Poetry and Prose

This page addressed the confusion between poetry and prose, storytelling and the writing of fiction in general.

The Simple Facts

Writing Fiction is about telling stories.

Telling stories is the core and primary form of communication either written or oral.

The form of a story contains not only the subject and predicate (what about the subject) but the intention or purpose for making the communication in the first place.

The purpose, although implied in the communication is not necessarily visible in the words which is why linguists and grammarians missed this most important element and having failed to identify it, therefore give it no importance. Poetry and Prose


Poems are a style of storytelling with roots reaching back probably to the very beginnings of time although the word does not appear until the 13-1400's.

The conventions of rhyme and meter associated with "poetry" (or more appropriately the poetic style of storytelling) were created and developed by bards, minstrels, recounters, shamans and priests for a very simple reason; it was easier to remember the story that way. And storytellers of all descriptions had to rely on memory for a long time before written language evolved. And even after "writing" was invented it was a very long time before writing and reading reached down to the lower classes which comprised the bulk of the storytellers.

Long before man learned how to write, telling stories was a completely oral tradition.

And then just to add a little more interest to the telling, music was added as an accompaniment.

Hence the invention of the song.

Which is easy to understand if we consider a song as a poem set to music.

So, the core is communication, which consists of expressing a complete thought about something.

That thought consists of a subject and what about that subject or what grammarians call the "predicate". This we were taught comprises a complete sentence. However there is one other very important element that our English teachers left out of our lessons; simply because the Linguists left it out of their considerations regarding language.

The missing element is the reason for the communication in the first place.

This is the single idea or thought that comes before the words are selected to form the sentences.

Behind those words and sentences is a purpose that the speaker had for wanting to communicate to his audience in the first place.

His purpose for communicating and what he is communicating are two separate however related things. Simply put; first there is an intention and then the words.

The intention is the underlying purpose for the communication and what the linguists and our English teachers failed to mention. While concentrating on just the words they missed what is arguably the most important part of the whole deal.

The single word that best expresses this purpose is the word "Premise". Poetry and Prose

The Premise is the Purpose for the communication

The roots of the word premise (the derivation) go back to ancient Latin but the concept can best be described as simply, "What's the Point?" of the communication. What is the desired effect of the communication? What does the speaker wish the audience to do with or about the communication? What is the desired effect?

While one could assume that the purpose is simply to convey an idea – that falls short of the mark. Because the speaker is communicating with the intent of causing something. His purpose is to cause the audience (the receiver of the communication) to do something with and therefore because of the communication.

Communication is not just about passing information from speaker to listener. The purpose of the communication is to get the listener to DO SOMETHING with the information or idea.

While grammar tells us that the expression of a complete thought (called a "sentence") consists simply of "subject" and "predicate" there is a third element that has not been addressed – intention. Poetry and Prose

The Intention of the Speaker

This third element only surfaces when we begin to study the structure of storytelling.

Because we find that a "story" does not consist of only two parts. At the most fundamental level a complete story must have three parts.

The fundamental structure of a story is; a Premise, Arguments/Proofs, and a Conclusion.

The word "premise" best describes the concept of the speaker's intention for the communication. Poetry and Prose

Premise and Logic

We find the word "premise" used by the ancient Greeks in attempting to develop a system for understanding things and communication about them called – "logic".

Logic was a good "idea" however (like many good ideas) it evolved into a dogs-breakfast of complexity and confusion and as such I wouldn't advise anyone dive into it as a subject.

The main problem that the Greeks (thanks to Aristotle) stumbled over and never resolved and which ultimately rendered the subject of Logic doomed as a failed method of thinking was "absolutes".

Aristotle introduced the idea of a two valued logic system – known even to this day as "Aristotelian Logic". This system holds that everything is defined in only two values; such as "right/wrong", "hot/cold", "Yes/No", etc. Poetry and Prose

The Failure of Aristotelian Logic

This (Two Valued Logic) works just fine for things like computers, where an electric current is either On or Off, and there can be no in-between. However, when it comes to life and livingness... We need something else.

For over 2,000 years Western philosophers struggled with Aristotle's logic system trying to use it to figure things out – and failed. Poetry and Prose

Infinity Valued Logic

Until L. Ron Hubbard came along, provided the missing piece, and gave us "Infinity Valued Logic".

With "infinity valued logic" instead of


We have:


With the line representing an infinite number of gradations between any two extremes.

What has this to do with poetry and stories?


This infinity valued logic allows us to see the structure of communication, whether that communication is in the style of poetry or prose. Because we can now see that all communication consists of three elements.

Premise ----------- (Arguments/Proofs) -------------- Conclusion

The above is the basic structure of all forms of communication.

This applies to stories, poems, songs etc.

We now have these three components to add to our nomenclature as storytellers. Poetry and Prose

Premise – the point we wish of make with our communication and the purpose for making it.

Story – the structure of that communication seen as:
Premise – Arguments/Proofs – Conclusion.

Style - of the communication see as a gradient scale between:
Poetic ------------------------------------- Prosaic

With these concepts clearly understood we can begin to understand the subject of writing fiction and its purpose of communication through the telling of stories. Poetry and Prose

Write on...

Richard A. McCullough

© copyright 2011 - Richard A McCullough is the creator & editor of http://www.write-better-fiction.com the Fiction Writers source for Writing Better Fiction Faster and Selling More of What You Write.

Copyright - you may freely republish this article, provided the text, author's credit, active links and this copyright notice remain intact.

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