The Joys of Sensory Writing

Readers read stories for the same reasons we all seek to experience art. They want to feel.

One incredible discovery brain researchers have made recently is that our brains can actually minimize the gap between a well-told sensory experience and a first-hand experience. Meaning, your brain is such a powerful imaginative factory that the right combination of inputs can make you feel as if you are there. It's the reason our hearts race when we read a hectic action scene, or feel shocked when a character we care about suddenly dies.


Describing what the forest smelled like, what the chainsaw sounded like, how the lapel fabric felt on her fingers, the particular shade of blue on the ancient knife handle, etc., can 'tesser' your readers into the world of your narrative.

Photo:  Avi Richards

Now, of course, there are more elements to story than words which illicit feeling. But without them your sentences can fall flat -- dooming readers to journey a world without striking sights, sounds, flavors, and feelings.

Don't sell the other elements of your story short with colorless delivery.

As Robert McKee famously says, "the aim is a great story, well-told." So, a shift toward showing vs. telling can elevate the quality of your writing and your reader's experience.  

That's what they want. That's what you want. So, let's make it hap'n! 

HERE is a magnificent cheat-sheet of sensory words pulled together by over a dozen writers.