21 Senses Part 3

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

If you have been following my posts on the 21 Senses exercises to add sensory detail to your writing, here is Part 3. If not, here are links to my earlier posts on the topic:

An Introduction to the 21 Senses (Part 1)

21 Senses Revisited (Part 2)

Ever wonder what it means when your manuscript comes back marked “Show, don’t tell!”? The 21 Senses exercises will supply the answer for writing with more detail but not just embroidering your text.

Here are more models from two of the finest writing teachers I have ever known—Gary Bradshaw (1948-1994) and Frank Barone, active poet and retired teacher (derived from  the 21 Senses exercises in Donald Murray’s A Writer Teaches Writing). 

These additional five non-traditional senses can challenge you to add details that matter to your manuscript.


This Sense goes back into the past to describe an event that happened before the Writer’s birth.

I had heard the story many times from my father. My father had come to America as a young boy. No matter how young, every immigrant family worked to survive. My father had worked shining shoes. When the school officials came to place him in school, his mother and father lied about his age to keep him out of school. So he worked to help support his family. In  his  spare  time  he  would read  until  his  father ripped the book from his hands  and told him to get back to work. He continued to read, though, when­ ever he could, and taught himself to speak and write English well enough to get a job with Western Union. Years later he became the head of communications for the Commercial Bank of Italy and, after World War II, for Cities Service Oil Company. I always describe my father as a self-taught man.


This Sense leads the reader to draw a conclusion almost as if the reader knows what the next sentence would be after he finishes reading.

I visited the ophthalmologist yesterday. A bacterial infection has inflamed my upper right eye-lid. His examination showed a growth underneath the lid, discharging pus and distorting my vision. He pre­scribed drops. He wants me to return in a week. If the drops don’t reduce the growth, I know what the next step will be.


Giggling, like muffled gunfire, whisked beside me. Two girls, at first slyly, then openly, stared at me snickering. “Your hair,” said one, losing control and tittering shrilly. The other motioned as if to lick her palm and pretended to rub her hair.  Quickly, my hand touched the wild shafts of hair standing straight out behind my ears to the accompaniment of rolling laughter.


The teacher, staring into thirty stony faces, asked, “Who will read his paper aloud?” Silence ruled. He sat quietly, patiently, watching. The clock thundered as whole minutes hushed by. Feet shuffled, and then one hand shot up.


I hurt. My left knee has swelled.

My lower back muscles have pulled out again. The vision in my right eye has grown weaker. A hazy film distorts my perception, especially when I get tired. But I played golf. Friday and Saturday I played golf and managed to enjoy myself.

I came to Oaks North Friday after school intending to tell my golfing buddies I couldn’t play. But I am used to playing hurt, earlier as a young basketball player, and now as a middle-aged hacker.

Yesterday at Penasquitos Golf Course I outplayed my partners, all younger than myself. I hope they have putting greens at retirement homes.

Please Share

How do add detail to your writing? Do you have any favorite writing exercises to share?

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply