Writing Basics: Sensory Lists and Descriptive Words

My first experience in learning the writing craft was attending a writing class several years ago.  The class was taught by B.J. Tiernan, author of Standing On A Whale.  She had the class do a writing exercise of five sensory lists.  The purpose of this exercise was to go back to the list when doing descriptions in your writing. B.J. said to assume every reader is blind, so you need to use description when you write. The reader wants details and can connect to you better if you do: "Show, don't tell". 

Sensory Lists
These are five sensory lists and my responses to them as they relate to me. 

Things that are magical - rainbow, unicorn, gazebo, shooting star, full moon
Favorite Smells - scented candles, freshly brewed coffee, baked brownies, roses, hand/body lotion
Sounds I love - rain, wind chimes, piano, ocean, music box
Favorite Sights - watching people dance, ice skating, snow globe, sunset, sunrise
Favorite Feels - soft hands, cashmere, raised lettering, kiss, warm hug

Using Descriptive Words

The importance of using descriptive words is to "show" the reader what you are writing about. I would say one of the hardest things for a writer to do is learn how to describe things and know how much detail to use. I find that reading books about the craft helps, but I think reading the authors in the genre you want to write about is very helpful. You can learn the author's style and how they incorporate scene changes, character development, plot, etc.

Don't tell reader, show reader- how angry are you, write about anger: "red as a tomato" would depict the person was fuming.

Show with words-paint a picture. This will awake feelings within the reader and see what you are trying to tell them. Show as much information as possible but don't do it for too long. 

Do not use "about" - go into the writing directly. Listen to how people tell stories, a writer just needs to embellish and/or exaggerate; people want to hear this. 

In writing, you can do what you want to do. Figure out ways to build details from a simple paragraph-this gives the reader more detail of what is happening. Back any statement you make with a concrete picture.

Be as specific as you can-if you mention a flower, give the name of the flower (red rose, pink carnation) Get used to naming things, name people,this brings the reader into your story.

Choose something specific to write about, then hone in on the details, but not so much that it gets claustrophobic and you lose the thread of the scene or story. Writing detail is valuable and the writer should not take this for granted. 

See the ex ordinariness in your own life. If you see your life as ordinary, this will come out in your writing. Give your full attention to whatever it is you are writing. 

What writing tips have helped you in writing description?

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