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Syllabics. Creative Writing I. How to count syllables. Count each vowel in a word. Vowels include the letters a, e, i , o, u and sometimes y. Subtract one from your total number of vowels for silent vowels such as the "e" in the word "move."

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Creative Writing I

how to count syllables
How to count syllables
  • Count each vowel in a word. Vowels include the letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y.
  • Subtract one from your total number of vowels for silent vowels such as the "e" in the word "move."
  • Subtract one from your total number of vowels for double vowels that have one sound, such as the double a in the name "Aaron." Another example is the double o letters in the word "pool." Only count one syllable for the two vowels together.
  • Subtract one from your number of vowels for each diphthong, a combination of vowels that make one sound. For instance, in the word "out" there are two vowels working together to make one sound. Therefore, subtract one from the total number of vowels in this word.
  • Equate your final answer with the number of syllables in the word. For example, in the word "astronaut" there are four vowels - a, o, a and u. The vowels a and u together are a diphthong, so you would subtract 1 from 4 to get a total of 3 syllables for this word.


Each Haiku must contain a kigo, a season word.

Is written in present tense.

Consists of three lines

Lines have 5-7-5 syllable counts

Does NOT have a narrative (tell a story)

Poem creates imaginative distance between two sections, but the two sections must remain, to a degree, independent of each other. Each enriches the understanding of the other. To make this work in English, either the first or the second line ends with a colon, long dash or ellipsis, separating the pieces.


Some Haikus:


I am nobody: A red sinking autumn sunTook my name away.


Over the wintry

Forest, winds howl in rage

With no leaves to blow.

- Soseki


Pink blossoms on trees

Bare branches sprouts of hope form

Brown, turning to green.


In the cicada's cry

No sign can foretell

How soon it must die.



Your Haiku:

  • Select a season and list words/images that remind you of it
  • Organize into three lines:
    • Set the scene first
    • Express an emotion, make an observation, or record an action
  • Tips
  • Express a single mood or emotion in your haiku. Think about a common experience or sight in a new and different way.
  • Some writers incorporate a pause into the poem, indicated by the use of a colon, semicolon, hyphen or ellipses. This helps to focus attention on the insight your poem presents.
  • The classic haiku theme is nature and many traditional Japanese haiku contain seasonal words and images like falling snow, twinkling fireflies, an emerging crocus or leaves blowing in the wind.


Consists of three lines

Is 17 syllables or less

Focuses on humanity and the human experience (with humorous or satiric view)

Is written in present tense

First line establishes a central situation or symbol

The other two lines create an action


Some Senryus:

Catching him

you see the robber

is your son.


combing my hair—

the face in the mirror

is my mother's

by Sharon Peeples

words burst forth (3 syllables)

fragile bonds damaged (5 syllables)

love undone (3 syllables)

- written by Janilou

A welcoming porch.

What a lovely place to share

Your outlook on life.


Your Senryu:

  • Think of an experience
  • Begin by setting the scene
  • Finish with an action or observation
  • Edit to make EVERY syllable count!!!
  • Tips
  • While personal experience can inspire a senryu, you should expand your meaning to make an observation about humanity in general.
  • You can use nature imagery but only as a symbol of a darker message, not as the centerpiece of the poem as in a haiku.
  • Don't use senryu as rants against humanity. Instead, shine a light into human nature.
writing a tanka

Focus is on a special event or occasion (with strong mood)

There are five lines

Lines have 5-7-5-7-7 syllable counts

Can be multiple stanzas

Tankas, unlike haiku and senryu use simile, metaphor and personification when applicable

Writing A Tanka

Tanka Examples

hazy autumn moonthe sound of chestnuts droppingfrom an empty skyI gather your belongingsinto boxes for the poor

Margaret Chula

This cold winter nightthe snow clings to the tree boughsin the pale moonlightthe kisses of your soft lipswarm this aching heart of mine

your tanka rite of passage
Your Tanka – Rite of Passage
  • Rites of passage are activities that change us from child to adult, single to family, etc. common to a society
    • What rites of passage do we recognize?
  • You are writing a two stanza tanka that recognizes the before and after of the activity
    • Stanza 1: Who approaches the task and what it is
    • Stanza 2: Who leaves the task and what makes them a new person
  • Should have at least one form of figurative language in each section




lantern examples
Lantern Examples



Soft Pillows

Sleep, jump, play, love




On the wind

Old memories



A word that emits the sound it describes.

Write a tanka that connects two of our list of words.




Bubbly, joyful

Dancing, smiling, singing

Shares love with all

My girl


Star (not quite right with one syllable)


Hot, radiant

Shining, burning, exploding

It gives life to everything



Think of a person… their name will be the title.

List things you know about them and adjectives to describe them

Line 1: Their name (2 syllables)

Line 2: Describe them (4 syllables)

Line 3: Action of the person (-ing verbs) – (6 syllables)

Line 4: A phrase that expresses your feelings/ observations about them (8 syllables)

Line 5: A nickname or epithet for the person (2 syllables)