What is Sensory Writing?

by hlegris

In your written assignments and in your speeches, I want you to be able to really put your reader in the scene with you – make them feel like they are there. How do good writers do this? Well, usually with a lot of practice – but you can emulate these writers by paying attention to their techniques, taking parts of their style that resonates with you, and figuring out what tactics they are using. One of those tactics includes writing using sensory details – that is, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, seeing. How does Annie Dillard do this? How does she really place us in the scene? Pinepoint does this in another way, using narrative and visual images – but, obviously, the format is different because we have a multimedia presentation that can incorporate various elements beyond the written or spoken word, like video, actual photos, and music. Annie Dillard puts us there – but the key is parsing through how.

For Friday, you’ll be reading Kathleen Norris’ “The Beautiful Places” and Richard Ford’s “Accommodations” – how do these writers draw us into a particular place? How do they create transitions? How do they use the senses? How do they move between the personal and the universal? How do they begin the story and how do they circle back or tie it up at the end? How do they make their experiences matter to us? How do they use field research? How do the incorporate other people/their thoughts/history/audience expectations into their dialogue?

You need to be able to discuss these elements and begin the emulate the parts that you like in your own writing – be prepared to be creative, and to draw your audience into your place. How does it feel there? How can you make your reader understand the ways in which this place draws you back and is essential to your identity without just telling them so – make them feel invested.