Monday, June 6, 2016

Filling in the Sensory Blanks ♦ From the Peg Board

Almost every writer is familiar with this famous quote. You’ve probably heard it too.
Filling In The Sensory Blanks

Writing is as much about the five senses as it is about proper grammar, punctuation and characterization. You know: Sight. Sound. Touch. Smell. Taste. When writing fiction, in particular, these senses come into play frequently, or at least they should.

Smell and taste are closely related, so if you can't use one effectively, use the other. I'm going to approach the use of these senses in two different ways. The first is the obvious... that of the actual senses.

Example: "Lightning struck the tree outside the house last night during a thunderstorm."

Dull. Factual, but dull. This is 'telling' rather than 'showing.' We can rework that sentence to *show* what happened using at least two of our senses.

"The bolt of lightning zig-zagged from the dark sky, permeating the air with an acrid odor that stung the nostrils. It
split the stately old oak with a sharp crack, as the thunder boomed its accompaniment directly overhead."

Okay, that added a lot more words to the paragraph, but do you notice the difference? Now you are actually right there in at that moment, seeing, hearing and smelling the violence of the storm.

This next comparison is called 'general' versus 'specific.' 
Some simple examples:

The bird flew away == The Hummingbird zipped from flower to flower.

Jackie smelled something delicious == Was that spicy smell
cinnamon and raisins?

A lot of snow fell == Great drifts of snow had swirled up into high-pointed peaks.

The parade was colorful and exciting == Goosebumps appeared on my arms and shivers ran up my spine as I watched the Color-Guard march by with our flag proudly held high.

You get the idea. So, let's have a little fun with 'ordinary' and 'colorful.' 'General' and 'specific.'

The following exercise is a short list of ho-hum, hum-drum, ordinary, general words. Take a few minutes and see if you can find a more colorful or specific word to take it's place . . . two, if you can.

The first column is the ho-hum; the second two are colorful and specific, in either order. Try to make your second choice even more different. The first two are examples for you.

No, you don't have to answer these in the comments section, though it would be fun if you choose to do so. ☺

bird Oriole fledgling
red scarlet flushed
look (verb)
light (adjective)

I hope this gives you some ideas about using your sensory perceptions to better effect in your writing. It's crucial for fiction, but it is valuable for almost every type of writing.

Your senses of observation of a scene when reporting will make your story more alive, vividly painted for the reader.

How-To articles, same thing. Make that craft something someone wants to make because it sounds so lovely, useful, or however you intend to present it.


© Peggy Blann Phifer, 6/6/2016

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