Wednesday, January 30, 2013

She's Crafty: The Five Senses

So I started teaching creative writing to my oldest daughter and her friend back in August and we've met almost every Monday. It was to disguise how to learn where a period should go but we also focus on a different aspect of creative writing too. And I've discovered my own writing has improved because we discuss the different crafting techniques. So I thought I would share every Wednesday what comes out of our creative writing group.

This week we went over possessive nouns (seriously, you would think 5th graders would know when to put in an apostrophe, but they struggle) and the five senses.

You hear it all the time: Show, don't tell.

What does that mean? It means you show details versus telling the reader what happened.

Example Tell:  The kids came home from school.

Show It: The door swung open testing the strength of its hinges. Sneakers squeaked against the tile. "Mom, we're home," called Lore pushing in front of Bryn to claim the first brownie off the kitchen counter.

To help the girls understand when they were telling, I had them look over a page of their writing and underline every sentence that was a Tell. Then I told them to replace each of those sentences with a Show.  Easier said than done. "How do I show this?" they kept asking.

My trick to show details: the five senses. I would ask them:
How did it smell?
What did it sound like?
How did it feel?
What did it look like?
What did it taste like?

For the exercise, I required them to use at least 2 senses other than sight to replace each Tell. When you incorporate the five senses, you create more than just a visual to the reader. It was fun to see them as they thought about details like smell and taste.

When I'm editing my own manuscript, if a paragraph falls flat or I find a bad tell, I replace it with a few of the five senses and it creates more depth.

What's your trick for eliminating the dreaded Tell?


  1. Great advice. When I'm telling, I give my characters all sorts of 'things' to do. Like eyes popping open, shoulders drooping...

  2. I don't know, Brooke! I'm still learning not to tell. But yeah, I resort to a lot of shrugging and eyes widening and kids swallowing or gulping...