Sensory Weekend: Smokin’

May 17, 2014  Prompt #16

cigar smoke

 

 

 

Today and tomorrow feature short prompts: less background, no writing group variations. Have a good weekend!

 

Surgeon General’s Warning

If you are not a smoker, don’t light up to complete this exercise. Work from memory or sit near smokers and take notes.

Instructions

    1. Write for 10 minutes about tobacco (cigarette, cigar or pipe) smoke, either first- or second-hand. Consider how it smells, tastes, and looks.
    2. Write down six adjectives and six verbs that describe smoke or your experience of it. Integrate some of these words into your piece. Write for 10 more minutes.

Further Writing

    1. Write about entering a room that smells of cigar smoke.
    2. Write about someone blowing smoke rings.

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

 

Sensory Week: Taste

May 16, 2014  Prompt #15

orangesTo wrap up Sensory Week, it’s our long-awaited taste prompt. To enrich this exercise, I’ve included other senses as well.  Tuck a napkin under your chin and let’s get started.

 

Instructions

  1. Choose a fruit that you enjoy (or dislike) for this exercise. Other foods can work too; you may need to adjust the instructions. Follow the steps below, noting experiences, associations, and responses.
  2. Hold the fruit in your hand. Briefly describe its weight and texture.
  3. Smell the fruit. Does your mouth start watering? Puckering?
  4. Peel the fruit, stopping frequently to describe the experience, noting memories and questions that arise. If the fruit isn’t peel-able, skip this step or slice the fruit instead.
  5. Touch the fruit to your tongue. First impressions?
  6. Section or slice the fruit if needed, then take a small bite.  How do your tongue, lips, and mouth react? Describe the experience.
  7. Continue eating. Continue writing.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Encourages you to write slowly and thoughtfully, since several steps are involved.
  • Helps you bring sensory details into your work.
  • Encourages association and memory recall.

Further Writing

  • Imagine a person eating this fruit for the first time. What would surprise them?
  • Describe how different people might approach eating a pineapple, pear, or banana. How does how they eat reflect who they are?

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. If the season is right (usually late summer or fall in the U.S.), try tasting and describing three different apple varieties.
  2. If available, compare, and describe eating an orange, tangerine, and blood orange. Or a standard lemon and a Meyer lemon. Or a grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime. What do these different fruits conjure up for you?
  3. If available, try a fruit that is new to you. Some fruits I hadn’t eaten as a child include a star fruit (or carambola), horned melon (or kiwano), and even a fresh fig.

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

 

Sensory Week: Smell

May 15, 2014  Prompt #14

 

This is among my favorite prompts, since smell brings up specific associations and memories. Plus, it’s fun to smell stuff.

 

 

Instructions

  1. Find something in your house with a specific scent or odor. Looking for ideas? Consider one of these: a lemon, garlic bulb, crayons, chalk, perfume or cologne, nail polish remover, a leather baseball glove, a block of cedar, sawdust, cloves or a cinnamon stick, vinegar. (Don’t use anything toxic, of course.)
  2. Close your eyes, bring the item to your nose, and inhale. Relax your brain and let memories and associations surface. Repeat twice more.
  3. For 15 minutes, write in response to this smell.  If, during your writing, it helps to take in the scent of the item again, sniff away!  If you need to ground your piece, write about the place with which you most associate this scent.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Since smells are not easily categorized,  you need to think specifically about the individual scent.
  • Since smells are deeply evocative, this prompt encourages association and memory recall.

Further Writing

  • Write about the person with whom you most associate this smell.
  • Write about a different scent.  If you first wrote about a pleasing scent, try writing about a harsh one.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings, in a sealed and separate plastic containers, two or more object with a strong scent. Cotton balls dabbed in perfume, alcohol, pine cleaner, or vinegar work well, as well as any of the items listed above.
  2. Group members close their eyes, sniff the scents, and guess what they are.
  3. Discuss your experience of the scents with each other.
  4. Write down an action or emotion associated with the scent. (Vinegar is fear, running from the housekeeper who teases me with the open bottle.  Baking chicken is Friday night, our kitchen transformed by oranges, dripping fat, and a full table.)  From here, write for 15 more minutes.

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

 

Sensory Week: Sight

May 14, 2014  Prompt #13

IMG_0417

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.

Instructions

  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.

 

Sensory Week: Touch

May 13, 2014  Prompt #12

IMG_1427

 

Our sense of touch is so important that when we want to establish if something is real, we reach out and try to touch it. What does touch tell us?  Hot. Cold. Hard. Soft. Wet. Dry. Smooth. Sharp. Rough. Ridged. Sticky. As writers, where do we go from there?

 

Instructions

  1. For today’s exercise, find an item to use as your “touchstone.” It might be an actual stone, or a tree trunk, a nail file, a wool sweater, a rough wash cloth, a ridged drinking class, or an old table.
  2. Touch the object with your fingers. Wrap your hand around it or bring it to your cheek.
  3. For 5 minutes, write not only about how the object feels (for instance, rough, dry and splintery) but also how the object makes you feel emotionally. Does a smooth table feel welcoming? Does a studded belt make you feel bold and exuberant?
  4. For the second step, associate the object with another object, perhaps one from your past. Bumpy ridges on a vase might remind you of hair curlers you wore as a teenager (or your aunt wore, tucked under a scarf.) The rough of a nail file might conjure up an unshaven face, the softness of a silk shirt might remind you of a long line of silk scarfs that a magician drew from a black top hat.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Helps build sensory details in your work.
  • Gives you practice adding complexity through associations that link time and space.

Further Writing

  • Work in a simile. (The rock is smooth as the water that shaped it.  The feather is as insubstantial as this morning’s dream.
  • Choose a second item and write about it.
  • Write about a familiar item, then an unfamiliar one. How do these experiences differ?

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings in an object in a small paper bag.
  2. Without looking into the bag, each member feels inside, jots down what they feel and tries to guess what it is. (Curved, sticky, slightly prickly — pinecone!) From there, follow Step 4 above. Write for 15 more minutes.

Preparation for Friday

Remember to find a fruit that you like or are willing to taste.

Sensory Week: Sound

May 12, 2014  Prompt #11

IMG_1281

Welcome to Sensory Week here at The Writeous Sisters.  Each day, Monday through Friday, will focus on a different sense.  Today: Hearing.

Instructions

  1. Start with a selection without words, such as a piano concerto, jazz, Big Band, or other instrumental work.
  2. Play your selection and write down whatever words, phrases, and ideas come into your head.
  3. Write for 10 minutes.

 

Notes

  • This is a good opportunity to loosen up. Try writing single words or short phrases. Or writing one very long sentence. Be experimental.
  • Listen to music you don’t normally listen to. If you are an opera fan, try Country Western. If you like New Age, try Rap. And visa versa.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Offers inspiration from another creative source.
  • Works with a different part of your brain. (I have no scientific proof of this, just seems that way…)

Further Writing

  • Read what you have written.  Circle a phrase that stands out for you. Write it on top of a fresh sheet of paper. Without music, write in response to it for 15  minutes.
  • Listen to music with words.  Write in response to that for 10 minutes. Are the words distracting or helpful?
  • Write to music with words in a language you don’t know. How is this different?

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Bring in selections of music for each other.
  2. Share what the group has written after listening to the same piece of music.  Any overlaps in thought or language?
  3. As members share their work, write down the last sentence of the writer sitting to your left. Write that sentence or phrase on a new sheet of paper. Write in response to it for 15 more minutes.

Preparation for Friday’s Prompt

Friday: Buy a fruit that you like or are willing to taste. Suggestions for good writing include an orange, mango, banana, grapefruit, tangerine, grapes, or strawberries.

Creating Atmosphere (part 2)

May 11, 2014  Prompt #10

DSCN5024Using yesterday’s exercise, choose one of the situations below and fit it into the setting you have created. Feel free, as always to change pronouns, adjective and details in the examples. Write for 15 minutes.

  • A  man is searching for something.
  • A young child is humming to herself.
  •  Two exhausted people arguing.
  •  A grandmother is teaching something to her grandson.

 Suggestions

  • Consider how the action relates to the setting. Can the setting relay information to the reader beyond spoken words? For instance, if a man is searching in a dark attic, how does the lack of light affect him? What if he’s searching on the driveway under a hot sun?
  •  As always, include sensory details. Let the reader know about sounds, odors, and textures.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  • Provides practice connecting action, setting, and dialogue so they serve each other.
  • Pushes you to create a specific and vibrant place, drawing your reader in.

 Further Writing

  • Switch things up. If it’s a clear dawn, what happens if rain clouds move in?
  • Add another person to the mix. Does this ease or add tension?
  • If you have dialogue, be sure to blend it with action. If it’s hot and bright on the driveway, does a character drip with sweat? Put on sunglasses? Take off his shirt? Drink iced coffee?

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. On index cards, write down scenarios other than those listed above. Members choose a scenario and write for 15 minutes.
  2. After members share their work, each member notes a phrase or word that struck them as they listened.  Choose one of those phrases and write it on  top of a fresh sheet of paper. Write in response to it for 15 more minutes.