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25 Sensory Writing Prompts to Improve Detail & Description

Upgrade your description skills with these sensory writing prompts.

Sensory writing prompts focus on main senses, as depicted in this illustration.
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By most accounts, there are more than five senses. Some experts say there are seven, some as many as 20. But narrowing in on at least the five classical senses can lend a much-needed “sense” of detail to your writing. Here are five sensory writing prompts for each of those five classic senses.

Sensory Writing Prompts: Touch

There is an insect on your character’s skin. Which insect is it? What does the insect do? How does your character react?

You’re at the beach. Write a story about the visit. How does the sand feel on your toes? What temperature is the water? What sensations do you feel as you walk barefoot along the rocks? Are you worried about stepping on jellyfish or crabs? Does the sand stick to your skin after putting sunscreen on?

Your character is at a carnival. He arrives at a booth with a box that says “$1 Per Grab.” He pays a dollar and inserts his hand into the box. Write about what he touches. Does he pull anything out? What does it feel like, and what can you compare it to? What does he say to the worker in the booth?

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Write a story that begins: “She touched the counter. It was smooth and cool, but as she ran her hand across it, she felt a liquid that wasn’t quite water.”

Do you remember the last person you shook hands with before the COVID-19 pandemic? Who was it? What was the interaction like? What did their hand feel like? Write about the experience.

Sensory Writing Prompts: Smell

Your character is on a plane and smells something funky. Write about the smell. How long does it linger? What is your character’s reaction?

Write about the last time you smelled smoke. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you do?

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Valentine’s Day is in February. Write about your favorite flower. What does it smell like? What is it about the smell that you like? Has anyone ever gifted it to you? Have you ever given it to someone? Have you ever tried to grow it in a garden or in your house?

The scene begins: “As Donna stepped closer to the shed, the smell grew stronger. She unlocked the padlock and slowly pulled open the door.” Write the next paragraph.

Write about a time that you were responsible for a pleasant smell. What was it from? How long did it last? Did anyone notice?

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Sensory Writing Prompts: Taste

Your character is traveling and stops in at a roadside restaurant. She sits down and orders a meal. What is it? How does it taste? Is it hot or cold? What flavors stand out? How good is the meal? What makes it memorable or not memorable?

Write a story about eating a meal when you were a child. What food did you like? What food did you dislike? Was there anything mushy on your plate? Anything burned? Who is at the table? Were you advised to eat anything before you could have dessert or before leaving the table?

You must plan a five-course meal that consists only of dessert. Write about what you choose and why.

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February 9 is National Pizza Pie Day. What’s your favorite style of pizza? How thick do you like the crust, and how chewy is the texture? Do you like spicy or sweet sauce? What type of cheese do you prefer? What’s the most unusual type of pizza you’ve tried?

Your character is on a date with someone who is cooking for them. Upon taking a first bite of dinner, it’s gag-worthy bad. What is the meal? What does it taste like? What is your character’s reaction? Does your character finish the meal, or do they come up with an excuse not to eat it? What is the fallout?

Sensory Writing Prompts: Sight

It is a cold winter morning in Texas. Your character, who has never seen snow, walks outside, and it starts snowing. Write a story about what they see next.

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What’s your favorite star-gazing memory? What made it special? Who were you with? What did you see?

Recall an interesting scene that you’ve observed outside your window in the past. Who was involved? What happened? How was it resolved? Tell the story from the perspective of a watcher.

The scene begins: “Aaron stepped forward toward the bow of the ship as Leslie steered it closer to the object in the distance. The static blob of white appeared to be more of a gray object as the ship drew closer to it. Suddenly, it was moving.” Describe what happens next.

If you could photograph any setting in the world, what would it be? Write about what you would like to show in the photo. Would it be black and white or color? What parts of the place would you include in the photo? What parts would you not include?

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Sensory Writing Prompts: Hear

Step outside. Stay silent for five minutes. Write about what you hear.

Write about the best concert you’ve attended. Who was the artist? What was the sound like? What songs were performed? What songs did you want to be performed that weren’t? Could you feel the sound reverberations in your body?

Your character is in a café having a disagreement with her father. Write dialogue for the conversation. What is the disagreement about? Are the characters’ voices loud or soft? Who is at fault? How is it resolved?

You are walking down the street when someone shouts, “Help! I’m stuck.” You turn and hear a scream from an alley. Write about what happens next.

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Think about your closest friend. Describe their voice. What does their cry sound like? What does their laugh sound like? Have you ever heard them scream?

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