Writing Scintillating Scenes––Part VII

You’ve heard it said that writers should write using all their senses. Here’s why. A scene without sensory detail or imagery created by elaborating details is just a sentence. Create scintillating scenes by inserting unforgettable word images in the reader’s mind. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

Sensory detail helps engage the reader on an immediate and deeper level. Rather than say “Janice was cold,” talk about her shivering, her chattering teeth, how she is stomping her feet up and down. Those are the actions of one who is cold. But how did it feel inside? Was she getting sleepy because her body temperature was falling? Was she outside or inside? Does she know the actual temperature where she is? What kinds of analogies can you bring to expand that sentence. Sentence elaboration is one of the best ways to bring imagery into your scenes.

The power of the scene is in the way the author conveys the intense awareness from the POV character, of their sensory impressions. Painting word pictures with language is at once lush and yet, exact. Getting the precise word that conveys the image is very important. I just mentioned sentence elaboration. Let’s look at some examples.

The sentence: The day was gloomy.

The passage: We woke to a gray sky, as if a great comforter hung over us. The house felt claustrophobic. I turned on all the lamps, but found myself standing at the window staring out. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the weather would never change, that I would never feel cheerful again. There was nothing I wanted to do but go back to bed.

The sentence: The wind blew.

The passage: A low dry wind gust came up, gritty and gray as powdered gravel. A fierce small dust devil, whirling like a baby twister, roared over them.

The sentence: Hollis was a good dancer.

The passage: Hollis had a routine all worked out. He almost stood in place, with a shuffle stomp stomp, shuffle stomp stomp, but was easy to dance with because he was so good with his arms. He nudged and tugged, and sent a girl out to be reeled back in.


Sensory Observation: Think of an action that has strong emotional undercurrents, and write two to three moments in it. Then list the sensory elements of the setting that the narrator notices as the actions occur. Now write the scene more fully. In a first-person POV, the narrator looks to the surroundings to project deep emotions. The same can be done for deep POV. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing;

  1. A couple quarrels while they are in a wilderness setting
  2. Children playing in the yard while adults are having coffee on the porch after a funeral. (Try both adult and child POVs).
  3. A parent and child or children engaged in something ike fishing, target shooting, or another sport.

Remember, the emphasis is on the details.

Elaborating Sentences: Take a simple sentence of action and write a paragraph of that sentence. See examples above. Examples:

  1. He was afraid of the dark.
  2. He fell and assessed the damage
  3. The men looked me over (a woman).
  4. She was cleaning the birds. (yuck)

Especially in romance, sensory detail is extremely important to establish the character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions by using imagery and word pictures. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

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