Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #1

A beautiful mermaid surrounded by adoring fish

A lady with quite a few fish to fry in this story. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

December is here, and whether you are at the beginning of winter or the beginning of summer, moping over writer’s block is just a burden we could do without. The season is too busy, and too full of potential fun. So, I’m going to set aside goals for this month, and just have fun with my characters in my brain. If some progress happens, great. If it doesn’t, then at least I wasn’t moping the whole damn day.

This week’s technique is haiku, the Japanese poetry form that generally requires you to create a short, intense poem of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. This 5-7-5 pattern is somewhat negotiable, especially if your goal is to have some fun. Many people also require a seasonal word, but to heck with requirements. Do it if you like the extra swaddling of a special rule; leave it out if you are feeling pretty good without it.

I structured my poems this morning on a poem/response/response-to-the-poem pattern between two secondary characters in my current WIP. It’s kind of fun, like two characters writing letters to each other to work out their issues. One of the tangles in my story is that in the past, Thom stole the gold Nixie was guarding. I can’t share all the haiku in my process, because some of them are just too cringeworthy and melodramatic to ever see the light of the internet. However, I really like this one, even though it has some faults.

Thom says:
Gold for a nest’s egg
I stole from a Valkyrie.
She came home to roost.

I know that in real life, people do crappy things to each other all the time, yet somehow, they are able to forgive and/or redeem themselves. The problem is, I’m not quite sure how they do it when the stakes are really big. Probably lots of sitting around and talking it out, which is death to a story (especially a short story). I am so stuck.

But one haiku in my series gives me a little bit of a handle on the problem that I didn’t have before. I’m not sure if this is Thom or Nixie speaking. Perhaps it’s the narrator.

Title (because with six syllables, it can’t be part of the poem):

Who wants a mended pot?

A pot once broken
Can be carefully mended.
Cracks look intended.

So . . . maybe Nixie needs a thief to steal something even more important to her than her father’s gold? That way, Thom’s flaw becomes an asset, and the story could go on.

(-: Which just leads me to the next question: what could Nixie want that’s more important than her father’s approval? Maybe a new fun technique can help me answer that question. Tune in next week! (And feel free to leave a seasonal haiku – or any kind of short poem – in the comments. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!)

17 thoughts on “Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #1

  1. Micki, how did you know, this is exactly what I need today?? My challenge for today/this weekend is to figure out some backstory (a lot of backstory) for my bad guy. I know more or less what his deal is, but now I need to know much, much more. If I’d read Lisa Cron’s book before I started out, I’d have nailed this before I began. Since I didn’t, I’ll try haiku. If I come up with something not totally cringeworthy I’ll post it later.

    I love your mended pot haiku. It also made me think – broken bones re-fuse, too. I might have this all wrong, but I think they’re not as flexible, sometimes a bit out of shape, but stronger.

    Last thought – I don’t think anyone earns forgiveness/redemption after doing something really crappy by sitting down and talking about it. Talk is cheap. I think (at least in story terms) the one who did the bad thing does something really significant, at major cost to themselves, that demonstrates they are truly sorry and attempts to rectify the situation/offer recompense in some way. They do it without expectation of forgiveness because they know what they did cannot be forgiven. And that’s what earns their forgiveness/redemption. So maybe your little thief needs to make a big gesture 😉

    • (-: Hee-hee, maybe we are in the same boat. Do give the haiku a try; if nothing else, it’s 15 minutes of fun.

      That’s a very good point that talk is cheap. In fact, cheap talk that is merely a bandaid is often just as bad as the original betrayal. What I think happened is that he paid her back in different gold as soon as he got some extra money — but not directly, not in person. Floating in my mind is a huge set-piece end scene where he gives her the old gold, at great risk to himself, and in the process, saves my hero and heroine. She forgives him, and gives him exactly what he needs.

      It’s the middle part . . . that twilight of half-forgiveness, where one does not have trust. And the other knows he’s not worthy of trust, not yet.

      Faking It comes to mind. Davy Dempsey makes a grand gesture by stealing stuff, which is a real plus/minus situation. It raises suspicions because he’s a thief, but a thief is exactly what Tilda Goodnight needs. (-: And when I was double-checking the names, I saw the tagline for the first time: What has reality ever done for you?

      Oh, oh, the pieces are almost there! My writing block is like this big black ball in between the two bits I know, and I viscerally feel something inside that ball shifting and falling into place. Maybe after a good tug with the next technique, I’ll be there!

  2. I like the sound of your set piece, and the twilight time. Fingers crossed – sounds as though you are close to a breakthrough 😉

    I enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fun. How’s this for apocalyptic?

    The problem as my bad guys sees it:

    We came on the breeze
    Dust, water, seeds, fish, apes, men.
    This world is ours now.

    And the solution:

    My enemy pays
    For the stones that will crush him.
    Later he will pay.

    • Oooh! Master of the Universe! I really, really like the overtones of the first one, especially since I know your story is set on a fragile island ecological system. I feel echoes of evolution/progress, and self-justification, as well as history. What a lot to pack into a haiku! Excellent!

  3. I love the challenge of haiku, but I am not up to a challenge today. However, limericks I can always do. Here’s one for my villain, for whom I need Plans and Actions:

    There once was a guy from Las Vegas
    Whose acts were so terribly heinous
    That when he conspired
    His plans all backfired
    They caught him, and now he can’t plague us.

    It’s a little generic, okay. I’ll keep working…

    • (-: I am in awe of your rhyming-with-Vegas skills! (At one point while I was plotting my December blogs, I thought I might make it poetry month: this week haiku, next week limericks — which I love too, and then I kind of ran out of poetry forms. I’m not crazy about the sonnet, and free form verse seems to be just prose with odd breaks.) Great limerick!

    • Nice job, Kay! In some ways I think limericks are harder than haiku – start with a character and find three rhymes is at least as challenging as five-seven-five syllables.

      Of course I had to have a go. After several abandoned attempts, I managed this for Alexis’s half-brother, who’d be the villain except he’s out-baddied by a couple of other characters.

      A spoiled young princeling called Darryl
      Was fond of expensive apparel.
      His magical jewel
      He channeled to fuel
      Elan*, which he made by the barrel.

      *magical sort-of-beans, very important to the story, and he doesn’t make nearly enough of them.

      • (-: He sounds fabulous! There’s something about a limerick that’s so suited for a villain. (-: I will give it a go, too. Actually, all of my characters are more limerick-suited than haiku. I’m a little afraid of what will come out of the Limerick Sessions, LOL.

  4. Pingback: Jilly: Don’t Leave Your Story in the Cold Over the Holidays – Eight Ladies Writing

  5. For some reason, my 1-2-5s are coming in at 9 or 10 syllables instead of the 8 or 9 that Wikihow recommends (-:. I think I like the extra syncopation. Ah well, good limericks would be great, but it’s the insight that I’m after.

    Anyway, my characters are in conversation with each other still.

    She says:
    There once was a maid full of innocence
    Who was rudely awakened, in a sense.
    A leprechaun bold
    Stole away with her gold
    And her father’s harangued her ever since.

    He replies:
    The antics of youth really make ya wince.
    Taking your gold just seemed like good sense.
    You’d stolen my heart,
    You watery tart.
    Baby, I’ll never be a charming prince.

    • Oh, fantastic, Michaeline! I don’t think you have to worry about the number of syllables in the lines—I’ve always felt limericks were very forgiving that way, one of the reasons I like them.

      You watery tart!

      • Full disclosure: I first heard the insult “watery tart” on the Spamalot cast CD. (-: Monty Python really changed our language! Also, my darling girl has a very distorted self-image. She saw herself as an innocent dear little maiden, when she was pretty much a barracuda herself. If they can see themselves as the other sees them, they’d both benefit quite a bit. And possibly take over the world in the process (-:, unless love is enough.

        • Love your syncopated limericks, Michaeline!

          I never saw Spamalot, but “watery tart” is from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, right? Even better, from that same scene, is “moistened bint.”

  6. Pingback: Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #2 – Eight Ladies Writing

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