A ballad is a poem or song that tells a story. It should have a plot, characters, and a story arc. You may want to write a ballad for a class or as a fun writing challenge. To get started, brainstorm ideas for the ballad, then write a draft that has a strong plot, as well as rhyme and repetition. Finally, you can perfect the ballad and put music on it so you can share it with others.
Part 1 of 3: Brainstorming
Step 1. Think of a memorable event or story
A ballad can also be an exaggeration or fictionalization of a memorable event that has happened to you. Maybe you have a funny story from when you were a teenager or a good family story that you would like to retell from your perspective.
For example, you could write a ballad about a ghost appearing to a family member or about the time you ran away to meet someone as a teenager
Step 2. Consider current events
In many cases, ballads focus on a major news or media event. Search the news online or flip through the headlines in the local newspaper. Find a current event that sounds like a fascinating or strange story and use it as the background material for the ballad.
For example, you might find an article about a young woman on trial for murdering her father in self-defense, or perhaps a story about a refugee in a refugee camp trying to build a better life for himself
Step 3. Read examples of ballads
You can read ballads in the form of a poem and a song. Look up ballads in print online and at your local library. Also, look up ballad recordings in song form online or at a local music store. You can consider the following:
- The Old Sailor's Song by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The Merciless Fair Lady by John Keats
- Ballad in A ("Ballad in A") by Cathy Park Hong
- Maude Claire by Christina Rossetti
- Romance of the moon, moon by Federico García Lorca
- The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan
Part 2 of 3: Write a Draft of the Ballad
Step 1. Follow the structure of a ballad
Most ballads are made up of four four-line stanzas. The first two rhyme and the third does not, which establishes an AABC rhyme scheme. You can also try a rhyme scheme where the second and fourth verses rhyme and the third not, which creates an ABXB scheme.
You could also write 8-line stanzas if you prefer and create your own rhyme scheme for the ballad. Modern ballads tend to have longer stanzas and a freer rhyme scheme
Step 2. Introduce the main character to the reader
The first verse of the ballad is important because it draws the reader into the story. Introduce the main character (s) in the first verse.
- For example, in Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, the first verse introduces the two main characters in the story: "William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll" ("William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll").
- In John Keats's The Merciless Fair Lady, the first verse addresses the main character of the story with a question: "Oh!
Step 3. Limit the number of supporting characters
Stick to a maximum of one or two main characters and one or two minor characters only if they are absolutely necessary. The ballad should focus only on the key details of a story with a small set of characters and not on many main characters and plots at the same time.
- For example, in Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, there are two main characters, William Zanzinger and Hattie Carroll. Supporting characters are also mentioned, such as a policeman and a judge.
- In John Keats's Merciless Fair Lady, there are two main characters, the knight in arms and the fair lady or woman.
Step 4. Use a memorable line like the chorus
In a typical ballad, the chorus is the third or fourth verse of the stanza that is repeated throughout the piece. The chorus should be relevant to the rest of the ballad and contain strong images that stay in the mind of the reader.
- For example, in Coleridge's The Old Sailor's Song, the chorus is a variation of the verse "The Shining-Eyed Sailor."
- In Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, the chorus appears at the end of each verse and is multi-verse in length: "But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears / Take the rag away from your face / Now ain't the time for your tears "(" But you who philosophize misfortune and criticize all fears / Take the cloth off your face / Now is not the time for your tears ").
Step 5. Include rhyme and repetition
Follow a fixed rhyme scheme in each verse. Repeat certain words or phrases over and over in the ballad. Use simple, descriptive language to create a sense of rhythm in your poem.
For example, in Coleridge's Old Sailor's Song, the speaker repeats words like "eye" and "sailor" in the ballad: "He stops it with his shining eye- / The Wedding Guest stands still, / And listens like a three-year-old: / The sailor did what he wanted. "
Step 6. Use dialogue in the ballad
Get your characters to speak in the ballad by putting their dialogue in quotation marks. The dialogue should be kept short and concise. You should only give the most essential details of the character's thoughts in the dialogue.
For example, in Coleridge's Old Seaman's Song, after a few verses, the sailor tells a story about being at sea to the wedding guests: "The ship hailed, the harbor clear, / So happy we passed by the church, / in front of the hill / in front of the top of the lighthouse "
Step 7. Work the story to a climax or fulfillment
Like any good story, a ballad should have a beginning, middle, and end, with a powerful climax or realization in the second half of the poem. The climax can be the most dramatic thing that has happened to the speaker or the main character, as well as the moment when the main character realizes the reality of their situation.
For example, in John Keats's Merciless Fair Lady, the climax occurs in the tenth stanza, when the knight-in-arms realizes that the fair lady is catching him: "Ví pale kings, and also princesses, / and whites warriors, white as death; / and they all exclaimed: / 'La belle dame sans merci has made you her slave!' "
Step 8. Make the last verse powerful
The last stanza of the ballad should summarize the key theme or idea of the piece. It should leave a powerful picture for the reader or conclude the sequence of events. You can also turn the events of the ballad around and have the reader rethink the original events.
For example, in John Keats's Merciless Fair Lady, the ballad ends with the knight-in-arms answer to the question asked in the first stanza after revealing that he woke up from the fair lady's spell, though now he lives. alone in a lifeless world: "That is the reason why I wander, / wandering, pale and lonely; / although the flowers of the lake are withered, / and no bird sings."
Part 3 of 3: Perfecting the Ballad
Step 1. Read the ballad out loud
After you finish a draft of the ballad, read it out loud to yourself. Listen for rhyme, repetition, and rhythm. Make sure the ballad tells a story in a clear and concise way. Pay attention to clumsy or wordy verses and adjust them so that they are easy to follow and understand.
You should also read the ballad aloud to detect any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors
Step 2. Show the ballad to others
Ask your friends, peers, or relatives to read the ballad. Ask them if they find it engaging and easy to follow. Determine if the ballad has a rhythmic and lyrical sound.
Be open to constructive feedback from others. This will only make your ballad better
Step 3. Put music on the ballad
The traditional thing is that ballads are recited or sung aloud to the rhythm of music. You can add instrumental music to the ballad that is already recorded and has a rhythm that suits the piece, or you can play acoustic guitar as you read the ballad out loud or try to sing it out loud.