What Haiku Taught Me About Scene Composition

I love it when a plan comes together.

Yesterday was haiku day. Like any good child of the 80′s, when researching the how-to write a haiku, I turned to Google. I’m also learning how to write memoir. (I have subjected you to my meager attempts.) And have received many kind comments (Thank you!). Picture it, I have one screen open to the how to write haiku, and a book open to the how to write memoir…and I see the advice is almost identical.

I can hear a bunch of you saying, ‘duh’ – but this was a big moment for me. :-) This advice jumped out at me.

1. Focus on tiny details.

Get small. Zoom in. Get present and find the tiny details that connect us all. Talking about a ‘white sofa’ is pretty vanilla. Writing about a ‘paw stained chaise, oft used as a scratching post’ is much more fun. Look at the world like Sherlock Holmes, take note of clues that may add up to a darned good tale.

2. Speak to the senses.

I adore snapping photos; it has trained me to be a visual person. And I have a keen nose, something that drives my family crazy; especially when I’m emptying out the pantry hunting for a spoiled potato. But I really fall down when it comes to tactile sensations. You have heard this over and over, work in all the senses. Even if you edit it out, I think it encourages more depth to the overall work.

3. Look for contrast.

Highlight details by playing against their opposites. I love to do this by using quotes from my son against my trying to sound smart; or the mundane against a tense situation. For me, this keeps the prose playful, or at the very least, real. Contrast and delectable ironies are everywhere. (And easier to spot if you are already utilizing tip #1.)

Super-secret bonus round! All of these tips work for photos too. Think you can’t photograph the smell of a lilac? Or the taste of pizza? Have you tried? Give it a go!

Ok, it’s your turn. What tips help you compose a scene (or photo)?

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