Friday, June 7, 2019

Writing Tips for Kids 10 - Use Your Senses

by Susan Stephenson,

Last year I began a series of Writing Tips for Kids. This is the tenth in the series. Over coming weeks you’ll see more short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

Using Senses and Point of View

Ice. What do you think of when you read that word "ice"? Do see a picture of an iceberg in your head and hear the splash as a chunk breaks away and plummets into the sea? Maybe you imagine the cold, wet feeling when an ice block melts in your hand, or dissolves on your tongue.

One thing writers do to help readers enjoy their stories is to use words creatively. They try to make pictures in a reader's mind. And they make those pictures fit the character we're reading about. Suppose we’re witnessing a battle scene inside a castle kitchen through the eyes and ears of Ralf, a boy who works there. We could write, "It was very loud." But if we choose words the boy himself might use, we could write, "It was as if all the plates in the world shattered inside his head." Both times we’re using words that make a noise image inside a reader's head, but the second way makes the boy's character and life more real to us.

Writers try to use words that appeal to our senses. Their images tell us about things the character experiences. Do you ever feel so caught up in a novel that it’s like you’re living in the story? Writers capture our imaginations and transport us to the world they’ve built inside a book. It’s as if we really are hearing, tasting or seeing things the characters do.

If our kitchen boy, Ralf, was hungry, would this be a good choice of words? “Ralf was hungry enough to eat ten burgers.” We are learning about the book world through what Ralf sees, feels, hears and thinks. He probably lives in the past, a time when boys worked in castle kitchens. Can you re-write that sentence about Ralf being hungry so it sounds more like something Ralf would think?

Author Sandy Fussell wrote a book called Polar Boy. It’s a great book. Sandy uses language that puts us right inside a character's head. When we're there, looking out at the world through a character’s eyes, it's called point of view. Sandy makes the point of view strong by choosing words that suit the character. Her hero, Iluak, describes his grandmother in words we would expect a boy from a land of snow and ice to use. “Nana’s face is crinkled like caribou hide, brown and withered hard.”

If a character from a very cold place was scared, what words might he use to describe his fear? Can you use words that make us remember being very cold, and afraid as well?

When you’re reading, be on the alert for writing that grabs you and puts you inside a character’s head or feelings. I like to keep a note pad handy and jot down ideas the author gives me for my own writing. A tablet can work just as well.

Using skills that published writers use, like strong point of view and word pictures that make us feel something, is one more way to make your stories effective.

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know, Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters, Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories, Writing Tips for Kids 5 - Start with a Hook, Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, Writing Tips for Kids 7 - Use Strong Verbs. Writing Tips for Kids 8 - Use Specific Nouns, Writing Tips for Kids 9 - Remove Fluff Words.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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