right here.”


Thanks for reading!

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Double or Quits – a 150 word story

Here is the second in my twitter prompts! How this works is I asked my followers on twitter for single word prompts for 150 word stories. The only rules are that I had to use the prompted word in the story.

This time the word ‘double’ came from Amelia Groves!

“Hello, I’d like to place a bet, please.” He leaned on the felt, staring up at an astute dealer. The roulette wheel glistened as it sat in the glaring light of the casino. He adjusted his bowtie and took a sip from a glass of lemonade.

“Place your chips on a square,” said the dealer.

“Ah, okay, I shall place this much on red, I believe.”

“Excellent, sir.” The dealer raised his eyebrow slightly as the man placed a two hundred and sixty thousand dollars-worth of chips on Red. He watched the wheel spin and then the dealer dropped in the ball. It bounced into the blur of colour and stopped. “Red 7! It’s your day, sir. You’ve won over five hundred thousand dollars.”

“Splendid! Do take a tip, good day!”

“I can’t tempt you with another bet?”

“Gracious no! I doubled my Grandma’s estate, what more could I want?”

The story is loosely based on the true story of Ashley Revell, who in 1974 sold all of his possessions and bet his net worth on Red at the Plaza hotel in Las Vegas, the ball landed on Red 7 and he left, twice as wealthy as he had come in but with no intention of gambling any more.  I wanted to make my character seem a little bumbling, hense the non alcoholic drink and the old fashioned and very formal speech. I hope you have enjoyed my little story, either way!

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