I am a visual, hands-on learner. My husband is more auditory. If I’m sitting through a lecture, I need to take notes in order to incorporate the key points being delivered. David will just sit, listen and absorb. It’s disconcerting to both of us when he starts discussing things such as the stock market or how to improve my golf swing and I don’t follow…(and it’s hard to take notes when you’re already in bed.)
People do differ in their favored modes of sensory perception. You may want to touch or taste, while your friend will associate sounds, colors or aromas with a place or event. That’s why it’s important to evaluate descriptions in terms of the senses. Make sure you haven’t just focused on those things that speak to you.
Last Thursday at dVerse Poets’ Pub, I offered a prompt, asking those who wished to participate to really pay attention to an object, to dissect it with their senses, to let it tell a story or tease out a long forgotten memory.
Here’s what I suggested:
You could begin by enlisting the help of your senses. How does it smell, taste, feel to touch? Describe what you see or hear. Does it make you feel a certain way or engage a memory? Where did you find it? Give some environmental details if appropriate. Are there any verbs that pop into mind when you see this thing?
Go ahead, take it a step further. Is it possible that this artifact can be used metaphorically? Does that stale bread remind you of a relationship, or the gravel beneath your bare feet the pain you find along life’s journey? Does it, perhaps, remind you of someone or something in your own life? Personify it, if you like.
I’d like to share with you some examples from the opening chapter of my novel, The Sin of His Father. The protagonist is at the deathbed of his mother. Here’s how I’ve tried to incorporate the senses:
Sight: “The dim light threw his mother’s profile into an eerie silhouette. It was as though someone had let the air out of a grotesque balloon–the parody of an Irish washer woman paraded down Columbus Drive in downtown Chicago on St. Paddy’s day…”
Taste: “…the taste of bitter coffee he’d sipped a few hours earlier crept up his esophagus and caused him to gag.”
Hearing: “Ellen’s roommate breathed slowly before turning in her sleep. That was the only sound Matt heard, aside from his mother’s raspy breathing, the bubbles of the oxygen humidifier and the gentle hiss of the gas escaping around the small prongs sticking in her nose.”
Touch: “He fondled the smooth bowl of the pipe that waited for his attention in the pocket of his jacket and longed to step outside to indulge his habit.”
Smell: “His mother’s fetid breath stroked his cheek. He wanted to flee the close air of the room and take off into the night.”
Attention to sensory descriptions throughout the process of rewriting is an excellent way to enrich your manuscript. Perhaps you will select a key scene from one of your stories or a poem and rewrite it, utilizing as many senses as you can. Or write a new paragraph or poem that focuses on sensory detail. Check out the post at dVerse if you like for some samples of poetry, including Neruda, Keats and myself.
To Participate as a Group:
- Write your poem or short prose and post it on your blog or website.
- Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and add your name and the direct URL to your post.
- Visit others, if you are able, and see what they came up with. Reading each other’s work is, for me, a great way to learn.
Above all, have fun, enjoy the process.
I look forward to reading your work. Victoria
VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.
Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.
Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is hosted by Victoria from January through October and always posts at 7 p.m. PST.