Learn How to Compose a Great Ballad
If you look at a ballad, you’ll see that it contains a certain story or a kind of folk art with a specific plot, characters, and events in the form of a rhyme. In contrast to other poem types, the ballad is very simple and can be put to music. As a rule, ballads outline some old legends or historical events. But due to their easy style, you can use them to describe whatever you want.
Ballads are composed in a stanza of four verses. The 1 and 3 verses are composed in the iambic tetrameter with four beats for every line. The 2 and 4 ones are composed in a trimeter with three beats. In this article, we’ll discuss helpful tips and tricks to help you write your own ballad. So keep reading.
Getting Ready for Making a Ballad
In order to create a good ballad poem, you first need to learn about its features.
Find good patterns
If you want to know more about some things, you need to read about them as much as possible. The same is true for poetry. So if you want to learn how to write poems, you need to look at as many good examples of ballads as possible. Thus, you’ll be aware of how the correct ballad should look like.
Finding samples is very easy because the Internet provides us with unlimited search possibilities. If you prefer more conservative ways of finding information, go to the lib. There you can find a large number of both classic poems and modern versions. Also, you can buy a record in the store if you are a music lover. Try to understand the structure and rhyme of the poems.
Choose the proper story
To make a great ballad, you need to come up with a strong plot. You can use your own experience or that of another person – a love story, meeting a goal, good fortune, sweet memories of being a child, or even some sad event. The most important thing is to find something that truly inspires you.
The good thing about ballads, you can write it in your own way. This means you do not need to describe real events. You can put a good spin on your plot and make it even more exciting.
Look at the present-day events
All the latest world news is a great source of inspiration. Read in the newspaper, watch current TV shows and find out more about what is happening around. Find unique and interesting cases that you can use in your poems.
For example, you can choose the story of a young prodigy who built a successful business from the ground up. Or it can be a scandalous or unusual crime. Most journalists do not like to write on criminal topics – they are considered boring. But sometimes in the morning, while drinking a cup of coffee and looking through the news feed, we suddenly start to laugh. Because even the most ordinary thieves, scammers, or just citizens can make such a thing that really gets you down. If you’re a fan of funny stories, choose something in this style. So the news can give a large room for creativity.
Make a draft
As soon as you think over the story for the plot, look at successful examples and realize all the features of the ballad, you can start writing a draft version of your poem.
Sometimes you want to write about something specific that impressed you at the moment. You have wonderful comparisons, clear images in your mind… But the attempt to present all this wealth in verse fails miserably. Don’t be upset. To properly fit into the poetic form everything that comes to your mind you need a certain experience. In this case, the practice will help you.
If you know what story you want to tell, but you cannot present it in poetic form, there is nothing to worry about. Write it first on paper without thinking about rhythm and rhyme. It may be much easier to write a ballad if you have your story written.
Set aside the ballad for a while as soon as you finish it. Take a rest before editing your ballad. This will help you to take a fresh look at your ballad when you sit down to correct it.
Structure of Your Poem
The classic ballad rhyme scheme looks like this: AABC. AABC is the scheme where the first two lines rhyme with each other, and the third line doesn’t rhyme. The majority of ballads are written in four-line stanzas that are called quatrains (“four-line stanza” means that four lines are grouped and separated from other stanzas).
ABCB rhyme scheme is quite common, too – in such schemes, the second line rhymes with the fourth line, leaving the first and the third lines without a rhyme. When it comes to modern ballads and poems, there are no strict rules. Postmodernism allows the writers to use complex schemes, break them, and use near rhymes. So, you can create different rhyme schemes and rhythm, and the structure of the stanzas may differ. But even a modern ballad must have a meter, a structure, a rhyme, and a rhythm. If you want to call it a “ballad”, not a “free verse”, of course.
Mark Your Characters
You need the main character of your ballad, which you will present in the first lines. Think on whose behalf the story is being narrated. As a rule, it is told by a singer who narrates what happens in the plot. Sketch the storyline. Think of the main character, whom he or she meets along the way, to create other characters and what connects them.
Of course, you don’t have to present the main storyteller at the very beginning. You can do it in any part of your text. It all depends on the plot of your poem and other characters. For example, if you are composing a ballad for children, you’d better begin with something funny to catch their attention and present characters later.
Keep in mind that you should limit the number of characters in the ballad. Too many names can confuse the reader (listener) and complicate the plot too much. The best option is two or three names that are easy to remember for those for whom you write a poem.
The thing is, too long and complex ballads, as a rule, are not interesting to readers. And what you need is holding their full attention. If the characters you want to reveal are too many, and the plot is very rich, think about making a series of ballads united by one theme.
Add the Chorus to the Poem
Make sure to write a chorus. The chorus doesn’t have a definite form in ballads. This can be one line that repeats after each couplet or two lines that repeat every few couplets. It can even be a quatrain. You can also just repeat a verse, or slightly change it to make it more effective. Sometimes a verse can differ in rhythm from the chorus. Keep in mind that some ballads may have a chorus in every couplet. In this case, the rhyme scheme is AAB or ABAC
As soon as you come up with the rhyme pattern of the verse and chorus, you just have to finish your story, following the rhythm. But, this doesn’t mean that you cannot change a bit of your rhythm or rhyme to make your ballad more interesting.
Fill up the Ballad with Dialogues
If you want to tell a fascinating story, you should pay attention to the dialogues in the poem. Try to compose the text of the ballad so that your characters talk to each other. You can use quotation marks for this. Still, try not to overdo it and add talks only in really essential moments.
Dialogues will make your story more lively and rich. This is a whole life of heroes, not just a story told by someone.
Provide the Good Ending
Any good poem needs a good ending. It can be a trick ending or a logical outcome. The main thing is that your ballad ending is powerful and evokes emotions from the reader. The last stanza is perfect to complete the main thought of the poem. Work at the end of the ballad to make the reader feel excited.
Time for the Finishing Touches
After you’re done with the text of the ballad, it’s time to work out the kinks. Once again, take a look at the rhyme patterns of the verses. Return to the places where you have difficulties. Maybe somewhere you need to correct the rhyme, or you got too many syllables and you could not get rid of them. You can fix it all now. Remove extra couplets and leave only those that are related to the story.
Read your ballad out loud. Thus, you can find those places in the ballad that are not very good.
Let someone else read your poem. Don’t tell about the story, let them realize what is happening. Readers will need to understand what the ballad is talking about since the essence of the ballad is to tell the story and give the reader a life lesson.
Many ballads become songs. If you want, put your poem to music.
We hope these tips help you write an amazing ballad.