Descriptive Writing Exercise – Sound/Hearing

In this section we’re going to cover sound. The actual sense is hearing, but it takes sound, or something making noise, for us to hear.

sound-band

Sounds can be hard to convey in writing. We all know something can hit the floor with a thud or a squeaky hinge can make a screeching sound. But what else is there?

sound-beach-gulls

The sound of waves crashing against the shoreline, birds singing or chirping. Many of these tend to be overused, but sometimes there’s simply no easy way to describe sounds without using the old familiar stand-by words.

Exercise 1:

Write a scary scene describing the sounds someone might encounter when they’re scared, or running from something. Good backdrops are the woods or an old abandoned building.

sound-haunted-house

Exercise 2:

Write a calm and peaceful scene describing the sounds someone might hear at the beach, or on the playground, or at a family reunion.

sound-rain

Example:

Dried leaves crunched underfoot as I made my way through the woods. It was hard to be quiet in a forest in late fall. In spring and summer you hear the chirps of birds, the occasional bark of a squirrel because you’ve disturbed him, and sometimes it’s simply the silence.

In fall, the squirrels are foraging through the dead, dried leaves to find nuts, the birds aren’t so cheerful. You know the sound of winter is coming on. The cold sound of nature sleeping, as if it’s barely alive, with slow, shallow breaths of hibernation. Fall is alive with the popping, snapping, chomping sounds one makes just by walking.

sound-dryleaves

Descriptive words to consider using:

  • Bawling
  • Hissing
  • Rapping
  • Squawking
  • Whining
  • Muttering
  • Rustling

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

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Descriptive Writing Exercise – Sight

Many writers use visualizations in their writing very well. Some of us still struggle with describing a room, a piece of fruit, or a sunset. We either go overboard or don’t use the right words. For this exercise, I want you to go through the descriptive word lists and pick out at least ten words that can be used to describe something visually. Choose ten that you don’t normally use. You will go overboard with this writing exercise, just like in all of them. You can go back later and edit if you’d like, but for the sake of practice, get it all out.

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sight

Exercise 1:

Take your list of ten words, go to a room in your home or go outside, whichever you prefer, and start writing about the things around you.

You don’t want to tell the reader what the character sees, you want to show them.

Telling them: The coffee pot was half full of coffee. John needed coffee to revive himself in his bleak surroundings.

Showing them: The clear carafe displayed the rich darkness of his caffeine fix. The fix he needed so desperately. His bleak surroundings, in this hazy gray hospital corridor, had left him with a feeling of sunken-ness.

Exercise 2:

Describe a tree in a field. A fence runs along the tree line at the far edge.

Example:

Ahead of me I could see an open field. I fought my way through the thick underbrush until I was finally free. A gentle breeze stirred long-stemmed red and yellow flowers into a rhythmic dance. In the midst of the blanket of color stood a lone tree, it’s branches reaching out in all directions, also swaying to the soft hum of the windsong. In the distance, far beyond the tree at the wood line, stood an old wooden fence, broken in places, left there long ago by some farmer.

Exercise 3:

Go to my Pinterest Board for some great visuals you can write descriptions about: http://www.pinterest.com/pattistafford/writing-the-senses/

Example using the steak dinner from this post and adding some elements of sight to it:

I sat down to a fat, juicy ribeye steak dinner cooked to perfection. I took a few moments to enjoy how wonderful the slab of meat looked, the juices underneath were just the perfect tint of reddish brown. The green of the creamed spinach looked tantalizing next to the meat, laid out in an appealing manner on a white plate trimmed in gold. That first bite was bursting with flavor sending my tongue into a frenzy. The steak melted like butter in my mouth. I wanted every bite to last a lifetime. I’ve never had creamed spinach so good. I didn’t think I would even like this dish, but it was so delicious I’ll never think of it the same way again.

Descriptive words to consider using:

  • Abrasive
  • Bright
  • Cracked
  • Dark
  • Leathery
  • Pointed

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing Exercise – Touch

Describing things your characters might touch can be a bit difficult, but it’s a sense we all have and most everyone can feel the same textures in the same way. Taste buds can vary greatly from one person to the next, and the sense of sight can be very different from one person to the next. But touching soft or rough textures is basically the same for every human being. Try to capture the essence of how things feel in your writing.

mud

 

 

 

 

 

rocky

ice

 

Write a paragraph to describe how each of these scenarios would feel:

Exercise 1:

Sandy beach, warm sunshine. Describe how the sand feels on your feet. Is it gritty, soft, mushy? How does the sun feel on your skin? Is it warm and comforting or hot and blistering?

Exercise 2:

Describe how you (or a character) would feel walking barefoot on a rocky cliff.

Exercise 3:

Crawling through a muddy swamp. Is it slimy? Can you describe how the water feels or the plants, is it mossy? Does it feel disgusting or strangely nice?

Examples:

1. My feet sank into the warm, wet sand. It oozed up between my toes with an almost tickly sensation. I felt it glide further up my foot as it sank deeper and deeper into the thick, watery muck.

2. I laid down in the plush green grass. The velvety softness embraced me. A gentle breeze wafted across my skin sending shivers through my body.

3. The intense heat of the sun baked my skin, searing several layers deep and evaporating any perspiration that soaked my clothing as I crawled along the rough, parched ground. I desperately searched for moisture, but the arid, cracked ground had none to give.

Descriptive words to consider using:

  • Abrasive
  • Clammy
  • Fluffy
  • Sharp
  • Stony
  • Velvety

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing Exercise – Taste

tasteTaste can be one of the hardest senses to capture. We all taste things, but each person likes different tastes over others. You want to use the sense of taste carefully. For some readers, if you’re trying to invoke the decadence of a lemon cream pie, you will succeed. For other readers, the thought of lemon cream pie will cause them to pucker. I’m not saying  not to use it, just realize that not everyone has a love for every food or taste.

Using the taste of castor oil will most likely get the same response out of any reader who’s ever had to take the stuff.

Don’t worry about your readers too much when using taste, after all it’s about what the character is going through, their sense of taste and the memories it brings out for him/her. If he/she loves lemon cream pie and it brings out a useful vision or memory that adds to the story, by all means go for it. If he/she hates lemon cream pie and it causes them to contort their facial features, then use that.

Here’s some good examples of using all the senses in a scene: http://susanleighnoble.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/using-sight-sound-smells-taste-and-touch-to-enhance-your-writing/

The sense of taste (and smell) can bring up emotions in your characters (and your readers). This is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to also cover emotional writing in this workshop.

steak-1148992_640

Describe a steak dinner. It’s also being served with potato wedges, creamed spinach, garlic bread, and a chocolate mousse for desert.

Exercise 1:

Describe how delicious the meal is. Everything is perfect. (seasoned to your exact liking)

Exercise 2:

Describe it as the worst meal you’ve ever had. (Too salty, no flavor, too much flavor, etc.)

Extra practice:

Do this exercise from a character’s point of view.

Descriptive words to consider using:

  • Decadent
  • Delightful
  • Delicious
  • Smooth
  • Creamy
  • Dry
  • Delectable
  • Leathery
  • Bland

Example:

I sat down to a fat, juicy ribeye steak dinner cooked to perfection. That first bite was bursting with flavor sending my tongue into a frenzy. The steak melted like butter in my mouth. I wanted every bite to last a lifetime. I’ve never had creamed spinach so good. I didn’t think I would even like this dish, but it was so delicious I’ll never think of it the same way again.

 

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti

Descriptive Writing – Using the Senses

Image credit: readingrockets.org

When using descriptions in your creative writing, you want to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. You want to pull the reader into the scene.

This can be a difficult process for writers. Bringing the senses into your writing can be tricky. Developing a balance between good narrative and straight description is hard, but over time you will get better.

Learning to use the senses in your writing and painting vivid pictures with words is something you must practice. A lot of this work is done in the editing process. When you’re writing your story, you don’t want to be bogged down in getting something exactly right. However, as you learn more about descriptive writing, it will come more natural in the first draft.

I originally designed this as a 7 week writing exercise workshop to cover all of the senses on a weekly basis. However, I’ve decided to add it as blog posts instead. The more practice you get, the better your writing will be. And to be honest, you can never get enough practice.

Think weekly practice is too much?

Ask yourself these questions:

Is your writing important to you?

Are you committed to your writing?

Do you want to be the best writer you can be and continually hone your skills?

Decide you are going to do this, to master descriptive writing, and make sure you plan time each week to work on the some exercises. It doesn’t have to be long, just a short paragraph or two, but it’s imperative that you do the work. Make the time each week to work on improving your writing.

You will love the improvements in your writing and yourself as a writer.

When starting out, I’m going to suggest that you go wild. You should even go overboard with your descriptions. Use new words and really get into the scene. Yes, too much description bogs a scene down. When you go overboard in your practice sessions, it will help ensure you have a good scene after you edit and cut out anything that isn’t necessary.

Remember, first draft is never final draft. 😉

Read all the posts under the descriptive writing category by clicking this link.

Happy Writing!
Patti