23 Jun

Writing Through the Senses: Sound

Posted in Music, Writing Exercises, Writing Through The Senses

Hello all and welcome to Writing Through the Senses!

We’ll be talking about sound today and how it can inspire a story.  Let’s start off with a short listening exercise. 

Listening Exercise:   Below you’ll find a series of links to music.  Listen to the first 1-2 minutes of each piece (but don’t watch the accompanying videos; let the music speak for itself.)  While you listen to each piece, note the imagery that comes to mind.  What mood does the music establish?  Which specific sounds inspire each given image?  If you like, post your thoughts in the comments (but don’t read other people’s posts until you’ve had a chance to listen to the music for yourself).

Saint-Saens 1
Saint-Saens 2
Holst 1

Writing Exercise:  Now that we’ve warmed up our ears, choose one of the three pieces below and listen to it all the way through (approx. 8-10 min)  As you listen, make notes again about the mood of the piece and think about what sort of story might go with this music.  If this music were a soundtrack to a story, what would the story be?

Once you’ve listened all the way through, take 10-15minutes and write a scene or story inspired by the music.  If you need to listen to the piece again, feel free to do so but don’t feel like you have to parallel the music exactly.  The music is only here to inspire the story and give you a starting point.

Holst 2

Take-Home Message:  While some writers find it challenging to write and listen to music at the same time, music can be a great writing tool.

Suggestions for Future Listening:  These pieces of music all tell a story or convey a specific mood.  If you don’t have them in your listening library, I highly recommend.

  • Beethoven – 6th (pastoral) Symphony
  • Saint-Saens – Carnival of the Animals
  • Holst – The Planets
  • Vivaldi – 4 Seasons


18 Jun

Sneak Preview

Posted in Teaching, Writing Challenge, Writing Through The Senses

It occurred to me that perhaps some readers out there may be wondering what this Writing Through the Senses thing is all about.  In light of this, I decided to give you all a taste of what this course will be like.

Over the next five weeks, we’ll be talking about the five senses and using them as a jumping off point to spark creativity and kick-start some writing projects.  Each week will focus on one of the five senses, using it to enrich our writing and deepen our understanding of craft.

Week 1: Sound–Achieving a Sense of Focus
We start the series of classes using music to set the mood for story-telling.  We will discuss the musicality of language and how it can affect tone.  We will experiment with sound-based language tools to achieve a desired effect in our writing.

Week 2: Sight–Gaining a Sense of Curiosity

This week will be all about imagery.  By using colors and visual images to inspire our writing, we will develop a better understanding of metaphor.  We will also study how key details can both further the story and build character.

Week 3: Touch–Developing a Sense of Intuition

This week will focus on how we can make the ordinary become extraordinary through writing.  Touch–perhaps the most immediate of the senses–is all about intuition and the focus will be on artfully channeling that instinct.

Week 4: Taste–Creating a Sense of Playfulness

Food is fun; it has a sense of humor.  This week is all about “finding the funny” in our writing.  We’ll examine the mechanics of parody and discuss literature that is just plain silly.  The point of this week is to make writing fun.

Week 5: Smell–Reclaiming a Sense of Nostalgia

Ah, smell… the most elusive of the senses.  And yet, of all the senses it is the one most closely tied to memory.  That is what this week will be all about: getting to the core of our memories and capturing them on the page.

Intrigued?  Want to be part of the challenge?  Just go to Writing Through the Senses and follow the instructions in that post to join.

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16 Jun

Writing Through the Senses

Posted in MFA and Beyond, Teaching, Writing Through The Senses

As promised, here is the third project.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was teaching a creative writing class in NYC, starting next Tuesday.  Then I thought, why limit the class only to people in NYC or people whose schedules fit class time?  That’s when I came up with this plan. 


Welcome to Writing Through the Senses Wednesdays!

Starting next week and going for five weeks, I’ll be posting a condensed/modified version of my class on this blog.  We’ll have all sorts of goodies like links to readings and fun exercises to get the creative juices flowing.  I’m also hoping to get some discussion going on the weekly topics, which is where you come in.

If want to qualify for the Writing Through the Senses Challenge, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Post a comment below so I know you’re participating in the challenge.
  2. Post a link on your blog, if you have one (optional, but you’ll get an extra contest entry)
  3. Read the Writing Through the Senses posts (5 Wednesdays, starting next week) and post an on-topic comment.

That’s it!  Easy, right?

Prize:  One bright, shiny and new Moleskine notebook and a few surprise goodies.

One week after the challenge is over, I’ll announce a winner (most likely selected by using the ultra-scientific method of picking a name from a hat).

Think this sounds like fun?  Then join the challenge.


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