Why? Because I’m one of those people (ahem, stalkers) who love to take walks at dusk in the hope that homeowners have their lights on and I can get a glimpse of their fancy décor. Instagram is sort of the same thing—it gives me a visual peek inside other people’s lives.
And your writing should give readers that same mental image.
Because we are visual people, we often expect personal essays to give us a visual picture. A sneak peek inside your life.
How can you do that? By using sensory details.
Sensory details are descriptions that (surprise, surprise!) involve the five senses. Including them in your writing puts readers right in the middle of your stories, making your descriptions more active and engaging. It’s like the difference between watching theCatching Fire movie trailer on your iPhone and watching it in the theater. On a giant screen. With the sound so loud that it makes your seat rumble. Doesn’t the second scenario sound much more enticing?
Okay, so let’s say you’re writing about that time you won the all-state debate for your high school team. Here are some sensory details you could include:
Sight: There were 300 people in the auditorium that day, but I couldn’t pick out a single familiar face.
Sound: I leaned into the microphone and it immediately squealed with that awful feedback screech that I was told to avoid at all costs.
Smell: As I breathed in to steady myself, I inhaled the scent of the moderator’s coffee, which didn't exactly help my queasy stomach.
Taste: My mouth was still tingly from the gum I had almost forgotten to spit out before they called me to the stage.
Touch: My hands were shaking so badly that I grabbed the podium to steady them.
See how it works? Essentially, you want to encourage the reader to not just understand your story, but experience it. Write your own personal movie trailer that you reveal frame by frame, one Instagram image at a time.
P.S. I hope you have a lovely Christmas celebration with your loved ones. I’ll meet you back here in 2014!
P.P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @writewithrosie!
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