Thursday, November 21, 2013

Creative Writing: The Importance of Sensual Writing

For over a month now, I've focused on the disasters that struck Central Philippines: the 7.1 Magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu, Philippines, last October 15; and super typhoon Haiyan that devastated a wider portion of Central Philippines, including the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Capiz, and others, last November 8.

This morning I'm going to take a break and  look at an aspect of Creative Writing -- "Sensual Writing." I'm not talking about sex, dear Readers, rather I'm referring to writing that engages the readers via the five senses. The writer allows the readers to see, smell, hear, feel, taste.

Sensual Writing ties in with a Rule in Creative Writing which is: Show, Don't tell. The writer is giving details so that the Readers can more actively participate in the "fictive world" of the writer.

It makes one's work more compelling and interesting. In a way it forces the writer to think in terms of Scenes, which can be stronger than the Narrative way of writing. Writers say that the Scene is the basic unit of storytelling.

Sensual Writing can be integrated in other forms of writing, not just Fiction Writing.

Let me give you some examples.

1. The following excerpt allows the readers to see, feel, and taste:

"It was a bit of paradise up there, with tenacious succulents in Chinese blue and white pots, a moss-covered fountain, three plantation chairs, and most important, the tambis tree that hung over the back portion of the verandah. They didn’t even have to climb; all they had to was reach out and pluck all the fruit they wanted. They ate while they gathered fruit and Ines remembered the pleasant feel of the waxy cover and the delight of sweet juice when her teeth sank into the spongy pulp." ~ from The Old Mansion Near the Plaza: Novel Excerpt

2. The following excerpt allows the readers to see, hear, and feel.

"The most mournful time in Taytayan was sunset. As the sun sank into the sea, it shot forth brilliant hues of red, splattering the sky, making your soul catch at your throat. Then you blinked and the sun was gone, and the world that had been aflame was suddenly plunged into a somber darkness. The sounds of the crickets would crescendo in the darkness and your spirit quaked at such sadness." ~ from When the Rainbow Goddess Wept 

3. The following excerpt allows the readers to smell, see, hear.
"A breeze wafted in the faint sweet smell of molasses from the distant Sugar Central. They sighed and settled comfortably into their chairs. From where they sat, they could look out at the pool, tennis court and sprawling garden. It was Melisande who saw it first — “Look, Ines! I’ve never seen anything like that before. The tree is glowing.” She was pointing at the ylang-ylang tree that had flickering fireflies all over it." ~ from novel-in-progress 

4. The following allows the readers to see:

"In the distance I could see the Eiffel tower, its gray latticed metal gleaming in the early morning sun. Even though it was summer, the trees and bushes of Paris were still in bloom. The paulownia trees surrounding the Eiffel were heavy with purple flowers." ~ from novel-in-progress

 For your own exercise, describe how fresh-baked cookies look, smell, and taste. If you want to post that in this blog, send it to me at 
That's our short lesson today about Sensual Writing.
My book Fundamentals of Creative Writing looks at other aspects of writing, and is available in Kindle and Nook. It is also available in hard copy in the Philippines (Anvil), where it is used in many classrooms.


Anonymous said...

From Athena Ava: Good evening, Ma'am Brainard. I just want to say thank you for your great literary pieces. We discussed your novel, Magdalena in my major subject today in my doctoral class. Everybody, including my professor, fell in love with the story. How we like your way of weaving the events. Everything's superb, from the characterization, plot, diction..... You've led us to your literary universe. Truly, it's a great honor to have you as one of the writers from Cebu. Thank you Ma'am. I'm always inspired to read your works. God bless.

Anonymous said...

From Athena Ava
A lovely afternoon Ma'am Brainard. I want to express my sincerest appreciation of your blog. I just have read your article on the Importance of Sensual Writing. I've gained many relevant insights on this. Thank you very much Maam. I am forever be your fan. How I admire you as a person, as a writer. Although I have not met you personally but I feel a connection with you thru your literary pieces. Thru ur article on Sensual Writing, I got an idea to have this aspect for my dissertation. I want to analyze the sensual works of a poet/writer. Once again Maam, thank you very much. You've always inspired me.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard said...

Thank you, Athena Ava, for your kind comments!