Writing Style and the Five Senses

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“I realized that the good stories were affecting the organs of my body in various ways, and the really good ones were stimulating more than one organ.

An effective story grabs your gut, tightens your throat, makes your heart race and your lungs pump, brings tears to your eyes or an explosion of laughter to your lips.”

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

Style and Senses Go Hand in Hand

Writers understand the importance of using an authentic voice. Just as importantly, we need to write in styles that help our readers understand our information. Reducing styles to the three main categories, of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, means that you can find the most authentic way to present your information.  Your style is one that captures your readers, engages them, and helps ensure that they make it to your killer end sentence.

Visual Writing and Learningvisual writing

Visual writing is enhancing your written word with images that support your ideas, concepts and topic. A visual reader gathers information effectively through:

  1. Charts
  2. Tables
  3. Images
  4. Visual correlation with the written word

Engage them with words like see, look at, notice and observe.

Auditory Writing and Learning

Can you hear my voice, my tone or words? Auditory writing lends itself well to poetry and dialog in fiction. Auditory learners must be able to hear something in your article, either through clips, videos or from your description of the subject in order to understand and may have difficulty with solely written instructions or descriptions. An auditory reader gathers information effectively through:

  1. Clips that reinforce your article’s content
  2. Videos of you explaining your message
  3. Questions within the article to help them think and hear your words

Engage them with words like:

  • Speaking of, hear, take notice of, pay attention to
  •  “…it’s merely writing, but you have to adjust your ear – I speak quietly – I sob – I whisper…” ― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

Kinesthetic Writing and Learningless-talk-more-action

Kinesthetic (also known as tactile) is writing in which there is action. Kinesthetic people are commonly referred to as “doers”, and benefit from:

  1. Anecdotes
  1. Examples with universal appeal

Engage them with words like, touching upon, emotionally speaking, and strong action verbs.

The Five Senses Relate to All Writing and Learning Styles

We have five senses: Seeing, Smelling, Tasting, Feeling, Touching. Content that incorporates all five senses engages readers regardless of their learning style. Giving descriptors that reference the five senses build a bond with readers while establishing empathy. This bond helps ensure that they understand ideas and internalize the message.

For instance, I want to write an article about Baking Bread.  Which, although boring, is a title.  It is uninteresting, especially to the auditory and kinesthetic readers, even if you have a visual clue such as an image of a loaf of bread. What I have to do is paint a picture, tell a story, and draw the readers in.

Hide and Seek and Find the Flour

I thought of my grandmother today and I realized how much I wanted to bake bread. I am always pleased when I have this kind of time to feed my family something nourishing.

It also gives me the time to reflect on childhood memories of baking with my grandmother.

Baking bread with my grandmother was an adventure. She made a game of hide and seek for our ingredients, asking me where I thought the flour would be. Sometimes, I would answer, “the pantry” as the logical place. We would look, and it would not be there. Then we would imagine where a container of flour would hide.

  • “Is it under the cabinet?”
  • “Is it on top of the refrigerator?”
  • “Is it behind the teakettle?”

My grandmother had hidden the flour before I got up, and when we finally found it, she would take her time; exactly measuring the flour, letting me use my “special knife” to level the dry ingredient.  Then we measured the sugar, again getting another special knife so we were accurate in our measurements.knives

Years later I asked her why so many details, and she said she was proud that each of her grandchildren knew how to bake a loaf of bread.

More importantly, each child had their own special knives for this, and so these knives made it a unique experience for each child.

Rituals for Another Generation

Some days my grandchildren help me bake bread. Each of my four grandchildren has their special knives. I just have to remember which is theirs.  On days when I bake by myself, I still gather all of the ingredients with care:

  • flour
  • salt
  • sugar
  • water
  • yeast

Putting the ingredients together, I am always amazed, that the off-putting smell of yeast as it begins to bubble and froth can create something so satisfying. It is magic to me, how transformed yeast is one of the most delicious smells on earth when it is baking in a low-temperature oven.

Write from the Heart – All Readers Understand Passion for a Subject

If my readers are still with me, it is because I have engaged their senses.

We’ve been gathering, reflecting, doing, smelling, with my senses stimulated, which in turn might stimulate theirs or inspire a reader to bake bread.

Anytime we are writing; one of our objectives is to get our readers educated or motivated to do something. Therefore, if we present our information using various writing styles and cover the five senses, more of our readers finish the article.

Writing about subjects that we are impassioned about helps engage our readers. Sincere and authentic interest and delight in our subject is obvious to our readers. Even if we are neutral about our subject, find one aspect of it that generates enthusiasm and it will come through to readers.

And even if the readers aren’t motivated, I’m going to bake some bread.

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

 
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2 comments

  1. […] Before you decide that memoir is just isolated and random snapshots of the writer’s life, rethink this. Because each life contains so many memories, it’s necessary to find those moments that the writer can describe in rich detail. This is what broadens that narrow focus.  One of the ways to enhance  isolated memories is to write using the five senses: […]

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