Sara Amos gripped the steering wheel tighter. She was nervous because she was starting a new job and had already pissed her new boss off.


Pretty bad, uh? What's mising?

The paragraph is bare bones. We learn about our world through our five senses. Knowing this, it would make sense that we learn about our character’s world through their senses. Writing vivid, sensory details will engage your readers. Great writing integrates all the senses in a way that they blend and harmonious with the rest of the prose. So how do you that?

First we need to reach into ourselves and embrace our senses. Here is an exercise my professor suggested. Grab a pen and pad. Go sit outside on this autumn day and immediately close your eyes. The sense of sight is the easiest of all the senses to write, using only it is lazy.

Now without opening your eyes concrete on your four other senses, one at a time. Again, without opening you eyes, scribble on you pad. Reach deep. Don’t just write the first element you recognize.

What do you hear? If you hear a sound you don’t recognize, what does it remind you of? Is it a sharp or clanky or soft sound? Think out of the box.

What do you feel/touch? Not just through your fingers tips. Does the ground under feet feel spongy because of the downpour last night? Etc.

Smack your lips together. Stick your tongue out. What do you taste? Be Emil or Rachael Ray of words.

What do you smell? Smell is the most powerful of senses to bring back memories. You don’t want to forget it. If you have a memory write it down.
Finally, open your eyes. Now what do you see? Really look at the world surrounding you. Look for the details. Details that will make your reader say, “Hmmm..I never looked at the old house down the street that way. It reminds me of a tired old boot, sort of sagging. It’s chimney leaning like the tongue away from the boot.”
Okay, we’ve got our senses sharp. Now let’s put them to the page.

Take the bare bone paragraph above and make it your own. Please post it in your comments and let’s learn from each other.

Come on one little paragraph. There is no right or wrong.
I will guarantee once you try this, you will grab your current wip and start editing.

Let’s have fun.

43 comments

  1. Beth Trissel // October 24, 2009 at 8:58 AM  

    Great tips/writing exercise. Thanks!

  2. rita // October 24, 2009 at 9:34 AM  

    Morning Autumn,
    here's my effort
    Sara Amos wriggled in the driver's seat of her ancient Honda. The tweed suit she choose to wear the first day of work snagged against the worn cloth seats. So did the stockings her new boss said were a requirement for the job. Whatever. She had already pissed off said boss by asking to work from home. There was absolutely no reason she needed to go into that creepy, smelly office. Every bit of the job could be done in the comfort of her apartment; in her pj's and pink fuzzy slippers. What had she been thinking taking this job? Humph! That's easy. She'd been thinking about having food with her meals.
    Rita

  3. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

    Thanks, Beth.
    Here are some of my sensory experiences.

    Touch: The rough edge of the swing's handle dug into and across my back, sending a poke down my spine.

    Sound: The wind rolls, roars toward the mountain like waves toward a breaker.

    Taste: Savory taste of peace rolled across my tongue and the bitter taste a week's stress released in a gasp.

    Smell: Sweet. I pictured riding through the forest on my first horse. I heard the jangle of the bit, his snort, the crunch of twigs as he picked his way. The feel of the leather reins in my hand. My heels tapping against his ribs. I could go on...

    Sight: The sky moves north. Leaves scattered upon the deep green grass like puzzle pieces. Fallen branches, black from last night's rain, reaching up to their host as if begging to be picked up.

    Please share some of your observations.

  4. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 10:09 AM  

    LOL. I love your humor, Rita. And you added Pink Fuzzy Slippers to the prose too! LOL

    Now let's see, do you have all the senses covered?

    Touch? Yes, excellent. I felt the snag of the nylons.

    Smell; smelly is good. I know you'll tweak that detail.

    Sight; definitely. I can see that old Honda. And creepy, forms a picture in my mind of the office and the boss.

    Taste; Food. Maybe you could add a nibble of flavor.

    Sound; Hmmm. That sense I don't see. Maybe radio. No. To easy. Hum of the tires on the tarmac. Drum of fingers, traffic... What is it Sara hears?

    Excellent post! I appreciate you taking the time. I hope this exercise poked your muse this morning.

    (((hugs)) AJ

  5. Terry Odell // October 24, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

    Autumn? What's that. No way are you getting me outside unless it's absolutely necessary. It's still too hot! But seriously, it's a great exercise. Incorporating the senses brings a reader into the story.

  6. Nightingale // October 24, 2009 at 10:44 AM  

    Rita, I loved your rewrite. Autumn great post. I'm not in the writing mood. Got a particularly hurtful rejection and my pen is still.

  7. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

    LOL. Oh, come on. I'm in the NE. It's stormy. Send some of that heat this way. I'm not ready for cabin fever.

    Okay, Terry. You can sit inside and do the exercise. I'm glad you stopped by. I hope you post an example. I'd love to see what you do?

  8. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

    Nightgale, I'm so sorry about the rejection. Remember they're not personal. It's business. You just didn't find the spot for you.

    Pick up that pen and give it a try. I'll feel better.

    (((HUGS)))AJ

  9. rita // October 24, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

    Yur duh! Too early not enough coffee. Try this not great but……
    Sara Amos wriggled in the driver's seat of her ancient Honda. The tweed suit she choose to wear the first day of work snagged against the worn cloth seats. So did the stockings her new boss said were a requirement for the job. Whatever. Tires of half a zillion cars taking drivers to boring jobs thrummed on the nearby expressway reminding her she was going to be late. Not good! She had already pissed off said boss by asking to work from home. There was absolutely no reason she needed to go into that creepy, smelly office. Every bit of the job could be done in the comfort of her apartment; in her pj's and pink fuzzy slippers, sipping a soothing tea and eating a scrumptious muffin from Mama JoJo's Bakery. What had she been thinking taking this job? Humph! That's easy. She'd been thinking about having food with her meals.

  10. rita // October 24, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

    Nightingale, sorry to hear about the no thank you. Know how it feels.

  11. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 11:02 AM  

    Rita, excellent!! Thanks for reposting. I hope you're fully charged now. I'm heading for my twice cup of tea.

    I'm glad you liked the post. Tell your friends to stop over.

    AJ

  12. rita // October 24, 2009 at 11:10 AM  

    LOL! I'm a sucker for these rewrite thingies.
    I'm editing today. Going through adding senses and emotions in a section of rough draft. taking out excess words etc.
    Thanks for this it was fun.

  13. Magnolia // October 24, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

    Okay, I'll give it a shot.
    Sonya


    Sara Amos gripped the steering wheel tighter and bit down on her lip until she tasted blood. If the situation weren’t so desperate, she would have laughed out loud at the sheer absurdity of it all. She was nervous starting this new job and she’d already pissed off her new boss. How she was supposed to know who he was in the inky dark this morning? His cologne lingered on her hands and brought back the memory of him lying on the hard asphalt beneath her, astonishment in his dark eyes. Well, he’d looked like the mugger who’d grabbed her purse. He had! Then she’d had the audacity to yank his t-shirt up. She’d expected to find her purse. Instead, she’d found rock hard abs that burned her fingertips. A car horn blew and Sara sighed and exited the car. Time to face the tackled boss.

  14. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

    Oh, love it! I'm laughing and want to read more.
    The only suggestions, I have where you say taste and scent of his cologne. Taste, what kind? Coppery, salty. Mixed with her cherry lip gloss.

    Scent? Earthy, musky. Think out of the box. He smelled of a woman's perfume, baby lotion, wet dog. Something that will give a hint of his character or a hint to the plot.

    Please tweak.

    AJ

  15. Magnolia // October 24, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

    Okay, how about now ; - )
    Sonya

    Sara Amos gripped the steering wheel tighter and bit down on her lip until she tasted the sharp iron of her blood. If the situation weren’t so desperate, she would have laughed out loud at the sheer absurdity of it all. She was nervous starting this new job and she’d already pissed off her new boss. How she was supposed to know who he was in the inky dark this morning? His get-him-girls cologne lingered on her hands and brought back the memory of him lying on the hard asphalt beneath her, astonishment in his dark eyes. Well, he’d looked like the mugger who’d grabbed her purse. He had! Then she’d had the audacity to yank his t-shirt up. She’d expected to find her purse. Instead, she’d found rock hard abs that burned her fingertips. A car horn blew and Sara sighed and exited the car. Time to face the tackled boss.

  16. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 11:51 AM  

    Much better. Now we know a little bit about her boss without you telling us. Good job!

    Imagine doing this to every paragraph. Gun, huh?

  17. Lynne Roberts // October 24, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

    Oh, I want to play! But I'm late.

    This is a wonderful exercise!

    Often, when I'm editing, I stop and add sensory impressions to the scene. I think it adds depth.

    Thanks, Autumn, for sharing.

  18. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 12:15 PM  

    You're not late, Lynne. We're here all day. Please post.

    This is so much fun.

  19. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 12:22 PM  

    Ok. I thought I'd share my attempt at the paragraph. Do I have all the senses?


    Wet leather. She was going to smell like a freakin’ cow if she didn’t get a grip on her nerves. Sara Amos shook a mint from a tin, trapped the pill between her gloss covered lips and dropped the package into the cup holder with a ping. Six months she knocked— No, banged on the ivory doors of the Chase law offices before she had been granted entrance. Now that she was in, she planned on staying. She pushed the button on the dash. Her relaxation tape whirled in the tape player for a second before fuzzy strands fill the car. Eyeing the passenger mirror held on by duck tape, Sara stretched her fingers one-at-a-time in her skin-tight suede gloves and curled them into the grooves of the steering wheel. Her new boss would just have to get over the fact she dumped him years ago.

  20. Magnolia // October 24, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

    Good job, way to think outside the box ; - ) I thought you covered them all.

  21. rita // October 24, 2009 at 1:03 PM  

    Love it Autumn. Smelling like cow? LOL! the hook line is the hottest.
    She dumped him. I can see a very interesting first day on the job.

  22. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 1:05 PM  

    Thanks, Sonya, but I think it needs more tweaking.

    Reading your post again, look at this line:

    His get-him-girls cologne lingered on her hands and brought back the memory of him lying on the hard asphalt beneath her, astonishment in his dark eyes.

    Close your eyes. Put yourself in Sara's place. What does she feel beside his rock-hard abs?

    Also smells. Can you show us where they are using scents?

    I know. I'm a tweaker.

  23. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 1:08 PM  

    Thanks, Rita. Hmmm, maybe we're all starting new novels today. We can call them the the Sara Amos chronicles or maybe, Sara Amos' Groundhog Days. LOL.

  24. janice // October 24, 2009 at 3:45 PM  

    Thanks for the reminder, Autumn!

  25. Misty Evans // October 24, 2009 at 3:56 PM  

    Hi Autumn. Here's my version of The Sara Amos Chronicles.
    Misty
    PROOF OF LIFE, Super Agent Series Book 3, available now!
    www.readMistyEvans.com

    New job. New boss. Same old story.
    Undercover agents didn’t get cushy jobs, and rookie undercover agents? Well, they got the stinky, smelly, bottom of the barrel assignments.
    Sara Amos put the Mercedes in drive and ignored the hair on the back of her neck standing at attention. Her new boss - young, drop-dead gorgeous and charming in that Spanish Antonio Banderas sort of way - watched her in the rearview.
    “I don’t believe you are just a chauffeur,” he said from the leather backseat.
    Engaging him in conversation about what she could be other than his chauffeur was dangerous territory. He might sense her fear, taste her deceit like licorice on his tongue. She smiled at the empty road in front of her. “Would you like to listen to some music?”
    Without waiting for his reply, she punched the stereo on. Latin guitar music floated up out of the speakers.
    The bullet, however, couldn’t be dodged so easily. He slid forward, putting his lips an inch from her ear. “There are opportunities in my company for a beautiful woman like yourself beyond driving my car.”
    His warm breath raised gooseflesh on her back.She’d seen the look in his eyes when she’d applied for the job and knew he was still wondering what was under her tight-fitting uniform.
    Let him wonder. She didn’t fall for white collar criminals any more than she fell for drug dealers and gun runners.
    Even when they smelled like her mama’s decadent spice cake and had the eyes the color of Dove chocolates.
    Pulling her chauffeur’s hat down half an inch, Sara kept her focus on the road. His wavy, black curls and roaming dark eyes had left her momentarily speechless at the interview, but even his soft, teasing voice and gentle hands didn’t fool her. He was as cold and hard under that sexy exterior as the steering wheel she now gripped in place of a life preserver.
    And soon, very soon, the buttery deerskin gloves on her hands would do more than grip the steering wheel of this criminal’s car. If all went as planned, they’d be gripping her Beretta when she finally took him downtown.

  26. Mary Marvella // October 24, 2009 at 3:57 PM  

    Girls, your responses are fun! Must leave to tramp around Stone Mountain in Georgia or I'd play with you. There's something about the scents of damp leaves and mud that makes me want to stay inside.

    Not gonna happen. Story tellers will use the dark of night to retell tales passed down from generation to generation. Some remind me of the taste of fear and full body shivers of exhilaration that comes with fear.

    By evenin's end the rain will scoot away with the cooler winds and I'll be glad I'm taking an extra layer of clothes. I washed away the dusty smell of stored winter clothes to accommodate the early bone chilling weather that startled our Southern hearts. Night all!

  27. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 4:20 PM  

    OMG, Misty, I want to read this book. You must write it. AWESOME!

    I'm thrilled you stopped by, and took the time to comment.

    Do you want to tweak mine? Give any advice?

    (((HUGS))) AJ

  28. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 4:27 PM  

    Ah, Mary. I love the fall and the damp leaves. It's funny how the same stimuli draws a different response from others.

    Enjoy your time outside and post anytime.

    AJ

  29. Magnolia // October 24, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

    I'll tweak offline. I have a nonfic job almost 6K words to finish before the night ends and I'm not even halfway there yet. Sigh.

    But thanks for the exercise-it was a big help!

    Sonya

  30. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 4:43 PM  

    Thanks, Sonya. I'm glad you found the exercise helpful and interesting. Good luck with the paying job.

    (((HUGS)))

    AJ

  31. Misty Evans // October 24, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

    LOL, Autumn. I'll keep the snipit in my files...you never know. I might turn it into a free read.

    Your version is great. I wouldn't tweak a thing. I loved that Sara had dumped her boss years ago, and the description of her glossy lips and leather gloves versus her diplapidated car gave me a good sense of her love of fashion. She sounds like my kind of gal!

  32. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 4:58 PM  

    Thanks, Misty. You put that free read up and I'm there.

    (((hugs))

    AJ

  33. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 24, 2009 at 5:08 PM  

    Autumn, love this idea! Here goes:

    Sara Amos gripped the leather steering wheel tighter, the leather strapping holding the smooth, sleek cover in place cutting into her fingers. The smell of new automobile engulfed her. She was nervous, her hands sweaty, her brows drawn together in a determined frown, nose crinkled at the invasive smell of fresh tar squishing beneath the tires of the low-slung sports car.

    The stupid dump-truck ahead of her sent a spray of the sticky smelly stuff up from its roaring double-axle wheels to splatter like a dead bird across the hood of the gleaming yellow Corvette. Dumb idea, Sara, she chastised herself, copping the bosses car for a quick trip to the donut shop for morning snacks. Big mistake! The man was going to kill her. She'd been trying to make nice, really she had. She hadn't known the gooey chocolate donuts in the break room, were the man's private property. By the time she'd found out it was too late. The last creamy, chocolate covered bite lumped in her throat as he'd howled in outrage. Yep, he was pissed.

    Then Carla had thrown her the keys and told her to replace the pilfered donuts. She should have known better than to trust the witch. She’d been set up of course, Carla had offered the damned donuts, temped her with them. She should have recognized that witchy-co-worker for the threat she was, but she’d missed the cues. All because she was starting a new job and looking to make a friend in the office. Look where that had gotten her, first day there and she’d had already pissed her new boss off, pilfered his breakfast, stolen his car, and ruined his paint job. Perfect, just perfect, way to go Sara.

  34. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 5:19 PM  

    LOL. Sara is NOT having a good day in your beginning. Love it. Every one one of the senses are used.

    New car smell, so universal. Like a baby or fresh baked bread.

    And squishing. What a sound. Awesome!

    Great job. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. Now you're going to write this book too, right?

    Grinning, AJ

  35. Autumn Jordon // October 24, 2009 at 5:21 PM  

    Ok, I'm going to dinner with DH, but I will return later. So please continue to post.

    I hope your enjoying the posts as much as I am.

    AJ

  36. Pamela Varnado // October 24, 2009 at 5:36 PM  

    Loved the exercise. It really helped me to stop and take note of the details. After all, writing is all about the small things. I would go outside but it's rainy, so'll try the exercise later and then post.

  37. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 24, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

    I really wanted to see how our Nightingale would change this to a vampire's pov! Toni, how would the Frenchman rewrite it?

  38. darkangelauthor // October 25, 2009 at 6:58 AM  

    I'm in the middle of edits right now, Autumn, so I'm not going to do a rewrite of the paragraph, but you were absolutely right and I WILL use these hints in revisions. Awesome post...glad I took the time to follow the link from TWRP!
    Linda

  39. Judy // October 25, 2009 at 7:50 AM  

    Great post, Autumn! Thanks...maybe later I can get to go outside. I always appreciate reminders to use the five senses...it's something I need to double-check in my editing...

  40. Autumn Jordon // October 25, 2009 at 1:53 PM  

    Hi, Pam. I'm so happy you liked the blog and that you've become a part of our group. I look forward to reading your posts.

    Hugs, AJ

  41. Autumn Jordon // October 25, 2009 at 1:56 PM  

    Linda, Fellow rose. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and comment. I'm so happy what I said made sense and will help make your work shine even brighter.

    See you in the garden.

    AJ

  42. Autumn Jordon // October 25, 2009 at 2:01 PM  

    Judy, I'm arriving here late; church, project, etc. I hope you found your way outside and made that list of experiences.

    Don't throw them away. Work on it again. In another day or so. Tuck the list into a file. When your lost in your writing for something fresh, pull out the list.

    I hope you stop by again.

    AJ

  43. Joanne // October 25, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

    Autumn, this was a great writing exercise. Thanks for getting me thinking.