I have in my office a painting of the mountains at night. It looks nice from a distance, but if you get close you can see a coyote howling at the moon. Most people never notice it, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the picture.
I like to include little things like that in my books. Things most readers might never notice, but that people who know me (and know my writing) can spot and chuckle at. I call them “Barkerisms.”
For instance: any time I mention “time,” I rarely use a random number. Almost always the time will be a palindrome (a number that’s the same frontwards and backwards), like 6:46, or 9:29. (And that’s just because I used to be a mathematician.) If the time isn’t a palindrome, it might be something like 3:10 (someone’s birthday), 7:11 (c’mon . . . you oughtta get that!), or 12:25 (Christmas). So the next time you spot the time mentioned in one of my books, see if you can’t figure out the hidden meaning.
A huge Barkerism is Bigfoot. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but after a while I noticed that nearly every one of my books mentioned Bigfoot. They’re usually just subtle references, like “He raced through the trees like a kid fleeing Bigfoot,” or “He had the expression of a guy who’d just been bit on the butt by Bigfoot.” Saucer Crash takes place in 1947, which is 11 years before anyone coined the term “Bigfoot.” But I found a way to sneak him in anyway. (It’s subtle and you have to look close, but it’s there!) So the next time you see me mention Sasquatch, you can think, “Barkerism!”
I also love nicknames. In Demon’s Treasure (soon to be released) there’s a huge dude who kinda looks like Sasquatch. (Hey! There’s a Barkerism!) But rather than constantly reminding the reader that the guy’s a monster, one of the characters is always referring to him as Kong, or The Missing Link, or Apezilla, or . . . well, you see where I’m going. I had fun looking as many different ways as I could to say “Caveman.” In another book coming out this spring, there’s a tyrannosaur; but one of the characters never says the word “tyrannosaur.” Instead, he’s got a whole slew of different nicknames to have fun with instead.
I’ll mention one more: alliteration. That’s just a fancy term for words that rhyme. Here’s a couple of sentences I had fun with: “He was covered with more grime and slime and goop and poop than the floor of an old school bus.” (Hear the rhymes?) And from Demon’s Treasure: “Jansen’s arms and legs had been sliced and diced by the rocks and coral. The captain had actually turned pale when he saw Jansen’s collection of slashes, gashes, and other grotesqueries.”
Anyway, if you happen to read one of my books, be on the lookout for the next Barkerism!