Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December’s details for your memoir: touch and taste

If you want readers to enjoy our stories—and keep reading them—use sensory details to add interest and texture to your December stories.  

In recent blog posts we considered sight, smell, and sound.*

Today we’ll think about touch and taste.

Helen Keller said: 
“I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough shaggy bark of a pine…. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions.… I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song….” (emphasis mine)

If you write a story set on the equator, December will feel different from a story set in Alaska. Describe the feel of running across white powder sand on the seashore. Capture the feel of a scratchy wool scarf around your neck and icicles hanging from your beard.

Also write taste into your stories. For some of you, December flavors include peppermint candy canes and mincemeat pie.

My Scandinavian friends' favorite flavors include lefse, herring, salmon, and lutfisk.

Hanukkah meals involve potato latkes and other dishes cooked in oil as a reminder of the holiday's miracle.

What tastes and flavors can you describe in your December stories?

“Just like the Five Ws are pathways for information, the Five Senses generate details. We all begin with our eyes, I think, but we should move quickly to our ears and our noses. Rick Bragg wrote a paragraph about a state fair in West Virginia and, I swear, he had all the senses covered, and when I closed my eyes I could taste the funnel cake, and smell the sausage and peppers, and see the flashing of neon, and feel the stuffed toys.…

“… It's crucial that the focus drive the details. By that I mean that you don't include the detail of someone's messy hair unless it has something directly to do with your story (she ran a marathon while pregnant).”  (Roy Peter Clark,* emphasis mine)

“Detail makes the difference between
boring and terrific writing.
It’s the difference between
a pencil sketch and a lush oil painting.
As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.”
(Rhys Alexander, Writing Gooder)

Review previous posts (links below)* and write sensory details into your December stories: Invite readers to see, smell, hear, feel, and taste what you experienced.

*References and links:
Sight, smell, and sound,
December details for your memoir,
Roy Peter Clark on Facebook live chat,


  1. Thank you, Linda. This writing thing is all new to me. My first blog was just about this time last year and I had never written before. I know I need a lot of improvement. Someone said my posts read like newspaper articles. (She was not criticizing...just observing) Anyway, this is one place I lack so I will start working on it.

  2. Hi, Shanda, many blog posts can be re-fashioned (just a bit) into stories for a memoir. I'm looking forward to blogging about that in the future. Who knows? Perhaps you've already done a lot of hard work toward a memoir! :)


  3. Hi Linda, you'll be pleased to know that I have been inspired to write my spiritual memoirs as a goal in 2012. I may not finish it but it will have a lot of time devoted to it. This is due to your posts here and you letting us know about NAMW. Too bad I didn't live near your class!

  4. Joyful! GOOD FOR YOU! I'm so excited for you! You will be so glad you've made this decision, and you'll discover blessings you didn't recognize before. Yes, it will take some work, but I pray you will find great joy in it! In January I'll blog about ways to plan, stick with it, carry it out, etc., but you've already made the most important first step. You are amazing.