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Sensory Details in Writing: Definition &
 It is vivid descriptive language that
appeals to one or more of the senses.
 Occasionally, the term imagery is also
used to refer to figurative language, in
particular metaphors and similes.
Sensory Details in Writing: Definition &
 The writer's ability to create a gripping and
memorable story has much to do with engaging our
five senses.
 Sensory details include sight, sound, touch, smell,
and taste. Writers employ the five senses to engage
a reader's interest. If you want your writing to jump
off the page, then bring your reader into the world
you are creating. When describing a past event, try
and remember what you saw, heard, touched,
smelled, and tasted, then incorporate that into your
Sensory Details in Writing: Definition &
 Sensory details are used in any great story, literary or
not. Think about your favorite movie or video game.
What types of sounds and images are used? What do
your favorite characters taste, smell, and touch?
Without sensory details, stories would fail to come to
 When sensory details are used, your readers can
personally experience whatever you're trying to
describe, reminding them of their own experiences,
giving your writing a universal feel. A universal quality
is conveyed when the writer is able to personally
connect with the readers.
Sensory Details in Writing: Definition &
 Another note about sensory details: there is no one
sense that's more important than another. It all
depends on the scene you're trying to create.
However, imagery, the sight sense, is a common
feature in vivid writing.
Let's look at sensory details in action.
Compare the following two passages
describing a trip to the grocery store.
 Here's a passage without sensory details:

“I went to the store and bought some

flowers. Then I headed to the meat
department. Later I realized I forgot to
buy bread.”
Read this revised version with the
addition of sensory details:
“Upon entering the grocery store, I headed
directly for the flower department, where I
spotted yellow tulips. As I tenderly rested the
tulips in my rusty shopping cart, I caught a
whiff of minty dried eucalyptus, so I added the
fragrant forest green bouquet of eucalyptus to
my cart. While heading for the meat
department, I smelled the stench of seafood,
which made my appetite disappear.”
 Writing with the senses is an important part
of writing well. Adjectives bring writing to
life and pull the reader into the text and
help activate his or her imagination.
 Sensory details help the reader feel like he

or she was there and create a more intimate

connection to the narrator or writer and a
greater understanding of the text.
Adjectives help set mood and tone in the
text and help establish a strong voice.
What is Imagery?

 Imagery is language used by poets,

novelists and other writers to create
images in the mind of the reader.
 Imagery includes figurative and
metaphorical language to improve
the reader’s experience through their
Examples of Imagery
 Example 1
Imagery using visuals:
The night was black as ever, but
bright stars lit up the sky in beautiful
and varied constellations which were
sprinkled across the astronomical
Examples of Imagery
 Example 2
Imagery using sounds:
Silence was broken by the peal of
piano keys as Shannon began
practicing her concerto.
Examples of Imagery
 Example 3
Imagery using scent:
She smelled the scent of sweet
hibiscus wafting through the air, its
tropical smell a reminder that she
was on vacation in a beautiful
Examples of Imagery
 Example 4
Imagery using taste:
The candy melted in her mouth
and swirls of bittersweet
chocolate and slightly sweet but
salty caramel blended together
on her tongue.
Examples of Imagery
 Example 5
Imagery using touch:
After the long run, he collapsed in
the grass with tired and burning
muscles. The grass tickled his skin
and sweat cooled on his brow.
Let’s Do This!
 Identify which sense/imagery the following
statements appeal.
1. He whiffed the aroma of brewed coffee.
2. The fresh and juicy orange is very cold and sweet.
3. The girl ran her hands on a soft satin fabric.
4. It was dark and dim in the forest.
5. The children were screaming and shouting in the
Visual Imagery
 Visual imagery describes what we see: comic book
images, paintings, or images directly experienced
through the narrator’s eyes. Visual imagery may include:
 Color, such as: burnt red, bright orange, dull yellow,
verdant green, and Robin’s egg blue.
 Shapes, such as: square, circular, tubular, rectangular,
and conical.
 Size, such as: miniscule, tiny, small, medium-sized, large,
and gigantic.
 Pattern, such as: polka-dotted, striped, zig-zagged,
jagged, and straight.
Auditory Imagery
 Auditory imagery describes what we hear, from
music to noise to pure silence. Auditory imagery
may include:
 Enjoyable sounds, such as: beautiful music, birdsong,
and the voices of a chorus.
 Noises, such as: the bang of a gun, the sound of a
broom moving across the floor, and the sound of
broken glass shattering on the hard floor.
 The lack of noise, describing a peaceful calm or
eerie silence.
Olfactory Imagery

 Olfactory imagery describes what we

smell. Olfactory imagery may include:
 Fragrances, such as perfumes, enticing

food and drink, and blooming flowers.

 Odors, such as rotting trash, body

odors, or a stinky wet dog.

Tactile Imagery
 Lastly, tactile imagery describes what we feel
or touch. Tactile imagery includes:
 Temperature, such as bitter cold, humidity,

mildness, and stifling heat.

 Texture, such as rough, ragged, seamless, and
 Touch, such as hand-holding, one’s in the grass,

or the feeling of starched fabric on one’s skin.

 Movement, such as burning muscles from

exertion, swimming in cold water, or kicking a

soccer ball.
The Importance of Using Imagery
 Because we experience life through our senses, a
strong composition should appeal to them through the
use of imagery.
 Descriptive imagery launches the reader into the
experience of a warm spring day, scorching hot
summer, crisp fall, or harsh winter.
 It allows readers to directly sympathize with
characters and narrators as they imagine having the
same sense experiences.
 Imagery commonly helps build compelling poetry,
convincing narratives, vivid plays, well-designed film
sets, and descriptive songs.
Imagery in Literature

 Imagery is found throughout

literature in poems, plays, stories,
novels, and other creative
Excerpt describing a fish:

his brown skin hung in strips

like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
 This excerpt from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The
Fish” is brimming with visual imagery.
 It beautifies and complicates the image of a

fish that has just been caught.

 You can imagine the fish with tattered, dark

brown skin “like ancient wallpaper” covered in

barnacles, lime deposits, and sea lice.
 In just a few lines, Bishop mentions many colors

including brown, rose, white, and green.

 Imagery of light and darkness is repeated
many times in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and
 Act I, Scene V:

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of the night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;”
 In prose, imagery aids writers to accomplish a
vivid description of events.
 E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake”
“When the others went swimming my son said he
was going in, too. He pulled his dripping trunks
from the line they had hung all through the shower
and wrung them out. Languidly, and with no
thought of going in, I watched him, his hard little
body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as
he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy
garment. As he buckled the swollen belt, suddenly
my groin felt the chill of death.”
 Imagery can be found throughout
pop culture in descriptive songs,
colorful plays, and in exciting movie
and television scenes.

 Sense of Sight: Visual Imagery

 Sense of Hearing: Auditory Imagery
 Sense of Taste: Gustatory Imagery
 Sense of Smell: Olfactory Imagery
 Sense of Touch: Tactile Imagery

 The scissors was blue like the sea.

 The scissors sounded like the soundtrack to

a horror movie as they cut through thin air

and it felt like my fingers had been
handcuffed for a crime they didn’t
 Which one is more descriptive?
Sense of Smell: It smells good. Olfactory Imagery: It smells of
oranges and fresh bread.
Sense of Sight: She looks good. Visual Imagery: She looks as
though she could be on the
cover of a fashion magazine,
with her soft features and
striking beauty.
Sense of Touch: It is rough. Tactile Imagery: It is rough like
coarse sandpaper.
Sense of Hearing: It is loud. Auditory Imagery: It sounds like
a rock concert.
Sense of Taste: It tastes bad. Gustatory Imagery: It tastes
bitter and strong.
Let’s Practice!

 You are about to see a series of

 For each image you see, you must

write two sentences to describe what

you see using at least 2 senses – get