The Becoming a Better Writer Workshop: Using the Five Senses to Improve Descriptive Writing | Christopher Mitchell | Skillshare

The Becoming a Better Writer Workshop: Using the Five Senses to Improve Descriptive Writing

Christopher Mitchell, Writing Mentor

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9 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:16
    • 2. Our Projects

      0:33
    • 3. The Sense of Sight: A Haunted House

      3:03
    • 4. The Sense of Touch: A Stroll along the Ocean

      4:06
    • 5. The Sense of Smell: Lavender Lilacs

      3:13
    • 6. The Sense of Taste: Five Basic Tastes

      3:12
    • 7. The Sense of Hearing: The Sounds of a Scene

      3:37
    • 8. A Multisensory Activity: Starlight Mints & Powerful Adjectives

      2:51
    • 9. Course Conclusion

      1:14
17 students are watching this class

About This Class

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My latest Skillshare course The Becoming a Better Writer Workshop: Using the Five Senses to Improve Descriptive Writing is intended to help aspiring writers wake up what is sometimes called the writer’s instinct. When we start considering the world around us as writers, we start to study it and investigate it. We transform our daily routines into adventures for the five senses.

In this course, we will also practice a writing mantra: “show, don’t tell.” We will write our short projects with the reader’s best interests in mind. We want the reader to experience our writing through colorful images, gorgeous scenes, and vivid descriptions.

As you might imagine, this workshop is project-driven. It features six creative writing projects. You may post any of the six projects -- or all of the projects to our Project Gallery complete the course.

The video lessons are intentionally short. I do less talking, so that you can do more writing. There will be times in each video when I will ask you to press the pause button and pick up a pen or pencil or open a word processor and write. Please consider sharing your writing in our Project Gallery.

In the spirit of a traditional writing workshop, this new course will thrive on project submissions and peer feedback. I hope you will consider posting a project or two to our gallery to allow your fellow students to see your great descriptive writing.

In the course videos, I ask you to submit a well-developed paragraph or a short poem for each project. Please know that you are welcome to post longer projects if you feel inspired. Please see some of the submissions we have received so far. They are outstanding!

You may be visiting this course description after taking my first Skillshare course, Writing Without Fear: Using Life Writing to Free the Writer Within You, which is experiencing great success. If you are coming to this course from Writing Without Fear, I hope the writing techniques I shared in that class prove valuable in this workshop.

Why not enroll today? We will have some fun!

Transcripts

1. Introduction: hello and welcome to our course, becoming a better writer using the five senses to improve descriptive writing. This course is intended to help aspiring writers wake up what is sometimes called the writer's instinct. Simply when we start considering the world around us, as writers, we start to study it and investigated. We transform our daily routines into adventures for the five senses. In this course, you will also practice writing mantra show Don't tell. What this means is that we will write our short projects with the readers. Best interests in mind we want the reader to experience are riding through colorful images , gorgeous scenes and vivid descriptions. Now allow me to introduce myself. I have written professionally for more than 15 years. I've taught writing courses in public schools and colleges and universities for more than 10 years. Writing is my passion, and I love sharing writing techniques and tips with others. I'm so happy you have chosen to enroll in this course because we're going to have some fun . Let's talk about the course. The video lessons are intentionally short. I do less talking so that you can do more writing. There will be times in each video when I will ask you to press the pause button and pick up a pen or pencil or open a word processor and right. Each video in this course contains a warm up exercise in a project deliverable. Often, the warm up exercise will prepare you to write the delivery ble. There are six opportunities to post projects to our project gallery, and I hope you will consider it a quick note Before we get started. I talk about something called free writing. In this course, this is a form of relaxed writing that allows the rider to develop ideas quickly. Here's what you should do when we practiced these exercises. Set a timer and write continuously or non stop for a short amount of time. Do not worry about punctuation or spelling, at least not for the moment. Write down ideas quickly as they come to you. Don't stop until your timer sounds. This kind of writing allows you to focus on ideas. That's why it's such a powerful technique. Now let's dive into the course 2. Our Projects: as I mentioned in the introduction, This course features six creative writing projects. You may post any of the six projects or all of the projects to our gallery to complete the course. This depends on how much of your writing you are willing to share. I do encourage you to post a few projects to our gallery so that others can enjoy your work . Our course community can also provide helpful feedback words of encouragement or praise for the work you submit. More submissions will also make our gallery pop with unique, expressive writing the students may use for their own inspiration. As they work through the course, I hope you will consider it. 3. The Sense of Sight: A Haunted House: great descriptive writing requires great observation. We will begin our course with a sense of sight, perhaps the most common of the five senses. We want to scrutinize the scene for specific details We can include in our writing. And like we mentioned in a previous video, we want to show rather than tell. Here's an example of how we might use the sense of sight in a descriptive passage. Let's imagine we have a sentence like this one. The house looks haunted. This is a prime example of telling the reader rather than showing the reader more specific details. The sentence gives us the just of the idea of it, only that if you look closer at the house in this image, you will see many details you can share with your readers to help put a strong visual image in their minds. Let's study it together. I want you to take five minutes to yourself. I want you to begin by listing specific ideas you can see in this image that will make the reader believe the house is haunted Policy Video. Here, grab a sheet of paper or open a word processor and write freely for five minutes. Let's analyze the image and see intricate details. I'll share my findings after the break. You should pause the video here. Welcome back. What did you think of this exercise? Hopefully, it allowed you to analyze the image and find even the tiniest details you might share with your readers. Did you notice the windows falling in on themselves? The Kremlin chimney, the sagging, citing the hollowed out dormer window stripped to the wood? Would that be a perfect perch for a ghost? Or did you notice how the trees and plant life seem to be swallowing the old house hole? There's so many ways we can describe this dilapidated house to show the reader what the writer sees. Sharing specific details with your reader also allows them to become familiar with your unique writing style. For example, an old shirt becomes a rainbow tie dye shirt, sun bleached and frayed, or a fast car becomes a candy apple red Ferrari. There are several ways to use the sense of sight in descriptive writing. We want to start analyzing scenes, sometimes for the smallest details. Doing so will make your writing vivid and appealing to the reader's imagination. That said. We also want to be careful not to overdo it. Sometimes aspiring writers will give too much detail, which can overwhelm the reader. You might compare it to eating a chocolate cake that is so rich or too full of flavor that it leaves us with a stomach ache. By giving the reader just enough description, we also allow their imaginations enough room, toe wander. They can analyze what we have written and make their own emotional connections. Doing more with less makes for powerful writing. If you want to pursue this activity for our course project, please shape up what you have written about the haunted house into a cohesive paragraph or a short poem. Please post it to our project gallery. I would love to see what you have written in our next video, you will practice using the sense of touch 4. The Sense of Touch: A Stroll along the Ocean: when used well, the sense of touch improves descriptive writing. In many ways, a writing might connect emotionally with readers reminding them of past experiences. Or it might introduce new ideas and new experiences and delight the reader with ideas they may dream of experiencing for themselves to practice the sense of touch. Let's start this session with a warm up exercise. I want you to find an object in your home and spend five minutes thinking about how it feels to the touch. It might be a blanket or tell a pair of blue jeans or parable socks. The choice is yours to try to find something that you think will allow you enough details to free right about how the object feels in a free right again. We write nonstop. We jot down ideas as they come to us. We don't allow concerns or worries about spelling or punctuation to inhibit us. We simply right what comes to mind and allow ideas to flow. It's a very liberating writing practice. Again. I want you to describe the feel of this object, how it feels to the touch. Give yourself about five minutes to do so and let's see how this exercise turned out. Pause the video here and allow yourself time to develop specific descriptions for the object you chose. Your five minute warmup exercise begins now. Welcome back. How did this exercise go? Did you describe the cotton soft feel of a familiar throw? Did you note the course stiffness of a brand new pair of blue jeans? This exercise is intended to get your ideas on the paper quickly to work more closely with a sense of touch. As readers, we might also connect with the passage you wrote because it's familiar. Anyone who has warned brand new blue jeans knows that rough rigidity quite well. It's after several washes that we break in the jeans and they start to feel soft and lived in and comfortable. Anyone who has snuggled up under a warm, soft blanket knows how smooth and fine it feels. As readers, we can connect emotionally with a familiarity of this kind of image, a reader's connection as another way we can write powerfully. Let's practice riding with a sense of touch in amore extensive activity. This is an image of a tropical paradise. Your job and this activity is to find ways to describe this scene using the sense of touch . Now I realize this activity may be more challenging for some students than it is for others . For some students, it might be a familiar scene, especially if you've made annual trips to the beach. For other students, this might be an oddity, something unknown If you've never vacation near the ocean. If you've never visited the seaside or don't feel comfortable writing descriptions about this image, why not try an alternative scene? Maybe you could describe what it feels like to walk a short distance in a heavy snowfall. Perhaps you could describe what you feel in a strenuous mountain hike. I want you to choose a scenario that you feel comfortable writing about something that you know quite well. Let's take five minutes again to complete this free right When you were five minutes began , jot down ideas quickly about the beach scene I have provided or a scene of your choice. You should pause the video here. Welcome back. I decided to drop down some ideas alongside you in this activity. I visited the beach several times over the years, and here is what I noted. I could feel the following the gritty dry sand beneath my feet. The soft, spongy nous of what sand close to the tide line. The sun's warm golden rays on my face, which was in direct contrast to the chill of a breeze awakening goose flesh on my arms. Last, the crisp, cold ocean water surprised me as it lapped at my feet. I hope you found success with this activity again. We might use the sense of touch to connect with our readers previous experiences or to share something with, um, they experience for the first time vicariously through our writing. If you want to pursue this activity for our course project, please shape up your free riding into a strong, well organized paragraph or a short problem. Then please post it to our project gallery. Our course community would love to see your work. In our next video, we will practice using the sense of smell 5. The Sense of Smell: Lavender Lilacs: the sense of smell is sometimes underutilized in descriptive writing. That's unfortunate because people associate strong emotions with some smells. For example, in my teenage years I lived near lavender lilac bushes. I don't live near them any longer, but they're rich. Sweet fragrance is still wedged into my mind. If you haven't had the pleasure of smelling lilac in full bloom, it's a delightful treat now. Thinking about the smell of lavender lilacs reminds me of warm early spring evenings, when the wind would carry the lilac scent through open windows into our house. It also reminds me of carefree summer drives with the windows rolled down when circulating through my old Chevy pickup truck, I often associate the smell of lilac with laid back memories from my youth. The sense of smell then could be very powerful. Let's practice it with a warm up exercise. First, find a sheet of notebook paper or open a word processor file on your computer. Let's create two columns. The first column smells I love and the second column smells I dislike. I want you to spend five minutes again jotting down some ideas for this exercise. Think deeply about how the sense of smell affects you personally. I wanted to list five smells he love and five smells you dislike. How do these smells make you think I want you to pay close attention to what you think about when you think about thes smells. In other words, do they remind you of past experiences or memories? If so, jot them down. Pause the video here and allow yourself to develop specific descriptions for this chart. Your five minutes start now. Welcome back. Did anything surprise you? Did anything move? You perhaps even remind you of something you haven't thought about in some time again. It's possible that the sense of smell can affect us in these ways. Let's now take our writing a step further. I wanted to take what you wrote in the previous exercise and truly expand it. Take five of the 10 smells from the previous exercise and turn them into similes. Assembly is a word or phrase that compares something to something else. It uses the words like Or as for one of my examples, I chose the smell of cinnamon apple cider, which is a smell I love around the winter holidays to expand this description, I might say the sweet smell of cinnamon apple cider is like a warm, inviting blanket on a frigid evening. Try it yourself. Pause the video here and take 5 to 10 minutes for this activity. Use five of the things you wrote about in the previous exercise and right similes to in Richard Descriptions. Your time for this activity starts now. Welcome back. Did you find this activity more challenging than previous activities? Writing assembly can take some time to get it right. But I hope you had some fun with this one. If you want to share this activity in our project gallery, please post all five of your similes for the community to read. If students post enough responses, we will have an amazing, enlightening set of descriptions from which people can learn. In our next video, we will practice using the sense of taste 6. The Sense of Taste: Five Basic Tastes: Did you know that there are five basic tastes sweetness, sour nous, saltiness, bitterness and umami. The latter is a way to describe something savory. For some writers, the sense of taste is another under used sense. However, there is some potential here to connect with readers. If taste isn't overused. Most often, of course, we associate it with eating. We can also use it in other ways to revisit a previous activity. You might describe the taste of salt water if you swim in the ocean, possibly less appealing. You might also describe the acrid taste of wood fire in chimney smoke if you're sitting near a fireplace. And here's another point. Things we associate with a strong smell might also have a strong taste. This practice the sense of taste and another warm up exercise. First, find a sheet of notebook paper or open a word processor file on your computer. Write down the following salty, spicy, sweet sour, sugary tart, pungent and bitter. I want you to think of a specific food or drink that matches each of these descriptions for pungent. For example, you might describe something that has an intense or overwhelming flavour. It might be a monster cheese. Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes for this warm up exercise posit Video here and allow yourself to develop specific descriptions for this chart. Your time starts now. Welcome back. I hope you found this exercise challenging and fun. It could be compelling when we think about the many different ways that food can taste. For example, chocolate can have different flavors. Milk chocolate can be sweet, while dark chocolate can be better. Some of my favorite tie recipes combine spicy, sweet, salty and even sour flavors in the same dish. What we described complex dishes and writing. We can create wonderful contrasts in contrast, sweet and sour flavors in an apple drink or the sweet and spicy flavors in a great Thai curry, and give our readers a delightful, complex description that will linger in their memories long after reading your work. Now let's expand what we wrote in the warm up exercise. Take one food from the warm of exercise that right, a descriptive paragraph or short poem about its flavor. If you have a complex food or drink, make sure you describe what makes it complex. Give yourself another 10 minutes to write your descriptive work. You might even consider using similes to expand your descriptions and make them more powerful and unique. Pause the video. Here, take 10 minutes for this activity. Your time for this activity begins now. Welcome back. I hope this activity didn't make you hungry. If it did, I hope you were able to take care of your hunger pangs. Perhaps you were able to channel the hunger into your writing. If you would like to share this activity in our project gallery, please post your paragraph or short poem there. I look forward to seeing descriptions of some familiar and new flavors in our next video will practice using the sense of hearing. 7. The Sense of Hearing: The Sounds of a Scene: the sense of sight is the most use sense and descriptive writing. But auditory descriptions are often second. We get startled when we hear loud, unexpected bangs we often find relaxing the patter of soft rains. Let's not forget that rejuvenating effect that music can have also a well composed song. Consider heartstrings like no other sound can like the senses we've already studied. Readers associate a wide range of powerful emotions with a sense of hearing. We also associate previous experiences or sensory memories with sounds. If he spent childhood summers on a baseball diamond or softball diamond, the clang of an aluminum bat might stir excitement as you remember exciting games that you played. If your reader had a similar experience, the sounds of a baseball or softball diamond, Mr Excitement for them as well. For readers who never played these sports, the description of a bat clanging the cheer of a crowd and the loud scuttle as players run from base to base might fascinate them. Just as it may have fascinated you The first time you encountered these sounds, let's try another warm up exercise to put the sense of hearing to the test. I want you to spend five minutes in a busy place and describe what you hear. I want you to list the sounds you notice this exercise again makes us pay close attention to our surroundings and awakens our writers instinct. We must study and analyze listening for even the most subtle sounds for this exercise. You might open a window and let the sounds of the city come roaring in. You might step into your backyard and listen to chirping crickets or the sound of wind ruffling trees. Write down everything you can hear again. Even the most subtle sounds are important. Pause the video here and allow yourself time for this exercise. Your five minute warmup exercise begins now. Welcome back. I did this exercise alongside you. It's a cold winter day in Tennessee today, and we have snow on the ground. I stepped outside to hear snow crunching under my neighbor's winter boots as he cleared his driveway, I heard the grading howls of a snow shovel as it scraped ice and packed snow from the asphalt below. When I came back inside and closed the door, I focused on the popping and crackling of a wood fire in my fireplace in another room, my young son squealed with delight as he banged plastic toy action figures against our hardwood floors. As you can tell, there were a lot of things going on around my house today. See how quickly these descriptions came together. The sense of sound can create powerful, vivid mental images for your readers and just imagine how powerful your descriptive writing will be when you combine it with other senses. Now let's take this exercise a step further with another activity. I want you to take the notes you created in our warm up exercise and shape them into a strong, well organized paragraph or a short poem. Let's create descriptive scenes from the sounds we heard. You might take 5 to 10 minutes to complete this activity. You should pause the video here. Welcome back. Remember that the sense of hearing as a powerful tool in descriptive writing when we combine it with the other senses we can create incredible, vivid scenes that will captivate our readers. I hope you enjoyed this activity. If you want to share this activity in a project gallery, please post your paragraph or problem for the community to read. I cannot wait to see it. In our next video, we will wrap up our course with my all time favorite descriptive writing activity. You'll need a favorite piece of candy or handheld food to complete it. Let's have some fun. 8. A Multisensory Activity: Starlight Mints & Powerful Adjectives: let's wrap up our course with an extensive activity. It is also one of my favorites to use in my classes. This activity is a variation of an old creative writing assignment to teach the importance of powerful, specific, descriptive writing. Using the five Senses, I want you to find a piece of candy. You'll use the five senses sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to describe this piece of candy. This activity might take you out of your comfort zone, but it can also be a lot of fun. In my classes. I've used lollipops, Hershey's Kisses and Starlight Men's with great success. If you do not have candy nearby, or if you don't like the taste of candy, find some food that you can eat with your hands. A quick note about this document, one column says. Strive for five, which is my way of challenging students to think of five powerful ways to describe what they're experiencing. You can use powerful adjectives or similes to describe the candy. Our goal is to find us many specific descriptions, as we can for each of the five senses. If you would like to download a copy of this document, I have placed a link in the course notes section. I want you to take about 15 minutes to complete this activity. Pause the video here and allow yourself to develop specific descriptions for the candy you chose. You're 15 minutes. Start now. Welcome back. I hope you experienced great success with this activity. It's an eye opener in the courses that I teach While you Starlight Mints, students tend to describe the taste of peppermint or spearmint in different ways. Some of experienced the flavor as cool and refreshing, while other students have described the flavor as clean but sharp. Students describing the site of a Hershey's kiss have compared the tiny candy to erupting volcanoes. They have described the clumping sound it makes as it hits against a desktop. They also describe the sound of the shimmering foil as they unwrap it. There are so many ways to describe a piece of candy with all five senses. Some are harder to use than others, but that's what makes the activity fun and challenging. If you want to use this activity for our course project, here's a way to do so. Imagine this is the first time you have ever tried this candy? Imagine you must now write a letter to a friend describing it. Use your powerful adjectives to write a two paragraph descriptive letter about this experience. Pepper, you're riding with some of the specific descriptions you developed in the activity. But try not to use every description because that would be over doing it. And again, we don't want to overwhelm our readers. Let's try to strike a nice balance between providing too much description and too little. This is the last activity in our course, and I hope you enjoyed it. 9. Course Conclusion: e. Thank you for taking this course. I hope the activities we have practice prove helpful to you, and you will consider posting a project or more to our project gallery. I remember some of the basics of our course show don't tell. Allow the reader to experience your writing for themselves through sensory details and lush descriptions that you write. Of course, use the five senses to make your descriptive writing powerful. You might generate ideas in relaxed, free riding sessions. You may shape these writings into more coherent paragraphs or verses later on. That said, don't overdo it. Give the reader just enough sensory detail that they won't feel overwhelmed. Allow your writing to trigger their imaginations. These air tried and true techniques for improving descriptive writing, and I hope you will continue to practice them. Last, be on the lookout for other courses I'm teaching and please consider enrolling in them. If you do, please let me know I would love to hear from you. Until then, my name is Christopher Mitchell, and I hope to see you soon