Blogging, Writing

Strapped for Story Ideas? Turn to Your Senses


Using your five senses when writing just makes sense.

Including details of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch creates a layer of depth to your stories that can make them more believable, relatable, and plain fun to read.

But you don’t have to wait until you’re deep into revisions to come to your senses. Whether you’re looking for blog or article ideas, new spins on green topics, poetic inspiration, or a catalyst for your world of fiction, using your senses doesn’t  just add to your current ideas — they can create brand new ones.


Sight: The other night I spied a seasoned, but sprightly couple wearing matching fluorescent safety vests while jogging around slushy piles of melting yuck. At one point, the man took his wife’s hand to escort her around a mammoth-sized puddle. (Sigh. Chivalry lives, my friends.)

I looked away for just a moment, looked back, and they were…gone!

(Blog/Article Ideas: Seniors staying active. Exercising your seasoned relationships. Fiction: An older couple’s disappearance raises questions of  sanity, and perhaps (supernatural) foul-play?)

Hearing: You’re a writer, so you should always be listening. Remember, it’s not eavesdropping…it’s research! I love picking up snippets of conversations and one-liners to store away for future use. This week’s came courtesy of my son:

Me: (Walking into room, and opening up the blinds) “Good morning, boys. It’s a wonderful day to be alive!”

Extra-Tired-Six-Year-Old: “I’d rather be alive on the weekend.” Ba dum bum 

(Blog/Article Ideas: Sleep studies for children.  Fiction: A great scene opener for any age. I’m thinking a run-down salesman.)

Smell: My area of the country is currently experiencing a mini-thaw after the recent blizzard of the century, so there is a lot of muck wafting about. The combination of dampness, and the smell of the very dirt trying to wake up from hibernation, always reminds me of the start of track season — of heading  into the chilly-ish air to find your legs again.

As I stepped outside yesterday and took a deep breath, it was no surprise that a visual of a young girl running came to mind. But the bouncy brunette pony-tail didn’t belong to me. No, this girl was running as if dragging someone or something behind her.

(Blog/Article Ideas: Running from depression. Jogging your way to mental health. Fiction: I’m sensing something dark and poignant — not my usual fare.)

Taste: With 10,000 taste buds in constant battle for a bite, there’s got to be a story in there somewhere. This week, for me, it was an unpleasant one.

I ate a bad nut.

Save the jokes and spam , please — I’m talking about a really nasty cashew. I’m not sure of the cause, but I do  know that as I my lips pursed in foody disappointment, the seedlings of a story came to mind.

(Blog/Article Ideas: The freshness factor of food. Fiction: A comedic scene including poisoned nuts, a la the dates (fruit) in Indiana Jones.)

Touch: Oh, how I love my gray-and-white striped, separated-toe, moisturizing socks of fabulousness. (Thanks, sis!) They are about the softest things I’ve ever touched, and I’ve come to compare everything, everything, with their downy loveliness.  

I’ve been wanting to get another pair (because, hey, they need to be washed sometimes), and contemplated putting them in my purse while shopping so I could do the “touch test.” Did I mention they were dirty? Thankfully, I stopped myself in time.

(Blog/Article Ideas: Touch sensitivity in children/adults. Overlooked gifts for special occasions. Fiction: Exploring the life of a character with an extreme sensitivity disorder.)


These were just a sampling of the notes I crammed into my “Ideas Folder” this week. Since our senses are so subjective,  feel free to use my examples as writing prompts to get you started in what I’m sure would be a completely different direction.

Or, better yet? Get out of the house, and sniff out some new ideas of your own.

How about you? Have you seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched any good ideas this week?


Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

45 thoughts on “Strapped for Story Ideas? Turn to Your Senses”

  1. I took a class last December at a writer’s workshop I went to called “Writing with your Senses”–
    it was a hoot!
    writing “through” the lens of taste, touch, smell…was challenging. VERY challenging.

    But wonderful.

    great post, and thanks for the ideas to get the ‘ol writing juices flowing!


  2. Creative, clever post! And the points are well taken. As a blogger, I tend to focus on describing what I hear and see and feel, but hardly ever address what I smell or taste. Thanks for the reminder.


  3. Very happy you’re enjoying the socks, and I love your ideas…especially the darker ones, right up my alley. My problem isn’t so much coming up with ideas, it’s remembering them. I’ve really got to write them down, have had a few really good ones (so I thought, anyway), that got away. If I get smart enough to figure out how to fully use my smartphone I’d be set.


  4. This is a great suggestion. I’m going to have to go looking for sensory details. Most of mine this week have been smell related, which I struggle with describing.I got a bouquet of roses on Monday.I don’t think I’ve ever really known what roses smell like, even though I had some pink ones a couple years ago.When people say something smelled like roses, I think of little old ladies that wear rosewater, or the little satchets people put in a dresser drawer. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would like that smell. But I love the way these smell! I’m sure if I stop and take notice, I miss great things to write about every day.

    I read a lot of romance novels, one because it doesn’t interfere with my writing as I’m not writing romances, and two, because it’s almost an unparalleled genre for descriptions. They use all the senses, and I think are chief when it comes to using the sense of smell (if you read well-written ones). Another really good source of sensory description is Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.


    1. Thanks for your comments 2Blu! I read House of Mirth so long ago…I’ll have to take another look.

      The problem you mention regarding describing the smell of roses is one I think we all come across. How to describe something so wonderful (or horrible) or familiar in a different, but convincing way?

      Sometimes describing a smell with an emotion works, “The rose smelled of 2blu’s happiness.” Or, something much (much) better, but you get the idea.


  5. Poets are often so good at calling on all of their senses in their work. I’ve been trying to take a cue from the great poets of the world (of which I am not one! 🙂 ).


    1. Definitely right on that one, Jacqueline, and I’m also trying to take that cue. I find that if I take a little poetry reading break while I’m writing, that when I come back I pay much more attention to the sensory details.


  6. Your phrasing, “…the smell of the very dirt trying to wake up from hibernation,” gets to the core of responding to sense, spurred a memory (Yes, I could almost smell the dirt, too), and made me homesick for the “surprise” of a Midwest spring. It also gave me a writing idea regarding “going home.” Lovely, encouraging post!


    1. Thank you! And, I’m very glad it gave you a writing idea.

      Our senses are so subjective — Show one hundred different people the same picture, and you’ll get one hundred different (emotional) reponses.


  7. The moon and the temperature made me think of Halloween last night. And I missed it. I really hate February.

    Oh, how is this related to your post? The muck, my friend. The muck made me think of it.


    1. You are most welcome, Alexandra.

      You’re right — blogging/writing is a lot about conveying feelings. If you don’t feel strongly about what you’re writing, than you can’t expect much more than a “meh” from your readers.


  8. Amanda,

    Love this post, and your examples. In some of my own edits, I’ve witnessed how adding sights and smells to a story adds so much more texture to it, but I hadn’t thought as much about letting those senses initiate a story. I’ll be paying more attention, now, to more than just the gray sky and dirty snow 🙂


  9. I haven’t focused on these things in the way I did when penning fiction, but I do like to take in scenes and eat those memories up for later. Also, as a speaker, I’m always looking for illustrations. Everything is fair game. My family said the other night that everything they say could turn into a story at any moment. I love that! They are more interested by default.


  10. I love this. Particularly because I tend to draft scenes in a very bare bones way and then I go back and appeal to each of the senses to add that much-important descriptive (and existential) layer. I ask – what does this bar look like, smell like, what conversations are overheard, etc… It is so critical to do this. Have not thought much about using the five senses explicitly in blogging, but now you have me thinking… Again, a wonderful post. Thanks!



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