I just read an interesting article about sense words in fiction. You know, saw, heard, felt, smelled, touched. The author, Kathy Steinemann, pointed out that sense words filter imagery through a character instead of allowing the reader to experience the sensation themselves. Here’s what she means:

Asha felt the lake water with her toes. It was cool.

Nice, huh? Asha’s thinking about going for a swim. But the way these sentences are written the reader experiences the water second-hand. Wouldn’t it be more engaging if the reader could access that sensation directly? Let’s try that sentence again:

Cool lake water dripped from Asha’s toes.

That’s better, I think. Dripped is a more precise and active verb than felt, and the focus of the sentence has shifted from Asha to the water, which makes the image more immediate. Added bonuses of using the new sentence include its word economy (it’s 4 words shorter) and the change in subject breaks up any droning list of character actions. (Asha sat on the pier. Asha looked at the seagulls. Then Asha felt the cool lake water with her toes.)

Here are a few more sentences for practice. Try to recast them without using the sense word. I’ll post my answers in a comment below in a few days.

Laura smelled autumn in the air.
Sree saw the crooked umbrella transform into a wizard.
Varad knew that the possum stole his shoe.

Read Filter Words and Phrases to Avoid in Writing Fiction.

September Poetry Slam: Sijo

What poem blends the best elements of haiku, sonnet, and ballad? The Korean form called sijo! Busy with back-to-school? Don’t worry. It’s also short! Learn to write a 3-6 line, 40-50 syllable poem – with a twist – in this month’s slam.

Prompt Up!

Prompt Up is our optional weekly writing prompt for the fiction|poetry challenge! Here’s how it works: we choose a sentence prompt from last week’s winning nonfiction post and announce it in the kickoff. It’s your job to use that prompt in your poem or story and then run with it. The prompt is just a springboard, though: feel free to use it as your first sentence, move it, change it, or float it down to other territories.

Natalie considered the life-changing events that is new motherhood in her essay Liminal Spaces. This week’s prompt is: “Nothing is mine.”

How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:

Basic YeahWrite guidelines: 750 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; fiction or poetry only.

1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the fiction|poetry badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry;
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid;
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message;
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge; and
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog.

Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.

Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…

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About the author:

As a professional editor and writer, Nate has published his work in numerous English and history textbooks and in on-line reading programs. In February 2014, he found his way back to creative writing and began submitting to YeahWrite. Soon after, he became an editor of the Fiction|Poetry challenge. You can read his work at The Relative Cartographer, a blog that has been recognized by WordPress, Five Star Mix-tape, Genealogy á la Cart, and BlogHer’s Voice of the Year. He lives in Chicago with his partner, a French princess, and a jungle explorer.

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