Use sensory words to describe the pictures in your head: words that trigger memories of
tastes, and smells.
We know our world through our senses: what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Use sensory images to help the reader picture in his/her head what you have pictured in your head.
Sight: use words that tell what the reader might see in the scene. For example, imagine a night in which the electrical power gone out and the main character is enveloped in blackness. Describe how he/she keeps lighting matches to search for candles. Does he/she keep glancing out the window hoping to see lights from neighboring houses?
Sound: what is the soundscape in the scene? Is there an unexpected silence because the TV and stereo no longer play and the refrigerator no longer hums? There is no whirring sound from the electric washer.
Touch: what might one feel in the scene? One summer morning I awoke on a sailboat. I felt dewy wetness on my sleeping bag. My fingers came away wet from the cabin wall. Water dripped the shrouds that hold the mast in place and pooled on the deck. The wet anchor line glistened in the morning sunlight. Dew covered every surface. What a pleasure to finally grip a steaming cup of coffee.
Taste: As a college student drives back to campus after Thanksgiving weekend, what does she remember: the thick creamy mashed potatoes smothered with too much butter? The combination of savory ham and sweet turkey swimming in brown gravy? The pudding creaminess of pumpkin pie and whipped cream?
Smell: As the homicide detective steps into the empty apartment, what assaults his nose? Unattended dog or cat droppings? The repulsive scent of stale beer and cigarettes? The burning sensation in the nose that goes with smelling blood?
Children’s Writer’s Word Book, by Alijandra Mogilner & Tayopa Mogilner, published by Writer’s Digest Books. Cincinnati, Ohio. Now in it's second edition. You can locate the Word Book at www.writersdigest.com [Or link above].
Next to my MacBook computer, the Word Book is the tool I use most when writing for children. It is studded with useful information and it is easily gripped in the hand and used.
The Word Book contains:
Word lists grouped by grade, Kindergarten through grade 6 and middle school (more than 50 pages)
Thesaurus of listed words, plus synonyms (232 pages)
Reading levels for synonyms
Alphabetical list of words (50 pages)
Plus extensive advice & tips on word usage
For example: In your story of Mrs. Readighrin’s kindergarten class field trip to the desert museum on the hottest day of the year, one of the coolers slips out of place and it’s lid falls open. Glancing inside Mrs. Mrs. Readighrin discovers that the ice cream treats are beginning to melt.
Time for a change of plan. Perhaps the ice cream should be eaten immediately and the sandwiches saved for later
But you want to picture Mrs. Readighrin as a teacher who wants her class to discuss ideas and agree on a course of action. She will not make such a decision without consulting the children.
Your next sentence is “Mrs. Readighrin wonders, ‘will the kids agree to eat the ice cream first?’ ”
But is the word “agree” one that kindergarteners would understand and read?
You snatch up your Word Book and look at the alphabetical word list in the back at. Oops, “agree” is listed as a second grade word. Too high for even Mrs. Readighrin’s precocious kinders.
Next you find “agree” in the thesaurus and discover that “like” and “love” are kindergarten level synonyms for “agree.” You also look up “same” and find that it is also a kindergarten level word.
So now you could revise your sentence using either “like,” “love,” or “same,” to indicate that the children agreed to eat the ice cream first.
You might write, “The kids would like eating the ice cream first.
You could even write, “The kids would love eating the ice cream first,” because “love” is also a kindergarten word.
Thank you Joe, you're a fount of great revision information/inspiration!
H. Joseph "Joe" Hopkins lived for many years on a houseboat on the Columbia River in Portland OR. Joe came to writing through a series of happy accidents after retiring from life as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Joe's picture book, The Tree Lady, illustrated by Meg McElmurry, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2013 and has won numerous awards from librarians and groups interested in biography, sustainability, environmental science, and the lives of independent women. The Tree Lady is a picture book biography of Kate Sessions, an independently minded woman who spent her life bringing plant color to San Diego and Balboa Park in Southern California. Reactions by reviewers children and parents have been uniformly positive and passionate. Sales have been brisk and The Tree Lady has reprinted three times. Contact Joe at Josephhopkins65@gmail.com