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Sensory Details: Image


Lisa Bickmore discusses the importance of sensory details in creating a world for the reader to live in. "As readers, we also hope for an opportunity to see into a vivid story-world that has a sense of lived-in-ness, of detail and texture. This is what Herman refers to as the “qualia”—the “what it is like”–ness of a story. Writers create the worlds of their stories by using sensory detail, but also by evoking the narrator’s or other character’s states of mind." It is through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste that the reader gets an enhanced experience of the story. Readers are allowed to enter into the world of the writer, to experience what it is like to live there.

Sexual trauma can often result in dissociation. To dissociate is to disconnect from the body, your sense of self, and your personal history. In The Body Keeps The Score, Bessel van der Kolk describes it this way, "Dissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts, and physical sensations related to the trauma take on a life of their own." As survivors, we may dissociate from the sensory details of our sexual traumas because the event was so terrifying and overwhelming. We dissociated to survive. In the process, we may have lost touch with our bodies and ourselves as we continually make efforts to protect ourselves from these physical sensations. 

Through writing, we can reconnect with our bodies and ourselves. We write about sensory details to learn how to be in our bodies again. We write to find a way to live in the world. We choose which details need to be described and told. We describe what it is like to live in the world we live in. 


Bickmore, L. (2016, August 1). The Narrative Effect: Story as the Forward Frame. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from

van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Penguin Books.

Sensory Details: Text
Image by Yasuo Takeuchi
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Image by Jelleke Vanooteghem
Sensory Details: Gallery


"Cherry Red" by Liane Kupferberg Carter
Brevity Magazine

How does this author use the color red to describe her story? What other sensory details does she use?

Sensory Details: Text


For this writing prompt, you will walk through your home or outside and find an object that stands out to you. Take time considering the object. Hold it in your hands. Write a detailed description of your chosen object, include sight, touch, taste, smell, sound, texture, etc. How does your body feel holding this object? What emotions arise thinking about this object? Using your descriptions, write a story about this object and what it reminds you of.

1. Select an object

2. Take time to consider your object 

3. Write a detailed description of your object

     a. Describe using the five sense: sight, taste, touch, smell, sound

     b. Describe how your body feels holding the object

     c. Describe what you feel holding the object

4. Write a story about this object and what it reminds you of

Sensory Details: Text
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