Use Sense Details—They Bring Us Into the Story
The difference between a memoir and a personal essay has largely to do with how each affects us differently. A memoir is one heart speaking to another while a personal essay is one mind speaking to another.
A memoir engages our sympathy and our feelings while a personal essay addresses our minds. In view of this, the memoir does well to bring us into the scene of the story and make us feel we are there.
A great device to give the reader the sense of being in the story and having it feel as if it is unfolding in front of us is to use sense details. These engage our responses.
The five sense details are:
- On a list, record as many ways as you can come up with with how your senses were engaged in the story you are writing about.
- Write three-to-five pages of a lifestory for your memoir. Use as many details derived from the five senses as you can. Even if the story sounds a bit stilted, the exercise will make you aware of sense details and improve your writing.
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