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Limericks - How to Write Them
Written by: Mike Dinicola
Everybody's heard a good limerick before and most of us can recall a couple that have stuck with us through the years. They're a simple little verse with good rhythm (or meter if you're an English major), good rhymes and a good punch line at the end. But how about creating new limericks? It's not as easy as it seems but I have a few pointers that can help you get started creating your own original limericks.
A limerick has five lines of verse with a rhyme form of aabba (the three 'a' lines all rhyme as do the two 'b' lines). Your rhymes don't have to be perfect but they have to sound good to your ear. For example, don't try to rhyme the words ration and nation. While they look similar, they don't sound right (station and nation sound much better). A good limerick must also have good rhythm. Pay particular attention to the first and last lines. You want your limerick to open and close with the same rhythm. The best way to get a feel for both the rhyme and the rhythm this is to say them out loud:
There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was far faster than light
She set off one day
In a relative way
And came back the previous night.
You should be able to tell right away if the meter is wrong or the rhymes don't work. No amount of cleverness or wit can overcome a rhyme without rhythm, or for that matter, rhythm without rhyme.
The most difficult, and most important, part of the limerick is the last line or the punch line. It can be funny as in a joke, a clever play on words or both if it's very good. Most people who try to create limericks start at the beginning only to get stuck on the last line, trying to find a joke or witticism to fit their rhymes. I find it easier and more effective to work backwards. Find a punch line you like or a clever play on words or even a favorite phrase and look for three or four other words to rhyme it with. Now go back to the beginning and build your limerick. You'll find it much easier now that you have a target and some rhyming words to work with. I like to use one of the many good Rhyming dictionaries on the web. They're great for building a list of potential words. Sometimes while I'm looking to rhyme a particular word, I'll find a new word that's so enticing that I'll rewrite the limerick just to use it!
Finally, don't be afraid to broach any topic with your limericks. They can provide a platform for expressing your own particular views similar to an editorial cartoon, but for those of us without the artistic ability. While the earliest ones from Edward Lear were published in nonsense books for children, I like to write them as parody or critique of current events or people in the news. Real life is full of such nonsense and provides unlimited material for the fertile limerick mind.
I am a limerick aficionado who likes to create limericks based on current events and people in the news. Real life contains so much nonsense that limericks seem to flow out of me just by reading the news. Check out my site at http://www.coollimerickpoems.com to get a daily dose of humor or perhaps a wry grin to help you on your way.
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