3 Writing Exercises to Change How You See the World

by The Magic Violinist | 23 comments

One of the best ways to write a good descriptive piece is to think about the five senses. Sight is a commonly used sense, as it’s usually the one we rely on most, but what about sound? What about touch or taste or smell? A few creative writing exercises focused on different senses might be just what you need to write amazing descriptive scenes.

Writing Exercises for the Senses

3 Writing Exercises to Connect With Your Senses

The things you see are great, but it's all too easy to forget your other senses are powerful tools to immerse your readers in your story, too. Here are three writing exercises you can use to explore the senses in your writing.

1. Close your eyes

Take a second to close your eyes and stay still. Maybe you’re in your bedroom, maybe you’re in a coffee shop, or you could be sitting on your back porch. Whether it’s someplace old or new, try not to focus on the things you saw when you walked in.

Take deep breaths and write down what you smell. Then focus on the sounds around you. What’s the temperature like? Are you eating something? Don’t worry about if what you’re writing is good or not; just record everything you can think of.

2. Write from a different point of view

It might be hard to block out one of your senses in favor of another one, but sometimes people don’t have a choice.

What if you’re writing from the point of view of someone who’s deaf or blind? You’ll have to practice relying on your other senses if you want to accurately portray them in writing.

Maybe your protagonist is a dog. Dogs use their sense of smell a lot.

Maybe it’s a baby. Babies often stick strange objects in their mouth. How would you describe what the objects taste like?

Stepping into someone else’s shoes is one of the best things you can do to better explore your senses when you write.

3. Make lists

Think of a place you visit frequently. It could be the grocery store, a restaurant, a friend’s house, anywhere that you’ve been for long periods of time.

Now write down each of the fives senses and think of the things you could put in each section.

For example, if I were going to describe the park I go to in the summer, my list might look something like this.

Sight

  • Wide open
  • Bright
  • Colorful
  • Inviting

Sound

  • Birds chirping
  • The squeak of sneakers as toddlers try to climb up the slide
  • Rustling leaves
  • Laughter
  • The creaking of old swings
  • The crunch of gravel as cars pull in

Smell

  • Sweat
  • Rubber

Touch

  • The tickling of grass on bare feet
  • Hot pavement
  • Sun-soaked dirt
  • Rough mulch
  • Thick, warm air

Taste

  • Ice cold water
  • Salty pretzels

Obviously some senses are going to be harder than others—taste is one I struggle with—but the point of these writing exercises is to branch out.

Enrich Your Writing With the Five Senses

You don’t have to use everything from your lists or your writing practices in your stories, but these are good ways to discover some new descriptors you may not have thought of before.

Of course, you don't want to inundate readers with details they don't need. But a few well-placed descriptors drawing on the senses can immerse your readers in your story's world. Who knows—maybe they'll never want to leave!

How do you explore the senses in your writing? Share in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Pick one of the three writing exercises above and free write for fifteen minutes.

Did the writing exercise help? If you tried more than one exercise, which one was your favorite?

Share your practice in the comments, if you wish, and be sure to give your fellow writers some advice, as well!

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The Magic Violinist is a young author who writes mostly fantasy stories. She loves to play with her dog and spend time with her family. Oh, and she's homeschooled. You can visit her blog at themagicviolinist.blogspot.com. You can also follow The Magic Violinist on Twitter (@Magic_Violinist).

23 Comments

  1. Krithika Rangarajan

    Tell me, sweet girl, have you penned a book? Because I would love to devour your every word #HUGSSSSSSS

    Thank you for brightening my afternoon with your expressive, eloquent and encouraging piece. <3

    OODLES of love and hugs
    Kitto

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Aww, thank you! 🙂 Ha ha, I have written several, it’s just a matter of finding an agent now.

      Wow, you made my day! I’m glad I could help.

  2. Kat

    The Backporch Well

    The well on the backporch of my grandmother’s southern Missouri farm was a very enticing thing for a little kid (me)! The walls were built up from the porch floor about 3 feet high and there was a wooden hinged door that got lifted up when it was time to draw up a bucket of water. When I heard the eek of the hinges that signaled the opening of the door, the well became irrestible to me. The next thing I heard was, “stay back, sissy”, as I snuck close enough to peer over the wall edge down into the mysterious inky darkness. If I timed my arrival right, I got to not only see that awesome dark water and my own reflection in it for a moment, but I also got to hear the funny blub, blub, blub of water starting to enter the bucket. These were incredible moments for a little city dweller kid!

    Once the adult drawing water got me moved away from the edge, they commenced to hand over hand pulling the bucket rope while I waited in anticipation for the bucket to clear the well edge.

    Then the best part of all, I got to use the metal dipper that everyone in the family used to scoop up the most delicious drink that anyone could imagine! That well water’s taste could not be compared to the stuff that came out of the tap in my home in the city. Yes, this was a mysterious, magical, tasty elixir from the deep!

    Reply
    • Gary G Little

      My grandparents did not have a well in Oklahoma, but they did have a paper shell pecan tree, and I swear, the pecans off that tree just made everything they were in better.

      Just one point, “they commenced to hand over hand pulling the bucket rope”
      might read better as “they commenced the hand over hand pulling of the bucket rope”

      Excellent story. I liked it.

    • Kat

      Glad you enjoyed it. It’s a sweet memory of time on my grandparent’s farm.
      I like your suggested change; much better ‘flow’. (Pun intended!)

    • themagicviolinist

      I loved this! 🙂 Short, simple, but effective. I could almost hear the noises of the water inside my living room. Great job!

  3. Melisa

    @ The Magic Violinist – Thanks for the brilliant post and an interesting and exciting Practice.

    @ Kat – Thanks for a really beautiful story. Inspired by your writing I have written this.

    **********************************************************************************************************

    Tanya woke up with a start from her mid-day nap and heard a distant thunder. She wished the rumbling thunder had not woken up her. The terrible argument with her mother had shattered Tanya. She took refuge in her slumber to numb the wounds caused by her mother’s harsh and cruel words. Tanya’s mom is so unreasonable and controlling about whom Tanya should date. But that’s very unlike of her mother to try to control Tanya. Nevertheless, Tanya deeply resented her mom for the way she is trying to control Tanya and decided never to forgive her.

    Another clap of thunder and Tanya rushed out of her room to check for herself whether it is the unexpected summer rain that everyone had been hoping for. Standing in her balcony, Tanya lavished in the beauty of rain-washed streets and buildings. She felt it difficult to be upset when Mother Nature presented Tanya’s favorite vista.

    Her eyes drank in the serenity of surrounding trees. The thick foliage appeared bright and merry after their refreshing shower. They looked gorgeous against the gray sky. Dark clouds formed brilliant patterns and Tanya imagined they are in a hurry to glide across the sky to explore new places. She inhaled deeply to fill her lungs with cool and fresh air.

    The calm and gentle wind reminded Tanya of her happy childhood. During rainy days like these, her mom used to prepare her hot chocolate and amused Tanya with interesting stories while she relished her hot chocolate. Fond memories of hot chocolate, cool breeze and her mom’s affectionate voice flooded
    Tanya. Her mom had always been loving and caring.

    A cool breeze caressed her cheeks and ruffled her hair. Tanya felt her resentment ebbing away.

    *************************************************************************************************************

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      This was great! 🙂 I like how you balanced the description with her memories, too. One thing I would watch out for is the length of your sentences. They tend to be about the same, which can upset the flow. Other than that, great job!

    • Melisa

      Thank you so much! 🙂 Your comments are really helpful and encouraging for me. You see, I am a beginner and this is my first piece of writing. Thank for your time, you made my day 🙂 I will definitely pay close attention to the length of my sentences. Once again, Thank you.

  4. Thomas Furmato

    Thank you for your prompting. I did undertake the spirit of the challenge and put myself in my own shoes ten years ago when I “walked through” my current house that we now have on the market. It will be a good way for me to capture the memories of this place as we move on.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      That’s a great way to use the exercise! Moving can be hard, so hopefully this helps.

  5. Susan W A

    Thank you, Magic Violinist. I accepted your invitation to close my eyes and imagine myself at our favorite camping spot at Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Unfortunately, the terrible California drought will suck up a great portion of the water, with little or no snowfall to replenish it this year.

    I took a few minutes to do exercise #3.

    Sight:
    Glints of sunlight reflecting on the water
    Open expanse … pine trees/lake/boulders/mountains
    A doe and her fawn
    Squirrels scurrying
    Forest of tree trunks
    Sparks floating up from the fire, extinguishing in time
    The flame engulfing the marshmallow on a stick, crisping it to the perfect rich brown

    Sound:
    Cacaw of Crows (your cousins at my house bring you to my mind)
    Crackling fires
    Crunch of pine needles underfoot
    Water lapping the shore
    Rumbling engines of motor boats
    Radios (really!? Camping?!)
    Laughter
    The shuffling of playing cards
    The bang of the “outhouse” door
    The zipper of the tent
    Buzzing mosquitoes

    Smell:
    Pine
    Smoke from the fire
    Sage
    The intense heat of the day (yes, I meant this to be under smell)

    Touch/Feel:
    Sticky pine sap
    Bristles of the pine cones
    Dried twigs for kindling
    Rough granite on boulders next to the lake
    COLD/cool mountain water… welcome stark contrast to the heat
    Hard ground under my sleeping bag, the invariable rock that wasn’t cleared
    The cooling air after the sun goes down
    A perfectly roasted marshmallow, crispness giving way to gooey center

    Taste:
    S’mores
    Dinner prepared over an open fire
    Cinnamon rolls and coffee from the local coffee shop in town
    Lake water
    A cold beer

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      This was fantastic! I especially loved your descriptions of the fire and S’mores. And I totally get what you’re saying about heat having a smell! It’s kind of sweet and sticky, in my mind.

  6. Gary G Little

    The feel of barbershop. No not the place where your dad went to get a haircut, but four guys singing close harmony. There is the overtone, screaming softly like a banshee high up in the rafters, higer in pitch than the tenor. The physics of the harmony between the bass and the tenor created that overtone, but the lead and baritone mellow it out, converting it to just a beautiful blanket of sound that sourrounds you, that warms you, that tickles your toes. Picture a wall of men in front of you, standing on risers, aged from 18 to 80. A pitch pipe blows, and ninety-five male voices in close harmony sing “Can you hear the voice of the children”. Softly they start, the harmonies building, reverberating from the back walls, from the side walls, down from the ceiling, a delicious sound, a warm rich satisfying sound. Ninety-five voices crescendo, and you feel the hair on your arms raise, goose bumps, as the fortissimo resounds, wraps you and wraps you again. A break, no sound, then suddenly soft so soft that you have to strain to hear ninety-five men in harmony and into another fortissimo, and a final soft chord, so soft, so delicious, it just seems to melt. Your ears ringing, your eyes swelling, your hands clapping, your butt leaves the chair, and your standing, telling the chorus “thank you” for that piece of musical chocolate.

    Reply
    • Kat

      Loved it! Thanks, Gary.

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      I love the waves of energy builing and wrapping around the very being of the readers through the use of vivid details. I not only could hear the musicality of this piece, but I could feel it. It’s as if the narrator takes the readers inside the core of this piece, causing an explosion of such strong positive energy.

    • themagicviolinist

      This was a great exploration of sound! You managed to pull the reader in mere feet away from the music, something that’s extremely hard to do in writing. I especially love how you described it as a piece of musical chocolate. Very creative.

  7. Kiki Stamatiou

    My Senses Are Clear Like The Ocean
    By Kiki Stamatiou a. k. a. Joanna Maharis

    Throughout the process of closing my eyes, I sit on the sofa thinking about nothing in particular. My senses are clear like the ocean. I can hear the waves of the ocean crash against the shore. There is a subtleness in the way the waters of my mind moves to capture the pulse burning through my soul. I feel energized, because there is a coolness on my skin, while I sit on the sofa typing away at my computer. It’s as if the rains have subdued me in their bond of emulsion. My tabernacle is building up inside my heart, and my mind goes adrift to explore the sands I walk on deep in the realms of my consciousness where the air is salty.

    The soulful dance creates a pinnacle within every touch of my fingers against the keys I tap, while hopping to the beat of the clock ticking inside my mind.

    My heart soars up to the heavens like the eagle driving its body through cottony clouds so soft in the smokiness driving the blueness of the sky away.

    There is no more terra cotta to stand upon. I’m humbled by the sounds of the wind beating time through my ears.

    For the home I belong to is the realm of the Lord, my true dwelling place from before time began. The rapture of the song eludes me when the fever rises up inside my the rampage of my spirit. The way the flames burn at night in the sky is the serenade of the stars as my world unites with the heavens.

    Foretold are the tales of the eastern star where the emergence of the soul dwelling light years away shall meet up with the past and collide with the future. The immergence of the fire shall keep the range of the energy burning throughout the tumbling weeds rolling down the hills.

    There is no more end, but only the beginning of time, and the longing for the past. There are the running fountains where the waters run deep, but the cave shall be quenched of it’s hunger for the burning flame on the day the world begins all over again.

    Seeds of anguish shall be upturned and tossed into the burning flames, when the heart is devoured by the loving light. For a kiss from the fire is what shall make all tides of the dove whole when the river washes over me.

    My tears have dried up and transformed into a sustenance building up a resistance to the tyrant threatening to tear down my walls, and wreck my mind. I seize each deed with the potency of my wrath, and keep walking down the shore, erasing the woes away from my mind through clear all of my senses, and filling my soul with the purity of the
    air.

    There is no tolerance for defeat when the fierceness of the tyrant threatens to destroy the heart of the lion. For the lion shall redeem all that was lost along the way. I now dance forever in the light that guides me across the universe.

    There is no arrow cutting through my flesh. For there is only a sense of overwhelming
    piece and serenity driving me. I dance. I am one. I am whole.

    © Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015

    Reply
    • Susan W A

      … RICH …

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, I was mesmerized the whole way through! This was beautiful! It was very poetic and had a nice, steady pace. Great job! 🙂

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      Thank you, themagicviolinist, for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my piece of writing.

  8. Karley

    The aroma of newly-washed laundry infiltrated her nostrils with a pleasurable sense of intoxication.
    “Mmmm,” she sighed, in contentment. The rewarding fragrance of a job well-done. She was proud of herself for the first time in a while. After all, she had managed to escape from her bed’s seductively convincing claws of relaxation, and out into the world today. A small victory, perhaps, but a victory all the same. She smiled as she folded her soon-to-be husband’s laundered undergarments with tender, conscientious care.
    The dryer buzzer loudly signaled the end of the next clothing cycle. The phone began to rang, as well. And then, the doorbell sounded.
    “Oh my!” she said, aloud. She started towards the phone when the dryer cried out once more. Overwhelmed by the chaos, she marched back towards the dryer before finally booking it to the front door at the sound of an impatient, second buzz. She opened the door.
    “Yes?” she asked the stranger, breathing heavily as if she’d just finished running a marathon.
    “Good afternoon, madam. Do you have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ?”
    “Well,” she wheezed, “Not really. I already know Him, if it’s any consol-”
    The phone blared (for the third time) in the distance.
    “Oh! I’m sorry but I must go.” She quickly shut the door and ran to pick up the phone.
    “Hello?”
    “Mary? Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
    “Oh…hi, Nick,” she struggled to even her breathing.
    “Everything is fine, it’s just been a busy morning.”

    Reply

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