Tips How to Write a Ballad
If you read a ballad poem, you will notice that it tells some story or a folklore. Unlike other forms of the poem, the ballad is simple and can be sung with simple music. It contains the characters and a plot or story, written in verses.
It’s a popular poem form because of its simplicity and has been traditionally used to describe the life of legends and their stories. However, it can be used to write anything you wish.
A ballad is written in a stanza of four lines called quatrain. The first and third lines of the poem are written in iambic tetrameter and each line has four beats. The second and fourth lines are written in trimeter and have each line have three beats.
In the next sections, we will be discussing the points and tips which will be useful for you. By following them, you can write a poem step by step.
How to prepare for a Ballad
Before you start writing a ballad type poem, you should be prepared with the information and knowledge.
Read and observe some good examples
The more you read about anything, the better you have an understanding of it. Therefore to be able to write a good poem in ballad form, you should read more about the ballads. You should read more examples of poems and songs written in ballad form. Have a considerable knowledge and understanding about ballad and the poems before you start writing one.
Check online to get a book from a book stall or a library or you can also have it in recordings from a music store. Read or listen to them carefully, observe the poem format and understand how the poets have written them. Understand how the story or event has been written in sort or long form and have made it easily understandable.
Think about a story or an event
To write a ballad, you have to have a story or event in mind. It can be anything from your own life event, your struggle or success story or someone else’s story. It can be about your experience or your relationship with someone special. You can write whether it was good or bad.
If you have a funny story from your childhood or a notable event related to your family, you can write a ballad song on it in your own words. Note that it need not be an actual word to word style as it happened. You can make it fictional or exaggerated to make it interesting.
Consider a news or event happened in the society
You can also look around you and write something on the current events happening in the society you live in. Check the news and look for the events that can seem strange and extraordinary if mentioned in your poem.
It can be a story of an ordinary man raised to a celebrity level by going through many difficulties and struggles and has recently caught an attention of media. Or it can even be about a person who has committed a crime under certain circumstances and has become a talk of the town. You can make a power ballad out of such an emotional news.
Steps to create a draft of a poem
Once you are prepared with the knowledge, information and a story, you can start writing a draft of your poem in ballad form. Follow these steps to write it
Structure your ballad song
Generally, the ballad songs are written in four stanzas and each stanza contains four lines. It will be in AABC rhyme scheme by first two lines written as rhyme and third line as normal. You can also write in ABXB rhyme scheme in which two lines, i.e. second and fourth will be rhyme and the third line will not be a rhyme.
In modern ballads, songs and poems often have stanzas consisting more than 4 lines and in a loose rhyme scheme. A stanza can also be written in eight lines if you want in your ballad by creating your own rhyme scheme. In short, you have to follow a structure you are comfortable with to create a good ballad.
Characters of the story
When you start writing your ballad, you have to introduce the main character in the starting line. The first line should be capable of catching the attention of your readers. So you have to introduce the main character in the first line of your story.
You can introduce more than one character if possible. A good example can be “William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll” which is the first line of the poem “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” by Bob Dylan.
However, it is not compulsory to add the character names in the first line. They can be added in the other lines of the first stanza. It depends on you how you introduce the characters in the starting of your ballad. For instance, if you are writing a ballad poem for kids, you would want to start with a funny line and introduce the characters in the next lines.
Focus on one story or plot
You should have a limit on a number of characters in your poem. You can have one or maximum two main characters and one to two minor characters. Make sure that you have minor characters only if they are unavoidable.
This is important if you want to make your ballad focused one story and key characters. If you have too many characters, you will probably have multiple plots or stories resulting in a too long ballad. It may lose the capability of keeping the reader interested in your poem if you make it longer than normal.
Chorus and repetition in your ballad
Folk ballad and other types of ballads generally have a chorus which is repeated in all stanzas. It is generally the third or fourth line of a stanza that makes your ballad memorable. The readers will find your poem easy to remember with the help of a chorus.
Also, a chorus gives the flow of your song or poem a smoothness and consistency. By repeating a line in every verse of your poem, you can make it suitable for the music and it can be sung like a normal song.
You also should follow a rhyme scheme for each stanza and repeat certain words and phrases in your ballad in a regular manner. These words can be connected to the main character, story or plot, so repeating them will give your reader a sense of integrity in your poem. Make sure you don’t repeat it too frequently and too many times else it will lose its effectiveness.
The dialogues in your poem
This is important when you are telling a story through your ballad. You have to write as if your characters are speaking their dialogues. Use quotation marks around the lines when it’s a dialogue. You should use only those dialogues which are essential to make it short and meaningful.
By adding dialogues in your poem, you can make it more appealing and it will not look like only your description of an event or a plot.
Write an end of the ballad
Like any other writing, there will need to be an end of your ballad, but it should be like a climax that can make a powerful or an unexpected end. It can be a dramatic scene or event happened to the main character. For instance, a rock ballad should give the reader a sense of realization with powerful emotions that a character has in the end.
The last stanza should be powerful enough that it can wrap up with a central idea or theme of your ballad. A good last stanza should leave the readers thinking about what happened in the end. It should make an image in their mind that can’t be erased easily.
Make your ballad presentable
After you have a draft of your ballad, it’s time to make it perfect by reviewing and polishing it. You should read your ballad loudly for yourself. Do it multiple times as there are chances that you can’t find the flaws for the first time.
Carefully observe the rhymes, rhythm, and repetitions to make sure they are properly used. Also, make sure that your ballad is focused on one story or plot. You can improve your poem by rewriting or adjusting the verses and removing unnecessary lines. Ultimately, the poem has to be easy to read and easy to understand and it should also clearly tall the central idea or message of the story being told.
Apart from reading out loud to yourself, you should also ask your friends, classmates or family members to read your ballad. It is recommended for students that they have their poems read by their teachers and get feedback to improve. Take the feedback constructively and make changes in your ballad if necessary.
If you are required, you can also set a ballad music. You can use recorded music to set to your poem or you can also create a nice music yourself. You can play the guitar if you know. Play it while singing your ballad aloud and record it. Other good instruments can be a cello, a harp or a violin.
We hope that the steps and guidelines given in this article will help you write a good ballad.