Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crazy Haiku as a Cure for Writer's Block

I hate the times I find myself searching for words I should recall with ease.

I'm calling this writer's word block. When I'd like to use profound, powerful words, I sometimes interrupt my draft with self-notes like:[the mom is crying, but what's an original way to say this?] In the blog Throwing Up Words, author and BYU professor Chris Crowe introduced me to Zombie Haiku. He suggested it as a cure for writer's block, and he's right. http://throwingupwords.wordpress.com. Here's another site that's fun, too: http://www.zombierama.com/brainwaves/haikuform.html

The exercise of condensing thought into the compact 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable pattern is not only addicting, but also helps word selection. While my haiku won't win awards, I'll give two examples. In a scene I'm writing, I have an angry mom who's really just scared. I could say that, but it's boring.

Here are the first two lines of the haiku I started to help me:

Anger coats her words
Stop sign hands, each nail chewed short

I had to play with the third line a lot. It started as "fear beneath each quick"

What I like about haiku is the metal energy of replacing general, bland words with specific, clear language. It should be dense with meaning. This line is unclear.

You might find that even after you stop writing your haiku, it doesn't leave you. My brain will keep repeating the rhythm, trying out new words as I do. So after I'd written this down, another line popped into my head: "each quick fear-knawed deep." Hmm. Sounds nice, but sacrifices clarity for word play, so it's still not right.

Here's what I finally ended up with:

Anger coats her words
Stop sign hands, each nail chewed short
fear knaws down each quick.

In my second scene, a girl goes to a hospital to visit her very ill father. I originally wrote about how she touches her dad's hand and it's cold. That bugged me, and I had trouble writing the rest of the scene. So I wrote out two haikus.

The first one wasn't that great:

Pen sits within reach
Of fingers without strength or will
Another hand signs

If this were my manuscript, I'd insert a note: [boring--better descriptive words?]

The second one accomplished it's purpose. I realize I'd started the scene wrong. The daughter needs to hesitate as she enters the room, move to where she can see his eyes,then, finally, touch his hand.

Head bent close to chest
Child-proud eyes, now daughter-blind
Hand's warmth yet comforts.

Okay, maybe this is too much word play, but I fixed my scene. Notice the dad's hands changed. The warm hands provided the daughter with a needed reminder that even if the dad couldn't see her, the part of him that loved her was still very much alive.

I challenge you to try some haiku. To get the juices flowing, go back to my post on Paranormal Haiku, or better, Chris Crowe's. Post some in the comments--the crazier, the better (as long as they stay PG.)

5 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

This is awesome stuff. Love the way it forces you to show and not tell. I'll have to check it out.

kbrebes said...

Nice job. Loved reading about all your awards, too. Congrats!

Becca said...

Thanks to both of you. Donna, let me know what you think--I want to see some haikus!

Renae W. Mackley said...

Wow. I can see myself getting all nice and distracted doing haiku. Maybe I should just stick to figuring out how to reword my sentences. Sounds like a good trick though.

Becca said...

Thanks, Renae, and you're right--they can be addicting.