Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It Makes Sense

For the last two months I have been taking an awesome creative writing course through author Jeremy Shipp (he has another one starting--check it out here). During that time he had us do some great exercises and gave us feedback on many aspects of writing. Among the lectures and assignments, he focused on the importance of incorporating the senses into your work.

Just to recap. The five basic senses are:
  1. Sight
  2. Sound
  3. Smell
  4. Touch
  5. Taste
You can also have a sixth sense, private thoughts, and other extrasensory perceptions, but the big five are the main way most people perceive their world. As such, you have to make sure they are in your work. You don't have to put all five in every paragraph, but you do need to sprinkle them throughout the entire piece if you want to create a vivid and believable story.

Jessica Morrell in her book Thanks, But This Isn't For Us, has a great tip for making sure you have incorporated enough sensory detail. She recommends printing off your manuscript, getting at least five different colored highlighters (one for each sense) and highlighting each sensory reference with the appropriate color. You'll be able to easily identify which senses are lacking and where to incorporate them.

It may not seem like much, but since I have been using this method I have been able to create richer more vibrant scenes. It makes SENSE to use all the SENSES (bad pun but I had to!)

Happy Writing!


  1. Thanks, Shennandoah. This is a great reminder on using the senses and that is a very useful tool with the five highlighters. I will definitely put that one into practice.

  2. I use highlighters for lots of stuff, ala Margie Lawson's method, and it includes the 5 senses. I agree, the writing can pop if you add them in wherever you can. I strive to get all 5 in each scene. It's not always possible, especially taste, but when I can, I think it helps bring the scene to life.

  3. Try writing stories with ghosts as the main characters. They don't have bodies so they don't have senses. Makes it hard to get some good images going.

  4. Great reminder Shennandoah! You should write a review on Jeremy Shipp's class. I'd love to hear more about it!


  5. Will do--thanks for solving the issue of coming up with my next blog topic!