Thursday, November 20, 2014

Details: a must for your memoir

If you want your readers to enjoy your stories—and keep reading—include sensory details. They add texture and interest and pizzazz—but they do so much more. Sensory details can make your stories come to life.

Your goal is to write so readers connect with you. Invite them to see, feel, hear, taste, and smell what you experienced so they can enter into your story with you. You want your experience to happen all over again for your readers.

Here are a few quotes to inspire you:

“In writing, imagery is the key
that can unlock a reader’s imagination.
When an image is rendered with the right combination of words,
it magically appears in the reader’s mind
like a photograph or a film clip.” 
Melissa Donovan,

“Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change.…
When your character is in a new place,
or things alter around them,
that’s the point to step back
and fill in the details of their world.”
Hilary Mantel,
(emphasis mine)

“You must recreate how you experienced the places,
people and situations of your life experiences
through the senses.
Where you were and what was happening to you
originally came in through your ears,
 nose, tongue, skin, and eyes.
That is what the reader needs, too,
to experience your world and draw the conclusions you did.…
As writers we must learn to rely on the outer world
for the images a situation provides,
rather than relying on thoughts and summaries. 
Sure, those will come into our writing, at times,
but using them sparingly …
makes them all the more powerful. ”
Sheila Bender,
(emphasis mine)

“If you’re like most writers
the dominant sense is visual.
That’s because most of us write ‘by sight.’
That is, we include what we see and, sometimes,
what we hear.
Rarely what we smell, taste, or feel (as in the sense of touch).
If your writing tends to fall within this ‘mostly sight’ category,
you may fail to engage your readers.
If you want to write vivid memories,
then you must learn to remember vividly
not just see, but smell, taste, feel, and hear those memories.…”
Amber Lea Starfire,
“From Memories to Memoir, Part 3—Remembering Vividly
(emphasis mine)
(See the whole blog post for step-by-step tips on how to remember vividly.)

Related posts about sensory details
December’s details for our memoir: Touch and taste  


  1. These are some great quotes you have here, Linda. Your post is a good reminder to add details from all five senses in our writing.

  2. Hi, Betsy, yes, details are important. Some are easier to capture than others, like Amber Lea Starfire said above. It's worth making an effort though. :)
    Happy writing, Betsy!