Writing Excuses 7.5: Sensory Writing

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

This week’s podcast is about sensory writing, with the normal gang and a guest, Sam Sykes. To better understand the topic I suggest that my audience think of the details in stories.  How a room smells or what a woman looks like. Think of the sounds you hear on a bus or in the food courts. How dirt tasted when you were a little kid. The things that gross you out, and the things that bring the fondest memories to mind, are found in our senses. These make a story relatable, like many things the group has talked about before; this is how authors’ can easily include their audience in a story. Sam Sykes recently gave a workshop on the topic, and was therefore the expert on hand for this podcast session.

Everyone and the furniture agreed that to err on the side of excess is better in drafting than being too sparse in your descriptions. Overloading the audience with every detail possible within the metaphorical room in the metaphorical book you may or may not be writing is not a good idea. Sykes gives that particular thing to avoid the term, “literary diabetes,” which even sounds fairly unpleasant.

As we learn from the discussion, describing a room with a phrase like, “This room smells like old people” is a way to connect with your readers. This brings back all sorts of memories of when I visited my grandmother and, though seeing her was a great treat, the smell was one of the more haunting and memorable characteristics I remember most of all. Similar to the experience mentioned by Sykes, as he recollects the many times he was scolded by his family members. “ I cannot remember what it was about, or what was said, but I remember the tone…” As we all do.

If anything, make sure your words are able to describe more than one thing. As podcast 7.4 suggested, brevity does so much more for a story. So does the idea that descriptors can tell the audiences more than their original two paragraphs. Find the podcast on iTunes under Writing Excuses, it’s free and there are so many more tidbits of information on this topic I have failed to mention.  Hope you all enjoy the weather! Who knows how long it will last?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Terrorists in Love: The Real Stories of Islamic Radicals, by Ken Ballen, narrated by Peter Ganim

Writing Prompt: Write the point-of-view of a character whose vision is obscured, and describe how they use their other senses to attempt to determine where they are.

Editor’s Note: Linda K Strahl is a transfer student from University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, where she was studying Archaeology and minoring in Creative Writing. She came to Lewis University in Fall of 2010 to major in Creative Writing. After participating in the production of two plays at Phillip Lynch Theater she has become an enthusiastic dramaturg, and is contemplating a career as a researcher and playwriter.

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