How to Make a Sonnet With Rhymes

Sonnets, whether they are rhymed or unrhymed, are taxing to write for any occasion. Because of their extremely compressed form and their metrical requirements, you must say something as succinctly and precisely as possible, which is made even more arduous when you must also create rhymes. Both Shakespearian and Petrarchan sonnets, if you are following their traditional rhyme patterns, call for intricate rhyming sequences, so once you choose the form, your work is cut out for you.

Write down the rhyme scheme for the Shakespearian or English sonnet in the left margin of your paper. This type of sonnet should have three quatrains (stanzas made up of four lines) and a final couplet (composed of two lines). Place a blank line between each quatrain and between the final quatrain and the couplet. The rhyme pattern should go abab for the first quatrain, cdcd for the second, efef for the third and gg for the couplet. Refer to this pattern as you are writing the sonnet in order to make sure that you are placing the rhymes in the correct places.

Think of an image or a statement to place in your first line. Remember that a sonnet usually presents some sort of problem or dilemma in the beginning. Try to make this phrase fit into a single sentence with five stresses. For example, Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 130 begins: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" ---- a line that has five counts and is a complete sentence and thought on its own. Remember that you will have to rhyme the last word of line three with your first line's final word.

Write a second line that logically progresses from the first. You may enjamb the line if you want, which means to allow the sentence to overflow from one line onto the next, but remember that you must rhyme the end word of your fourth line with the end word for this one. Make this line have five stresses again, as your first line did. Brainstorm words that rhyme with the end word from your first line. For example, if your first line ended with the word "sun," as Shakespeare's sonnet does, you might write down "run," "fun," "begun," "won," etc. Choose which word fits best with the subject of your poem so far, and write your third line so that it ends with one of these rhyming words.

Write a list of words that rhyme with your final word in your second line. For example, if you ended the line with the word "house," you might write down the words "mouse," "louse," "douse," etc. Choose the one that fits best with the subject matter of the poem, and craft a line that ends with that rhyming word.

Write a fifth line of five stresses that complicates or further comments on the problem or situation presenting in your first quatrain. Remember that your third line will end with the same rhyme sound as this line. Write a sixth line of five stresses that makes sense following the previous line. Remember that the end word for your eighth line will have the same rhyme sound as the final word of this line. For your seventh and eighth lines, make a list of rhyming words as you did for each of the rhyming pairs in the previous stanza.

Write a ninth line that comments on the same situation you have been exploring but in a new way. Write a tenth line that follows the previous one logically. Write down a list of words that rhyme with the end word of each of these lines, and plan your eleventh and twelfth lines and their endings around these rhyming words. Each line should again have five stresses.

Write a line of five stresses for the thirteenth line of the sonnet (the first line of the closing couplet). Make this line resolve or turn the argument or perspective of the poem in some way. Remember that your final, fourteenth line will have to rhyme with the end word for this one. Before writing your fourteenth line, make a list of words that rhyme with the end word of line thirteen, as you did previously. Write a final line of five stresses to close the poem.

  • Read a few older and more and contemporary English sonnets before you attempt to write one. This will help you see the different ways that rhymes can be used in this form.
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About the Author

Simone Wood began writing professionally in 2006. Her work has appeared on various websites. She has a Master of Arts in English from the Johns Hopkins University and is pursuing her Ph.D. in literature at the University of North Texas.

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