The Curse of The Redlined

Writing exercise: Rhyming 

How does a joke turn into something amazing? This is how:

My songwriting buddy, Chris, came down for a visit over the holiday. One morning, we busted out two songs in an hour and a half! He emailed me this morning asking me to send him one of the verses we had rewritten.

As good friends do, we joke with one another over email, but my joke turned into something different.

After two decades of writing songs, my mind tends to think in verse when I create. (Evidenced by the nearly 15,000 word novelette, The Tale of Nottingswood, written entirely in verse. Read the first 28 pages for yourself here.)

I used to have a “purist” attitude about my writing. I believed the only resource that a writer should have at their disposal is their mind. It wasn’t until I read an interview with my favorite composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, that my eyes were opened.

He admitted to using a rhyming dictionary.


This was sacrilege to me then. But my eyes were opened. Today, I rarely write a thing without these three writers’ tools open on my browser:


A painter has paintbrushes and paint,

A sculptor has chisels and mallet,

A mechanic has wrenches and… um, other mechanic tool thingies,

And a writer has books full of words, meanings and rhymes.

Below is the poem that spun out from this morning’s email. The first three lines are from the song we had written. The rest is teasing turned inspiration–with a little help from my online rhyming dictionary.

(the lyrics)
Small glimpses keep flashing in my mind.
I’m on main street pretending there’s a sign.
Just got to keep on searching for something else to find.
(the joke)
Chris is driving me out of my mind.
“Working” is often referred to as “grind”
(the transition)
Which often puts me in a bind
Especially when I want to unwind.
(the inspiration)
The Curse of the Redlined
I feel especially confined
When I see worldly things enshrined
And mankind
I feel inclined
To make my life a little more refined;
Put on the shades of the colorblind
So not to see the sins of humankind
And the unrefined
and misaligned.
It feels undefined
The truth that we are all intertwined.
So the offer to which I must decline
Is the one made by the once divined
Who fell from heaven when he declined
To follow the Plan the Man outlined
Who chose Another who, there, out-shined,
Who was kind,
Who predefined
That which we, here, got behind;
And all those who chose to leave and combine
With the son who chose not to countersign
The Plan laid out by the Man Divine
Quickly found themselves fast consigned,
By the Mastermind,
To be peeled off like the bitter rind
Never again to rebind
Themselves to the Man who streamlined
Salvation for all man and womankind.
Jesus Satan Carl Bloch

Painting by Carl Bloch

The Tale of Nottingswood cover JR YoungRead the first 28 pages of JR’s latest novelette, The Tale of Nottingswood, for free by visiting Available now in print, or pre-order the eBook for a discount on iBooks, Nook, or Kobo. Click here to join JR on Goodreads, and read his interview with Smashwords here.

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