Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sensory Words

Where Am I Today? Copenhagen.

This is the first part of my recap on the Kansas SCBWI writer's workshop I attended on May 2nd. The theme of the workshop? Strong Words.

To open up the workshop, everyone participated in a writing exercise from Sharelle Byars Moranville. We were given a simple narrative about a girl who rode her bike to school on a Saturday to participate in a school clean-up. No sensory words. Just the pure and boring facts.

We were given a challenge to come up with additional pieces to the story to add those sensory elements (which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and remembering).

Then we shared. It turned out that all of my sensory elements were ones that at least one other person had chosen. Autumn leaves. Laughter. Cigarette smoke. Tasting breakfast.

The only elements the group leader kept were those that were unique-that no one else had chosen. Root beer chapstick. Lawn mower sound. Trash on the lawn.

The point? There are certain sensory descriptions that many of us fall back on. We need to consider all aspects of the scene.

We were advised to use at least three sensory words in a scene to draw the reader into the story, because sensory words produce emotion and create images and sounds that drive the action. And keep the reader turning the page.


  1. I suppose those sensory details lots of people choose (I would have picked autumn leaves too!) are like cliches in writing. I love the root beer chapstick! That's one of the details that would totally stick out to me if I were reading a book.

    I think I'm pretty good at sensory details, but maybe not good at being really unique at them. I'll try to focus on that from now on! Great advice!

  2. Interesting!

    It's so true that we often fall back to sensory details that have been done many times. But it's the original ones that stick in reader's minds. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

  3. Awesome post! Yes, it's hard not to fall back on what we are so used to using. Thanks for a great exercise and reminder. Have fun in Copenhagen!

  4. I can't wait to go add in some more sensory detail to my book. This was a great post! Have fun in Copenhagen.

  5. I think this is SOOO important. And I agree! It's funny how the smallest sensory object--even a color can instantly draw the reader into the story~! How exciting for you! Enjoy your travels! Jenni