Well, I'm not one to write something marginally intelligent and not get all the possible mileage out of it that I can, so here's an edited-for-OMPR-consumption look at my thoughts on writing everyone's favorite zebra. If you've ever wondered how to give your writing that ineffable (actually, extremely effable) sing-song quality that poetry ought to have, head on down below the break for my thoughts.
For today's spiel, I'm going to be talking about Zecora specifically, but my comments will apply--at least, in the broad strokes--to most verse-writing. I'm also assuming that you have a good handle on what makes words rhyme, so we’re going to skip the Seuss lesson. Instead, we’ll be talking about rhythm: the cadence of the lines. What it all comes down to is stressed and unstressed syllables.
So the first thing I want you to do is say this sentence: “Proper enunciation is critical!” Go on, say it out loud. Don’t whisper it, either; say it like you mean it. If you need to take a moment to get to a different room so that your parents/roommates/girlfriend don’t think you’ve gone crazy, go ahead. I’ll be waiting right here.
Done it? Good. Now, if you spoke it like a normal person, you put a bit of emphasis on the first syllables of “proper” and “critical,” as well as on the fourth syllable of “enunciation.” Those are stressed syllables. You didn’t stress the word “is,” on the other hand; it’s an unstressed syllable. That’s all “stressed syllables” and “unstressed syllables” are: the places where you naturally lean in or lay off while speaking a sentence or phrase.
As a further example, try saying that same sentence again, but really emote on the stressed syllables we identified while barely muttering the rest. Say it like this:
PROper eununciAtion is CRITical!
Good? Now, if you did that, it probably sounded pretty hammy, like you were an overeager Shakespearean actor intent on chewing every line into cud… but beyond that, it probably didn’t feel to weird. Overdone, but not weird.
Now, try saying the same sentence like this:
ProPER enunCIation IS critICal!
It took me multiple tries to say it like that at all, because it puts the stresses in the wrong places. When you said it, it probably sounded like you were having a stroke--where the previous example sounded exaggerated but otherwise natural, this one is a misapplied mess.
Now, let’s talk about Zecora! She speaks in couplets--presumably, you already know that. But the rhythm of her lines is (typically--the show screws this up sometimes, too!) four stressed syllables, each split by an unstressed one: dah-DA-dah-DA-dah-DA-dah-DA.
This is called "iambic tetrameter." An iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, and tetra- means four, and -meter tells us we're talking about rhythm. Put it all together, and it just means "Zecora speaks in patterns of four unaccented/accented pairs of syllables"--but it sounds fancier if you say "iambic tetrameter." With that last bit of wisdom, you're all well on your ways to getting English majors.
Okay, you say, but how do I tell whether a syllable is accented or unaccented? Well, let's go back to speaking out loud. Again, assuming that you can speak English like a normal human being (not always a fair assumption over the internet, where English might be a language which someone knows only by writing, but one I'm making regardless), you already stress those lines a bit when you talk. And when you did the exaggerated Shakespearean Ham voice a moment ago, you had no trouble telling what lines you were accenting, right? Here, try saying this next sentence like a Shakespearean Ham:
Talking like this is kind of fun!
Now, you--wait, did you actually say that line out loud? You aren't just reading silently along again, are you? Go back and read that out loud, in a really dramatic, over-the-top voice! Come on, we're doing a thing, here.
Okay, now: even though I didn't tell you what syllables you should exaggerate, I'll bet that you really emoted on, say, the first syllable of "talking," as well as on "fun." That's because those are stressed syllables! You can find them without any help from me, as long as you're willing to sound kind of silly. Don't overthink it too much: if you speak English fluently, you already know where the stressed syllables are. You just need to listen to yourself speak, and you'll find them.
Some people find it easier to emote when they're mimicking someone, by the by. If you're one of those people, I highly recommend doing your best BRIAN BLESSED impersonation when reading a sentence to find the stressed and unstressed syllables. Both because he's a line-chewer extraordinaire, and because I just really like him.
Another note: it's generally also okay to play with the unaccented syllables at the start. Take this famous piece of tetrameter:
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Note that there are two unstressed syllables at the start of each of those lines (if you don't note that, then try reading them aloud in your BRIAN BLESSED voice, and note how the first syllables you'll naturally accentuate in each line are "night" and "crea-"). When you're writing Zecora, don't worry too much about whether you start with one, two, or even no unstressed syllables (in the latter, case, there's an "assumed unstressed syllable" at the start of the line). As long as the unstressed-stressed pattern is maintained the rest of the way, your opening has a bit of flexibility--but you'll still want to make sure, as in the example above, that both lines of your couplet have the same pattern at the start.
Oh, and also: the reason all of this is important--because if it wasn’t important, why do it?--is because the steady stressed-unstressed cadence gives Zecora’s dialogue a lyrical, sing-song quality. When properly executed, it makes her lines feel organically musical. That’s a good thing: it both feels innately poetic, and gives a sense of Zecora's removal from normal speech patterns which even an untrained ear can easily detect (even if it can't quantify it). So give your favorite zebra some rhythm!