Textbook Recommendation for Description

Textbook for Description

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan

Painters and writers have a lot in common. Painters and writers are both trying to give people a semblance of reality, entertain, impart some truth, even if that truth is that there is no truth. Writers shadow painters and painters shadow writers. We share the same eras--classic, modern, post-modern, so it makes perfect sense to talk about description in terms like word painting.

This book takes each of the five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing) and explains how to weave them into the narrative and through characters and plot to achieve a cohesive story.

Her exercises are some of the best I have ever come across in my research. They are continuous and sustained. I have been doing her one exercise for more than a year and have never repeated one line. If, nothing else, use this example. It has made me see and experience life in a different way. Everyday I'm more aware; details are clearer, the words more readily available.

Keep a sensory journal for a month, devoting each weekday to one of the five senses. Describe in detail three things. On Saturday or Sunday, look back over your week's descriptions and combine some of them into longer, more elaborate descriptions. 

  • Monday: Taste 
  • Tuesday: Touch 
  • Wednesday: Sound
  • Thursday: Sight
  • Friday: Smell 

Sound Example

The car keys jangle, musical, like a wind chime caught in a storm

The rice-krispie crackle of rain as it sprinkles the windshield

The bump of the tires over thrice patched potholes

The sad whine of the engine as the key is pulled from the ignition.