What might you see in an aquarium? What might you smell on a farm?
Would you hear any interesting sounds at a fudge shop?

 
Descriptive writing challenges us to be innovative, and if we challenge ourselves it can greatly expand our vocabulary. Perhaps one of the best-known descriptive writing assignments is to slowly eat one section of an orange and fully describe all your senses. Of course you will see and taste something — and you will probably smell it as well — but can you describe what you feel and hear as well? Try writing as if to someone who has never tasted or even seen an orange.

 
describe what you smell at a farm writing prompts descriptive senses

 
One of the best books I’ve found that helps writers build a better descriptive vocabulary is the Describer’s Dictionary. This helpful tome is divided into main sections like “earth and sky”, “animals” and “people”. Subsections such as “patterns and edges” and “surfaces and textures” populate a general section simply called “things”. On each 2-page spread of this paperback book we find descriptive quotes from quality literature on the left, and related descriptive phrases on the right. For example, under “surfaces and texture” we see a quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that begins, “He lets the book fall closed. It makes an exhausted sound, like a padded door shutting…” and on the facing page, amongst others we see “limp: flaccid, slack, loose, baggy, droopy, loppy.”

 
Another great way to expand your vocabulary — including but not limited to its descriptive terms — is the Writer’s Thesaurus. I highly recommend this comprehensive dictionary-style book for anyone who enjoys writing and wishes to improve their descriptive powers. For the sake of comparing these two resources, The Writer’s Thesaurus entry for the adjective “limp” is divided into 2 sections, “a limp handshake” (soft, flaccid, loose, slack, lax, floppy, drooping, droopy, sagging; ANT: firm) and “he was feeling too limp to argue” (tired, fatigued, worn out…). Of course, the Writer’s Thesaurus also has a separate entry for the VERB limp. 🙂

 

Ready for some prompts to practice those descriptive powers?

 
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Writing Prompts
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Visit a place you have not yet been — a local swimming pool or park, a certain bakery or fudge shop, a farm or petting zoo, an old corner bookstore or second-hand clothes store. While you are there, focus on one or two senses and try to “capture” what you are experiencing with descriptive words and phrases. Jot these down and turn them into a poem, descriptive sketch, or letter to an imaginary friend (or a real one!).
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Open the free printable Describe Your Senses page. Pick a place –or– cut the page into cards and draw one randomly from a hat. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in that place, even if you’ve never been there. Pick one sense or describe all three represented on the card. Speak out loud at first, then record your best descriptive words and phrases after you open your eyes. Try another place to describe, and start making a little reference booklet of descriptives that you can use in your other writings.
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describe senses places writing prompts
Click Here to open and/or print the Describe Your Senses page!

 

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Photography & Writing
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Take your camera to a new sensory level! Explore one of the places above, and focus your lens on one of your senses. Photograph the items that make little jingles and scratchy sounds at an outdoor market. Capture the luscious breads and muffins you smell in the early morning at a nearby bakery. Seek out color combinations that remind you of different ice cream flavors! Try adding descriptive titles, captions, or descriptions to some of your favorite images.
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Look back in your photo archives and find images that loudly proclaim a sense other than sight. Look for flowers you can almost smell, breezes you can nearly feel, and warm hands-on hugs or little touches that make your skin tingle with ghost-touches.
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flower hands baby senses feel touch descriptive writing prompts

 


 

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