The neurological impact of sensory detail.

Stories should be aimed not at our heads but at our hearts. “And this is where things get interesting, because description actually allows access to our hearts in a neurophysical way.” I have wondered why reading something with sensory detail leaves more of an impression than writing that doesn’t have sensory detail. According to studies, “when we read about an odor, it engages the exact same part of the brain as actually smelling it, and those parts of the brain reside in the lower region, alongside our emotional centers. . . When you write using smells, or images, or sensations, you’re actually gaining access to the emotional area of the brain, and this is why stories can take such precise aim at the heart. Words like lavender, cinnamon, and soap, for example, elicit a response not only from the language processing areas of our brain, but also those devoted to…

Poetry Contests and sensory detail

  Sebastopol Center for the Arts is sponsoring a poetry contest:  “The History of Sonoma County,” inviting local writers to submit poems about the history of Sonoma County.  Selected poems will be displayed at Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Contest winners will be invited to attend and read their winning poem at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on June 10. The contest juror is Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Iris Jamahl Dunkle.  The entry deadline is Monday, May 1, 2017. Youth, teens and adults are invited to submit their work and may submit up to three entries per contestant. The fee for adults is $8 for members of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, $10 for non-members, and $5 for youth entries age 18 and under.  For complete contest guidelines visit History of Sonoma County Poetry Contest or visit the Center’s website at www.sebarts.org or email a request to lindag -at-sebarts.org Suggestions to win a poetry contest Use…

Imagery and sensory detail ala Adair Lara Prompt #277

“Write five images every day, for seven days, using as many of the senses as possible.”— Adair Lara From Adair’s book, Naked, Drunk, and Writing: “Writing is turning your thoughts, abstractions, generalizations, and opinions back into the experiences you got them from.” Adair’s example: “Not ‘women my age become invisible,’ but ‘they handed drinks around and forgot me, again.’” Using imagery involves the details about what happened. Show what happened so that readers can see the scene, hear the sounds, feel the sensations, taste the elements, and smell the aroma. Adair advises, “. . . every time you write a sentence, ask yourself, How can I show this? Try to get image and detail into every sentence. ” Tidbits from Chapter Six, Using Images and Details: “We want experience, not information. ‘Joan was distressed’ is information. ‘Joan looked away’ is an image. The reader notices Joan looking away, and has…

Sensory Detail – Taste

When writing simmers with sensory detail, readers digest the story and perhaps, are satiated with emotionally charged memories. Do you remember dipping graham crackers in milk and eating it quickly before it broke off and became a soggy mess? You might use something like this in a scene where the hero/heroine has just been dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend. Perhaps your character can’t make decisions. Employ a scene where he taste tests while walking a buffet line; a bite here, a nibble there, unable to settle on a nourishing decision. Employ sensory detail to involve readers in the story’s emotional ingredients. Match emotions with taste receptors: Bitter: She recoiled and didn’t know whether it was from her bitter coffee or his abrupt, “We’re done.” Salty: “The oysters were so fresh they tasted like my tears. I closed my eyes to feel the sensation of the sea.” — Laura Fraser, “Food for…

Sensory Details – Kinesthetic, motion in writing

How do we convey the sense of touch, or feel, or kinesthetic (motion) in writing? “The key to good imagery is engaging all five senses.” Five Types of Imagery: “The five senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste).” Previous posts about using sensory detail in writing:  visual, auditory and olfactory. Now, let’s explore using the sense of touch to embellish and enhance writing. Sometimes, the best way to learn is by example, learning from what others have written. “At school, the guilt and sadness were like wearing clothes still damp from the wash,” and “Whenever I moved, I felt as though I were touching something icy.” —Family Life by Akhil Sharma I know what that feels like, so when I read this, I can feel those damp clothes and know what the author wants to convey. Here’s an example of using movement in writing: “By the thirteenth loop,…

Sensory Detail – Smell

How do you put the sensory detail of smell in writing? Let’s sniff out ideas. Take a deep breath and imagine the smell of: fresh lemons watermelon chocolate coffee fish – cooked, or freshly caught roast turkey right out of the oven popcorn – movie popcorn with melted butter How would you describe these smells to someone who cannot smell or who never smelled these particular scents? What does a crunchy red apple smell like? Does a red apple smell the same as a green apple? Does an apple smell different if it’s crunchy or mushy? If it’s cold, it might have that earthy smell of a river. Or an apple might smell like a hot summer afternoon in an orchard. Can you put apple smell into words? If you can, walk through an orchard or a field where the earth has recently been plowed. Inhale. Describe that earthy smell….

Sensory Detail – Sound

I cranked up the music to prepare this post and was reminded of the sixties and seventies when I worked downtown San Francisco Monday through Friday. Saturdays were house cleaning days. I centered my Swan Lake record on the turntable and turned up the volume. By the time I was dusting and cleaning downstairs, I was rocking to West Side Story. To finish, I blasted Hair. Odd combinations, I know. But they worked for me . . . a satisfying way to completely clean the house and do laundry. Sound. . . how do we incorporate sound in our writing? But first, why do we want to use sensory detail in our writing? Sound can evoke strong memories: screeching tires, whining four-year-old, grinding gears when learning to drive a stick shift, songs from our teenage years, wedding songs, hymns, sing-song rhymes. When we employ sound in our writing, we transform…

Random word freewrite, using sensory detail . . . Prompt #176

Use these words in your freewrite: cook, chant, winter, smear, blue. Try to incorporate sensory detail. You know the five senses: see, hear, feel, smell, taste . . . and that elusive sixth sense. The sixth sense is known by various perceptions: common sense, telepathy, intuition, imagination, psychic ability and proprioception (the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium). Proprioception is further intriguing with this definition: The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuli are detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Example of proprioception: Right now I know my ankles are crossed under my blankets.  (Thank you, Kathy, for this example). Wikipedia definition of sixth sense: a supposed intuitive faculty giving awareness not explicable in terms of normal perception. “Some sixth…

Sensory Detail

Readers want to see the action and feel emotions. Readers want to be transported into other worlds. In a way, we want magical things to happen when we read: to be carried away, transformed. Writers can achieve these seemingly wondrous events by using sensory detail in writing. When including sensory detail, think of body parts: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and some add a sixth sense: mind. Verbs that describe the senses: see/sight, hear/sound/auditory, smell, taste, feel/touch, intuit. The sixth sense can be described as telepathy, intuition, perception, imagination. . . those traits that use the mind to create and understand. Some people believe the sixth sense is the ability to problem solve; using our minds to read and interpret signals, to pick up or sense energy. You can access any of these sensory details in your writers tool kit to create vivid and memorable writing. For the next few…

Use sensory detail and be specific.

I love gorgeous writing and wonder how authors produce writing so vivid you feel as if you are in their world. One idea is to watch what people really do when talking, use sensory detail and be specific. For example, author Rachael Herron creates believable fictional characters. There is so much to like about her writing. One tool she employs well is the actions her characters engage in while talking. The dialogue develops character and moves the story along. The action makes the characters believable. Here are some examples from “How to Knit a Heart Back Home.” Owen twisted the [plastic] spoon in his fingers. He would not rub the scar on his hip, which suddenly burned. Lucy took the now mangled plastic spoon out of his hand and then threaded her fingers through his. Dropping his eyes from hers, Owen watched Lucy’s pulse flicker rapidly in the hollow of…