Words @ Play: Kids, you’re the boss of your story!

Welcome back to Words @ Play! Jennifer J. Stewart here, the Library’s Writer in Non-Residence. Let’s dive in!

Consider the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. They are how we experience the world.

Let’s open a mysterious chest:

The attic smelled faintly of decay, of things that had died long ago in dark corners and were better left undisturbed. Nervously, I popped a candy into my mouth. At first, all I tasted was pocket lint, but quickly the cool peppermint coated my tongue.

Behind a headless mannequin, I found the chest, furred in dust. I rolled the mannequin out of the way, then dragged the chest into the light that fell from the cobwebbed window. My fingers investigated the padlock, its cold metal heavy in my hand. One hard twist and it yielded, clanking to the floor in pieces. I leaned forward and grasped the rough sides of the chest. The rusty hinges moaned, but the lid rose. A moth fluttered out. Its soft wings brushed my cheek, and I screamed, the sound echoing in that cramped space.

Sensory details are handy to have in your writer’s toolbox because they ground your reader. They help make an imagined place or situation seem real. As a writer, you need to bring your readers along for the ride and let them experience what your character experiences. Draw them into your story by using the five senses, and they won’t want it to end.

Now you try. What if you got the chance to blast off in a rocket ship into space? I want you to imagine what that’s like, using all five senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you taste? You’ll probably find that you employ sight, hearing, and touch more than taste and smell, and that’s fine unless your character is a dog. Then there will be a lot more sniffing! Wouldn’t it be fun if your character was a dog? You’re the boss of your story. You can make it happen.

If you’d rather dive into that mysterious chest, go for it. I’d like to know what’s hiding inside, but I won’t know until I write it into existence.

When you’re done, please email me what you wrote at writerinres@pima.gov. Your writing might be featured on the library’s Facebook and Instagram posts. If you just want to show me, but you don’t want your work published, please say so.

I look forward to reading what you’ve written!

-Jennifer J.

P.S. Don't miss my workshop, Story Writing Playshop for Children and Teens, on Saturday, July 25 from 10 to 11:30. This workshop will be conducted online via Zoom. Participants must register in advance.

More Writer in Residence posts by Jennifer J. Stewart: