Using Senses for Sensible Writing
by Elaine Ernst Schneider
You may have heard someone say, “Write about your feelings.” While that is good advice, it may not be an easy task for every individual. A less threatening place to start might be with the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Using the senses is an excellent strategy for descriptive writing.
There are five senses. Let’s try five assignments.
- SOUND – Imagine that you were surfing when a storm blew in. The waves crashed in around you as you tried desperately to get back to shore. You couldn’t see anything. All you could hear was the roar of the waves. Describe that sound to someone who has never been surfing.
- SIGHT – Describe a sunset to a blind man.
- SMELL – You are lying in bed on Saturday morning when you awaken to the aroma of coffee percolating and bacon frying. The phone rings and you begin to tell your friend about the smells of breakfast cooking.
- TASTE – You and your sister decide to concoct a new drink. You mix all the carbonated drinks in the refrigerator into your mom’s blender. Then you add strawberries, bananas, tomatoes, and last night’s leftover meatloaf. Last, you throw in a raw egg, a cup of milk, and some ice. As the blender crushes the mixture into a drink, you and your sister argue over who will have to taste it first. You lose. Describe the taste of that first swallow.
- TOUCH – Ever touch a baby’s skin? Describe how it feels. If you’d like, compare it to your own skin. How is it different?
Elementary: One paragraph on each is plenty. Try to use at least one adjective in each sentence that helps your description be more vivid.
Junior High and High School: Write two or three paragraphs on each topic. Strive to use verbs that are descriptive, not just adjectives.
Example: The scorching sun made our skin sweaty. (“made” isn’t a very exciting verb.)Example: The scorching sun sizzled the sweat on our skin. (“sizzled” paints a more graphic picture.)
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