Writing Assignment: Write An Object Description Using Only Touch

by Randy Murray on July 19, 2013

I find reading an oddly visual process. It’s odd in the fact that although I see the words, what I experience in my mind is also visual. If I’m reading fiction, I see the movie or stage play of the story. I lose track of the page or screen and I see what the author sets forth for me. For non-fiction, I often hear a voice, what I imagine that specific author’s voice to be.

Let me restate, I see the work, not the words, if the author is any good. When the writing is poor I find that I can’t visualize what’s being described. I stumble and struggle and eventually give up. Descriptive power is essential for both the novelist and advertising copywriter. It is description that connects the reader and writer.

But there is a step beyond description. It’s experience. If you want the reader to truly engage with what you’ve written you need to use more than just the visual world. Touch is an excellent place to start.

For today’s assignment, write a short description of an object very familiar to you, but write only using what you can feel by touching this object. It might be a good idea to take this object, your coffee cup, your keys, a favorite pen, and place it in a box or bag, then leave it there for a while. Later, without peeking, reach in and feel this familiar object. What’s new? What’s different. What have you not noticed by looking at this thing? How would you paint a picture of this thing just based upon what you can know by touching it?

Your goal doesn’t have to be a complete description that would allow someone to fully recreate the object. You just need enough, just enough for the reader to easily follow you, to understand more than simply the physicality of the object, but also your emotional connection to it.

For bonus points, leave the object in the bag or box and write a new description several separate times during the day. See if you can find something new each time you touch it. At the end of the exercise read each description and select the one that best describes this unseen, but familiar thing.

Writing Assignment: Write An Object Description Using Only Touch by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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