Sensory Week: Sight

May 14, 2014  Prompt #13


As a visual person, descriptions of what things look like fill my writing. How do I use this “visual default” in the larger service of my writing? How can give “fresh eyes” to my visual description? I created today’s prompt with such challenges in mind.


  1. Choose a familiar, perhaps everyday, object. For instance, a house key, coffee mug, hammer, or favorite chair would work well for this exercise.
  2. Before you begin writing, look at your chosen object from as many angles as possible. Did you notice anything you hadn’t seen before?
  3. For 3 minutes, write an informational-style description of the object. (For instance, “a dappled brown and white ceramic mug with thick sides and an unglazed spot. On the bottom, the letters JR 1964 are etched into the clay.”)
  4. Now, for 5 minutes, write about this object’s place in your life. How, when, and where do you interact with it? How did you come to possess it? Where is it kept? How old is it?
  5. Next, write about your personal connection (or perhaps disconnection) with the object.  Does it comfort you? Irritate you? Make you wistful? Here, integrate your observations from steps 3 & 4.  Write for 15 minutes.

Note: As always, if you are writing fiction, you can write about the object from a character’s  perspective.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • It helps you practice close observation skills.
  • It offers you the opportunity to slow down and rethink the familiar.

Further Writing

  • In a new version of your piece (keep the old one), include two or more sensory descriptions, such as texture or sound.  Re-read both pieces. How do they compare?
  • Write about the object but change one crucial fact about its physical description. How does this change change your attitude or feelings about it?
  • Write about the object from the perspective of someone else (real or fictional). Perhaps write about someone who is seeing the object for the first time or someone who adores or intensely dislikes the object.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings in a familiar object of their own for someone, who is unfamiliar with it, to write about.
  2. After accurately describing your familiar object, write an alternate history of it. (You didn’t find the mug in a shop in Nantucket, you discovered it while digging your garden. You swiped it from a cafe in Des Moines. Your 8-year-old made it in her ceramics class.)  Write for 15 more minutes.

What did you think of this writing prompt? Share your thoughts.


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