As writers, we try to be conscious of using all five senses in our writing. Those of us blessed with all five in working order actually have a tough time doing this. Why? Because most of us perceive the world through what we see, with what we hear coming in a close second. I have scanned a page of my writing, highlighting the use of each sense with a different colored marker. Whatever color I use for sight winds up being the predominant color.
So how do you sharpen up the use of other ways perception? Well here is this weeks's workout.
Wednesday Writing Workout
This is a fun exercise I do with my writing students. If you are doing it with your students, do not tell them in advance the purpose of the exercise.
Write down your favorite food. Be as specific as possible. Chicken noodle soup? Is it homemade or canned? Mac and cheese? Boxed or a special combination of noodles and cheese and something else that your family eats. It can be anything. (No nutrition police permitted commentary on this one.)
Next, close your eyes. Imagine you are eating your favorite food. After a minute of thoroughly imagining, open your eyes and describe your food...without using any visual details. Don't list ingredients. Here are some suggested prompts.
1. Is it hot or cold?
2. What is the texture? Hard, chewy, soft, gummy, slippery, stringy, crunchy, crispy, slushy, squishy? How does it feel on your tongue?
3. Does it make a sound when you eat it?
4. If it is something you eat with your hands, how does it feel in your hands? Dry, crisp, greasy, soft, firm.....?
5. Is there another sensation you experience? Steam in your face? Is it so cold your teeth hurt? Or so warm you can feel it go all the way down your throat to your stomach?
6. Taste? Sweet, sour, salty, savory? A combination? (You can not use an ingredient to describe taste...chocolate-ly, tomato-ish, fishy. (One of the best description I have heard for "fishy" is "tastes like the ocean.")
7. Smell is tough without saying it smells like one of the ingredients. You could say it smells sweet or spicy or
Depending on the skill level of the student (or yourself) this should take between five and ten minutes. Pencils down.
Ask for volunteers to read their descriptions. The groups tries to guess the food. The best descriptions are the ones most quickly recognized. Every now and then I run across someone describing an obscure dish. I allow hints (culture of origin, whether it is eaten and home or in a restaurant). If no one guesses correctly within a reasonable (couple of minutes) amount on time, I allow the student to go ahead and tell the group the answer, and then to go on and tell something more about the food. Is it an everyday dish or only eaten at a certain season or holiday.
Here is my example of my favorite food:
It is sweet and salty, crunchy but soft, yet sometimes sticky. Well mostly soft. Sometimes parts of it are hard enough to chip a tooth.
Answer: Kettle corn.
Now get those other senses working!
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman