One of my dear friends, Jan Morrill, writes beautiful Haiku—a Japanese form of poetry which uses seventeen syllables in a five, seven, five arrangement. I am always struck by how powerful her poems are and how they can be read in one breath.
One day we tossed around ideas for presentations we wanted to develop. I suggested she teach Haiku, not only as poetry, but also as a way to write more powerful prose. She looked dubious but said she'd think about it. Well, last week I had the pleasure of attending her workshop: Haiku: The Power of Brevity, and I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation. She explained how this form of poetry is traditionally written in present tense, focusing on nature, using provocative, colorful images, and how it gives the reader a sense of sudden enlightenment.
And then, as I had hoped she would, she suggested very nontraditional uses of haiku to strengthen our prose, such as using haiku as a writing prompt. She showed us pictures and asked us to write a poem about the scene. By the time we were finished our minds were stimulated and our creative juices were flowing. Another suggestion was to use haiku to break through writer's block by summarizing a scene or chapter. She did this in her novel, The Red Kimono, when the heroine, Sachi, was sent to a Japanese internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jan wanted to capture the emotion of a little girl as she walked through her home for the last time. Below is what she wrote:
My house is empty but memories will remain echoes in my heart
Jan's final suggestion is the one that made me want to applaud! She told how haiku could help us write a synopsis. Yessss! If you've written a book I'm sure you've said the same thing as me, "Writing a synopsis is harder than writing the whole book." After all, after spending months, sometimes years, developing a world and filling it with scenes, how on earth do we condense three-hundred-plus pages into one? Well, how about condensing it into seventeen syllables? By doing this we capture the essence of our story. By way of demonstration Jan does this with Gone With the Wind: Scarlett chased lost love when at last she loved Rhett, he didn't give a damn
For our writing exercise she suggested we summarize a book we have read or one of our own with haiku. I chose my newest book, Writing from Your Soul: Life is our story we entrust to the future wisdom from our past
This exercise fun and mind stretching. I was surprised by how these three lines embodied my book. From this I could easily write a synopsis. Another fantastic benefit, as Jan points out, there is no better way to formulate an elevator pitch—a pitch that takes no longer to give to an agent than it takes to go from one floor to the next.
I'm having a lot of fun with this. Why not give it a try?
Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.
Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction from west Texas. Her debut novel, Washout Express, released June 2013 from Harbourlight Books. Her short stories, poems, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Mature Living, Splickety Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, and Christiandevotions.us, She is a two time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, and a Faithwriters.com Best of the Best award winner. She and her pastor husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, by way of Michigan, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, and Alaska (again). Deb is a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild classes and writes Christian humorous and inspirational books for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, available in both e-book and print, is being re-published as six individual print books. Her Road’s End series (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) for adults is also contracted and should be published soon. She is currently nearing completion on the first book of another series. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.
Lisa Lickel is an award-winning multi-published inspirational novelist, blogger, reviewer, and writing mentor. A freelance editor, Lisa loves all things historical. Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and Christian Fiction Online.
Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador, where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence, Retaliation, and Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His poetry has appeared in leading journals and is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond.His fiction includes a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red, and two suspense novels, Deadly Addictive and The Lazarus File, and a historical romance, Lightning on a Quiet Night. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ groups and conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.
Editor/Author Linda Yezak lives with her husband in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She is a speaker/lecturer for various writers' groups and conferences. Her fiction books include Give the Lady a Ride, The Simulacrum, and The Cat Lady's Secret. Her nonfiction books include Writing in Obedience, co-written with Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.
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