Sensory details

“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
—Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s right on with this one. We intrinsic writers need to tickle our senses. I’m learning that in order to grow and flourish as a writer, I need to surround myself with “things.” All things. At any given moment, I am reading a new book, listening to new songs, delving into a new magazine, cooking a new recipe…it’s imperative. Ideas, if we let them, run rampant in the sensory details.

It’s important to mix it up, too. If I read nothing but literary fiction (my personal taste) I will dry out. If I depend solely on FM radio to provide me with music, I’m frankly, screwed. That’s what itunes is for, that’s what Rolling Stone is for, that’s what Pandora is for. Even Sirius radio. See? Exploration. Different sources, different sounds. And while I’m a writer who reads lots of writing magazines, I’m not ashamed of my subscription to O (Oprah). Know why? Ideas are in there. Lots of them. Handfuls of fun and chunky ideas.

I’m currently reading a novel that would likely be dubbed as “Chick Lit.” Not my personal style, but I got to put Jane Eyre down once in a while. I’ll sneeze from all the dust. I’ve read trashy romances, rock ‘n roll biographies, astrology books out the wazoo, and atlases…yes, atlases. I love atlases. I had a child’s atlas as a kid. It’s the number one reason my geographical/cultural knowledge is broader than most. As for music, I’ve taken a liking to sixties soul. Sam and Dave, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Coasters, Three Dog Night (actually, they are mostly considered ‘rock’ but I feel there is some soul-influence in there). But again, I’m scouting.

I find reality television empty and unbearable, but some new TV dramas–Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter–are fabulous for stimulation. They’ve got all the right ingredients: complex characterization, crafted plot lines, superb dialogue, thematic undercurrents. I think television series are more closely related to the novel. TV shows expand and develop over time, they run deeper. Film are like short stories. Clean, one shot. Not as much time for evolution.

Ideas come from garnering information, as much as possible. But if you’re intrinsic, you know that already.

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4 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Writing Life, Why We Write, Writer's Block, Writing Details, Writing Process, Writing Tips

4 responses to “Sensory details

  1. So true, Katie! I couldn't agree with you more. Although, I have to tell ya, I've spun two short stories (with the possibility of becoming a novel) on the premise of two reality cable shows. One is paranormal in nature and the other humorous. I used the two shows as research, and taped the shows, taking notes about details and characters. But, then again, I can find characters in a grocery store!I love reading. Everything. I crave it-words, phrases, details. Sometimes I wonder whether I should've been a career research student. :)Hey, gotta professional question for you: I see you used your punctuation inside the quotes, which is what I prefer to do, however, there's been a lot of discussion that a period should go outside when just a word or phrase is quoted. I'm with you. Definitely an "inside the quote" gal.Now following you:)

  2. Hi Candy,I'm glad you agree! I may have been a little biased about the reality TV thing…see, ideas spring up all over the place!I'm pretty sure the period should go inside the quotes…I know that sometimes the question mark or exclamation point goes outside quoted material–unless the question mark/exclamation point is PART of the quote. Since the period is technically part of the quote (in other words, I'm not adding it myself) I believe it should go inside. I didn't know about this debate going on! Interesting! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. But yes, like you, I like it better inside. It just…looks right, ya know?On a side note, I saw on your blog that you have alpha readers? How did you get them? Are these friends of yours? I can't even find a beta reader!

  3. Yes, two are my sisters who're crazy readers, one is my sister in law, also a crazy reader and the other is my critique partner. They haven't been so good with reading and getting back to me, so I'm being my own alpha and reading the story now as we speak. Oh God, it's awful in some spots! Some of it meanders down really dumb paths! I'm come up with my own technique for revision. It goes as follows: On this first read thru, I've made two file copies of the document. One I've put away, and the other I'm marking with colors. I've got a color legend at the top like so:neon pink: delete textneon green: add more hereneon yellow: caution! something isn't working, i.e. flow…neon blue: move X here or there (p. #)neon orange: awkward word / phrase / tense issueOn the document I've saved as "Title-Revising" I go through, reading and highlighting text in Word when these issues arise. Right now, the document looks like a rainbow. :))Then, I will print it out, yes all 385 pages. I know, too long. However, from there, I will put it in front of me and redraft as a new Word document. This may or may not take forever!The other idea is to open up dual screen with color-coded document and new document and retype according to my revised text. Then, print out a hard copy. At this point, I will read again with a red pen, making notes where needed, and begin with some line edits, which are not my cup of tea, but I'll do my best.Hopefully, at this point, I will be ready for some beta reading. :))

  4. Sorry for the extra long reply. 🙂

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