Haiku Your Novel!

Yes, I did just use “haiku” as a verb and I promise you, things are only going to go downhill from there. (Warning: Real poets may wish to avert their eyes.)

A few years ago, I wrote a post for SF Novelists called “Novel Haiku” where I suggested the game of summarizing one’s novel in the form of a haiku. Back in 2008, I described my novels like this, and shockingly, they both still work:

Kung fu goddess seeks
Five ancient jade statues and
Falls for geeky guy

Failing tech sends two
mermaids to find answers, and
their place in the world.

It’s Friday, and this is your challenge: Summarize one or more of your books in the form of a haiku. If you don’t have a novel of your own, pick any book to summarize.

Bring on the ‘ku!


JRVogt 6 years ago .

Here’s my go!

Insomniac security guard fights
to destroy dream parasites that
threaten his younger sister.

Enter the Janitor
Supernatural janitors and maids
keep the world clean and
safe from unnatural Corruption.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    These are great!! The haiku for Parasomnia especially makes me want to read it. Although the idea of supernatural janitors is pretty awesome…

Brooke Johnson 6 years ago .

This only took me, like 20 minutes….

Two young engineers
Build clockwork automaton
While falling in love.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    20 minutes well spent — that sounds wonderful!!

Rachel Desilets 6 years ago .

Mute girl in college
Ex-socialite falls into
Old habits die hard.

That took me forever to decide “Is it more important to mention the social outcast she’s falling for, or the fact that she’s getting dragged back into being a socialite?” So I settled on above. Fun challenge.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    As silly as this exercise is, it is kind of valuable to distill the book’s basic idea down. I love how you incorporated both your main points!

NotAPoet 6 years ago .

Dog isn’t a dog
A horse who isn’t a horse
What the hell is this?

    Titleless 6 years ago .

    I should have titled that one WINTERLING.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    I particularly love how you worked swearing in. :-D

      j meyers 6 years ago .

      Especially for a MG book. :-)

Deb 6 years ago .

Wow, this is harder than i expected. Ah well, here goes:

Home again, Hallie
Battles lightning and magic
To stop a killer.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    I think the last line should just be a string of curses. :-D

C.C. Finlay 6 years ago .

boy raised by trolls
ends up neither man nor troll –
frog jumps into pond

    C.C. Finlay 6 years ago .

    scion of witches
    puts down musket, picks up wand –
    spring in massachussetts

      Hee! 6 years ago .

      Love it, Charlie!

      Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

      Charlie, I can’t believe how well you’ve conformed to the actual strictures of haiku, including the kigo (seasonal reference). I kowtow to your mad haiku skills!

        C.C. Finlay 6 years ago .

        Jenn, well the first one is just a play on Basho’s frog haiku, which was itself a play on the traditional kigo about the frogs croaking. It was pretty damn funny in the 17th century to folks who were familiar with haiku. Most kigo don’t translate well to English because the words don’t have the same seasonal and emotional connotations. If I had ended the second one with “old tree sprouts new buds” or something like that, it would have carried the same weight for most readers that the word “spring” does — cf. e.e. cummings’ “now I lay me down to dream of Spring”.

        I could go off a whole different tangent about the 5-7-5 form in English, which is a misunderstanding of Japanese haiku forms particularly the function of the kireji, but I’ve tried before and that’s just a losing battle. I will, however, point you to “senryū” in wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senryū – “senryū is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer total morae (or “on”, often translated as syllables, but see the article on onji for distinctions). Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Unlike haiku, senryū do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word.” Most of what folks are writing here are senryū, especially Sarah’s and Greg’s great summaries of their books.

        charlie spouting off
        about poetry again –
        could be anything

        Next up, a conversation about sonnets and the sonnet form…

          C.C. Finlay 6 years ago .

          Er, *wouldn’t have carried the same weight

          Some writers want a personal assistant. I want a personal copyeditor.

          Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

          I clearly don’t know as much as you do about haiku and senryu, but I debated long and hard about how to write this journal entry — I had paragraphs devoted to how the 5-7-5 syllable structure was an American thing and had nothing to do with real haiku. I even talked about seasonal references and nature. In the end, I decided I was taking myself too seriously, although a little part of my soul died because of the cultural appropriation. I’m thrilled to have this comment on record here — I think you’ve redeemed us all a little.

            C.C. Finlay 6 years ago .

            I’ve reconciled myself to the cultural appropriation issue by acknowledging that the western haiku is about as much like the original form as the western ghazal is like its namesake.

            Anyway, I think you made the right choice. People don’t give a shit about haiku vs. senryu or other questions of form. They just want to play around within a set of rules and have fun. And that’s what your post encouraged all of us to do! At least I had fun….

j meyers 6 years ago .

Girl heals with her hands
Twin brother sees the future
Someone wants them dead

That was way too much fun. Who knew?

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    Yay! Sounds like a very fun book!

Trying Again 6 years ago .


Fer is a healer
No wait, she’s a warrior!
Kickass, either way.

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    I love it!!

Trilogy575 6 years ago .

The Magic Thief

Boy becomes wizard
Overcomes magical foes
His name’s not Harry

The Magic Thief: Lost

Conn loses his stone
Pyrotechnical displays
How dumb is this kid?

The Magic Thief: Found

Conn is a wizard
Rowan becomes the duchess
They do not get hitched

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    Okay, these made me LOL, especially “They do not get hitched.” Okay, actually all the last lines. Maybe your next book needs to be humorous!

Greg van Eekhout 6 years ago .

This post and the comments are my favorite internet thing of the day!

Norse god and his dog
Brothers are world-ending jerks
Chops family tree

Sad, lonely summer
Fights lobster dudes and big squid
Best summer ever

Boy wakes up alone
Hikes with his robot buddy
Mammoth poops a bunch

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    These are great, Greg! But I must admit that the last line about Protein was the icing on the… cake. (You thought I was going to say poop, didn’t you.)

Marsha Sisolak 6 years ago .


Sharing a head-space
Makes for rude awakening
Peace and war collide

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    Ha! Nice, Marsha!

Sally Felt 6 years ago .

These are fabtastic!

    Shelley 6 years ago .

    I will second that. My attempts lack… what’s the word… ah hah! Syllables.

Sally Felt 6 years ago .

I’ll have a go, using my WIP:

Lord’s enchanted wife
falls for eccentric neighbor.
Murder or menage?

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    HA! The last line really sells me.

Jared 6 years ago .

To change the world
All it takes is the right mind
Put in the right place

    Jenn Reese 6 years ago .

    Love it, Jared. Simple and powerful.

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