Conjuring Up Sensory Details

Author:
Publish date:

The Daily Writer by Fred White

An excellent way to get your readers to experience vicariously the world you are creating with your poem or story is to include sensory details—descriptions that involve one or more of the five senses. Sensory details transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Memorable poems have been written about the taste of cold plums in the fridge (William Carlos Williams), dusting furniture and ironing (Julia Alvarez), even people sitting on a train (John Berryman). Emily Dickinson wrote dazzling poems about raindrops striking a rooftop, a bird devouring a worm, a hummingbird moving “like a rush of cochineal.” The delights and mysteries of existence can be discovered in the ripple of a pond or a film of dust on a table.

Image placeholder title

Sensory details bring a moment to life because words alone can trigger the sensory experience. Sylvia Plath once wrote a poem (“Cut”) about slicing open her thumb while cutting up vegetables—and we can’t help but shudder when she describes the profusely bleeding “hinge of skin.” When Frank McCourt, in Angela’s Ashes, describes his flea-ridden mattress, we find ourselves scratching our arms and legs!

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Sensory details enable readers to identify emotionally with the people and settings of your stories, so it’s important, as a writer, to heighten your sensory perceptions. Reacquaint yourself with familiar objects by concentrating on their sensory possibilities. Open a cupboard and heft a dinner plate, concentrating on the design, the texture; do the same with other items around the house. Our lives are surrounded by sensations, many of them dormant. Stimulating the senses through direct experience—and vicariously through language heightens our awareness, makes us feel more alive.

TRY THIS
During the next few days compose short poems or prose paragraphs about the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding you. Challenge yourself to capture these sensory impressions in the most vivid language you can muster.

ryoji-iwata-QKHmi6ENAmk-unsplash

I Spy

Every writer needs a little inspiration once and a while. For today's prompt, someone is watching your narrator ... but there's a twist.

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

In this article, Brian Freeman, author of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery, discusses how he took up the mantle of a great series and made it his own.

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

In this post, we look at what creative nonfiction (also known as the narrative nonfiction) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing and more.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Four WDU Courses, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce four WDU courses, a Competition deadline reminder, and more!

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask is a humorous and handy column by literary agent Barbara Poelle. In this edition, she discusses the next big fiction trend, and whether or not all books are the same.

From Script

A Change in Entertainment Business Currency and Disrupting Storytelling with Historical Significance (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, learn about how crypto currency is making a wave in the entertainment business, what percentages really mean in film financing, the pros and cons of writing partnerships, an exclusive interview with three-time NAACP Image Awards nominee, co-creator and former showrunner of CBS’ 'S.W.A.T.' Aaron Rahsaan Thomas and more!