Monthly Archives: April 2010

Sensory Detail for the Very Young

Sensory detail for the very young child can be presented simply in a board book or a magazine.  I had a poem published years ago in BabyBug (for infants and toddlers.)  Green Grass was only 23 words and believe it or not, it took me a while to write!  I had to remember what it felt like to play in the grass! This simple little piece was about a young child (age 2-3) experiencing the joys of sitting, playing with, and rolling in the grass.

Here’s my try at the topic of WATER.  I wonder if this would help a little one “experience” some aspects of water?


Drip, drop! Plink, plink!
Water dripping in my sink.

Splish, splash! Splish, splash!
Water sloshing in my bath.

Spraaay! Spraaay! I run and play,
through sprinklers on a sunny day.

Foaming, tickling, waves that reach
my two feet on a sandy beach.

Rap-a-tap-tap! Rap-a-tap-tap!
Water hitting my rain cap.

Sip, sluuuurp, from my cup.
Good, cool water. I drink it up!

I’m working on one about WIND because it’s good practice! Whooooosh has got to be in there somewhere (o;
c 2010  Sheryl Crawford

More Thoughts on Sensory Detail

The other Wordsmiths have had wonderful thoughts and ideas for our subject this month, using sensory details in our writing, and since my post comes at the end of the month, it seems to me just about everything has already been said.  But here are few more random thoughts about sensory details.

In a recent story of mine (for adults) that was published in a leading Catholic magazine, a fellow writer (Donna Gephart,bless her!) made a note on her blog of what she thought were two great sensory descriptions. They are:

“I felt as if my life was slipping through my hands like butter off a hot ear of corn.”

“I dug through my purse to find the pamphlet.  It was wrinkled, and there was a mint stuck to it.”

I appreciated Donna’s making special note of my words, and as I create new work, when I need extra inspiration for using sensory details, I turn to the 23rd Psalm for evocative word-pictures.  Here are some isolated lines:

The Lord is my Shepherd

Fresh and green are the pastures where he leads me to rest

He leads me beside still waters

If I should walk in the valley of darkness…

He prepares a banquet for me in the sight of my foes

My head is anointed with oil

My cup overflows

I will live in the house of the Lord for the rest of my days.

Scripture quotes are helpful in many different ways, and these lines bring beautiful, soothing pictures to my mind.  The expressive, sensory language of  Psalm 23 never fail to give me comfort and guidance.

Marjorie Flathers

Imagine That!

From my forthcoming book, A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Fiction for Young Adults. E & E Publishing.

A number of years ago, when I was shopping in the journal section of Barnes & Noble, I saw some small notebooks with colorful covers. I opened one and rejoiced in the satiny, empty pages. I bought two. One is my Word Notebook, the other is my Image Notebook. No, they are not journals. They are simply blank pages waiting for words.

That night, I began writing a word or expression at the top of each page in the Word Notebook. I recorded something that made me laugh or sigh, something that filled my thoughts with images to write about. I wrote such words as gibbous moon, zepher, a soughing wind, dandelion clocks, sawny, and quark. Each word filled my imagination with sensory images, and my pen filled each page with sentences, paragraphs, poems featuring that word. I still record new words, tantalizing words, words that make pictures in my mind and fill my senses with warmth and humor.

The second book is my Image Notebook. For me, sensory details combine to create images – word pictures that conjure up memories of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These are of two kinds: (1) an image that contents the reader by comforting, reminding, satisfying; or (2) an image that challenges the reader by combining sensory details that are not usually linked, thereby tweaking him out of complacency and enabling him to experience unexpected word pleasures.

Here is an example of Image # 1 from the poem Star Search:

We counted stars and named their patterns

zillions of twinkles

like Fourth of July sparklers

in the night-blue sky.

            It is a simple description likening twinkling stars to sparklers and using the inversion “night-blue” to enhance the image. (Noun followed by adjective rather than the usual adjective plus noun.)

            Here is an example of Image # 2 from the same poem:

Looking at stars today is not the same

as when we were kids,

thinking they were forever.

We didn’t notice while they all dried up and blew away.

            This description is more complicated. Stars do not dry up and blow away. The reader knows this, yet is jolted out of reality into the world of metaphor. The result is an unexpected visual image and enhanced enjoyment

Star Search


Marilyn Cram-Donahue

Let Your Words Do the Talking

I have always been surrounded by stories, either read to me from an early age, or told to me by relatives describing days long gone. Words drew me, not because they were randomly thrown together in some dismal array, but because they were used to describe events and places that I was not able to see for myself.

When I was able to read on my own, I chose books that used such sensory detail to draw me into the pages. Each story took shape inside my mind, becoming vivid in sight, sound and taste. I crept along dark corridors with Nancy Drew; I fished with Huck Finn along the mighty Mississippi; I got caught in a creaky dumbwaiter with Harriet the Spy; and I ate scrumptious doughnuts with Almanzo Wilder on his family farm in Farmer Boy.

As a writer, I want my readers to be drawn by my words so that they, too, can enter into the realm of imagination and see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel, and taste what I taste. I choose my words carefully so that my images can become alive for them.

How do I accomplish this? I create the scenes in my head, and then translate that onto the page. It takes practice, but once you master this technique, your writing will be more appealing and realistic. Give it a try. See if you can let your words do the talking.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

A Scripture Verse for Today

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
        blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

Hope you are experiencing God’s goodness today with all your senses!
-Veronica Walsh

Help The Reader See What You See In Your Head

Most writers can see their story unfold in their head before they put it on paper. But, do we show that to our readers? Sensory detail can make the reader see what we saw as we wrote the story. We need to make them feel what we felt. When we do this, we plop them right into the story, as if they are living it. Sensory detail is so important in making that happen.

Below are some examples of adding sensory detail that helps our readers live the story.

No sensory detail: It was hot and smelly in the cafe.

Sensory detail added: An ancient overhead fan above my head pushed the oppressive heat down around me while my nose was pummeled with the pungent smell of unknown spices.

No sensory detail: We walked through the forest rapidly.

Sensory detail: Our feet plunged deep into the lush grass as we walked. Hundreds of birds called out their irritation at our presence. In the distance, a thunderous growl made us quicken our steps.

Which story would you rather read?

Hoping to add sensory detail so my readers will live the story, Gloria

Are You There?

The use of sensory details in our writing is to to heighten the awareness of the setting. Helping the reader “see” is important, but adding the other senses builds onto the visual. Let me demonstrate with my own backyard.

I see my first roses budding. I see my sweet pea vines full of blooms. I look at my tall pine tree and other shrubs. Do you see those things too? Probably not. I can add color to the flowers and trees but it’s all still rather flat.

I breathe in the fragrance of the sweet peas, nothing like them in the world, I’m sure. That helps you to “see,” I hope, but even more would it help if I describe the fragrance, a sweet perfume that fragrance makers can’t quite copy. Roses have a different fragrance, and not all varieties smell the same. Standing under the pine tree taking a deep breath, reminds me of the mountain forests, one of my favorite places to visit.

My ears are used to the freeway sounds since I am so close by, but the repetitive call of the mocking bird is my preference to concentrate on. The rather raucous scold of the blue jay is different yet. The mr-rp of the neighborhood friendly cat draws an extra scold from the jay.

Picking up a handful of dirt might not appeal to everybody, but it has a distinctly different feel from grass, doesn’t it? There–a small dove’s feather comes floating to the ground–a new visual. It doesn’t smell, and it made no noise, but it feels so soft. I often find a little feather in my yard. It always reminds me of God’s love for me and how He is always watching out for me.

I hope you can see my yard better now, and understand how important those sensory details are in settings.

Make a list of favorite sense details, such as the fragrance of yeast when making bread. I just made myself hungry!