Shelley Widhalm

Writing with the Senses

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Uncategorized, Writing on August 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

Writing that uses the senses is easy to read and hard to write.

What is hard, I find, is using words in such a way that the reader can see, smell, taste, hear or feel what you are describing.

When using sensory writing, let the reader experience things, rather than telling them what they should be sensing.

For instance, instead of saying the wine smells fruity, the writer could say it has a light, crisp aroma with a hint of spice riding alongside the sweet dip of cherry.

Or, a bird sings could become the plump house sparrow chatters a high-pitched melody of wonder as it pecks for bread crumbs.

Use concrete details and specific nouns and verbs. Say, chokecherry tree instead of tree, or hot green tea instead of a drink.

Avoid using adjectives, such as the pretty girl or the cute dog.

And do not rely only on sight, the most immediate sense that is the easiest to use.

Engage all five senses, those of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, writing down your individual sense impressions.

To do this, notice and observe and get deeper into the subject, paying attention to the smallest details in your environment.

Ask what sounds you hear, what colors you see and what the air feels like as it rubs against your skin.

Find that one detail or cluster of details that makes reader see all of the others.

Writing with the senses in mind makes the words come alive, giving a clear image of the character’s environment and what he or she is experiencing. Think of the character’s dominant sense. Does she love to touch fabrics? Does he like smelling a campfire?

Know when to use descriptive scenes, or how to show the reader what is happening right now, and when to use narration, or to tell.

Finally, try to feel what you are writing, putting all of yourself into your words.

See Zoey’s blog, Zoey’s Paw, at http://bit.ly/REyxkV

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  1. Think in pictures. Great stuff, Shelley, i can tell how immersed you are in yr art. Very, very cool.

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