Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sprinkling Sensory Detail

Jenn here. When I'm writing a story, I try to layer in sensory detail to help the reader feel what my characters are experiencing. A little sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste brings the scene alive like nothing else. 

Here is an example of a scene with some sensory detail:

           The crisp morning air accosted her lungs as if she breathed chunks of ice. The sun peaked through thick layers of clouds, melting one by one until they would eventually evaporate. A dusting of frost covered the earth’s surface, the edges glistening like tiny sparkles of diamonds on the colored leaves and blades of grass.
            She passed under the oak tree she had fallen from as a child. Two birds perched on a limb singing a romantic tune that made Regina smile. An acorn dropped a foot before her. One more step and it would have landed upon her head. She glanced up. A gray squirrel appeared to be laughing as he opened his mouth. He squeaked and scrambled out of view.

 How many sensory details did you experience from this short passage? It only takes a few sentences, but then sensory sets the tone of the whole scene and setting. The reader not only imagines what everything looks like, but he or she can feel

One issue that plagues me is the fact that I want to write about whatever weather I'm currently experiencing. I struggle writing a beach scene if I'm cold and curled up by the fire under a blanket. Deep snow is hard to imagine as I rarely get to experience more than a light dusting here in the south. 

In one novel, I purposely set the season to the summer so it will shift with the passing of time with my novel into the fall. I did this for a reason. I know my inclination to revel in my own experiences. If my story takes place in a different season than I'm experiencing, without meaning to, soon my characters will be experiencing the same season as me, and I may have to rewrite some scenes before I catch myself.

Anyone else ever experience this?


  1. Sensory details are details I have to concentrate on layering in after my rough draft. I don't naturally write them. I'm working on that aspect of my writing.
    I'm setting my next book in a different time of year than the other 2 I just finished--I'm hoping to work on the setting as I go. Not sure how it will work out.
    Great post!

  2. I really like that first sentence Jen!
    I'm with Lindi, I put in some in my first draft, but have to concentrate on adding in more in later drafts. It's always good to have a reminder to add more in :)

  3. I think with practice I'm getting a little better at writing the details on the first draft, but still, so much of it will need to be changed by the time I finish.

    This is the first draft of an unfinished Regency manuscript I've had to set aside to work on my contracted manuscripts. I've only written about 25,000 words on it and I plan for it to be a full-length manuscript.

    Thanks Lindi and Eva Maria!

  4. Jenn, I've done the same thing. Before I realized it, I was back writing summer (the setting of the book I just turned in last month) when my wip is set in the fall. :)