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For writers: How “The Christmas Song” can improve your #writing and ‘get inside’ your reader

What’s your favourite Christmas lyric – or song?
I get tired of Christmas songs this time of year – yet I never tire of The Christmas Song.

You know… ” Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

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As a writer and writing teacher and adviser to the writing retreat, Sirenia, I often use “The Christmas Song” as a good example of using ‘desciptive sense triggers’ to ‘get inside’ readers’.

Christmas sentiments have been said many times – many ways – but this song really “gets inside me” and is so real because of the power of the sensory language – appealing to many senses.

I live in Australia where it’s summer at Christmas time – yet I fondly remember my North American December-January Winter “Christmas” experiences.
This song brings back those memories because the lyrics trigger sense memories – sight and smells and sounds and the feeling of cold.
Just look at how many sensory triggers are packed into the first verse.

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The first verse leads with senses and leads with a line that is visual and warm and filled with smell (and the promise of taste).

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
 (sight, sound and smell)
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
 (feel of cold)
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
 (sound – and sight)
And folks dressed up like Eskimos ( sight and the feel of yourself being dressed in warm clothes)

and so I offer you this simple advice – when your write about something – jot down what comes to mind:
what does it smell like?
what does it sound like?
what does it taste like?

We often go straight to what something looks like – which is fine – but also include other senses! Consider “leading” with more “primitive” sense such as smell and taste.

I work as a writing teacher – and I encourage writers (even in serious business) to use creative techniques and creative writing to connect with audiences.
Powerful description – helps you say to your readers – “Hey, I know what it’s like! I can relate to YOUR experience.”
Sensory triggers help us connect with our readers (or audiences for live presentations).
Powerful description helps build a sense of truth and trust and connection!

The story goes that the lyric writer Mel Torme actually wrote these lyrics in sweltering heat and was trying to keep cool by ‘thinking cool.’
He scribbled just a few words that came to mind – chestnuts roasting… Jack Frost… choirs etc.
From those notes – this wonderful lyric was born
I’m not saying the story is true – but that’s “the myth”.

I encourage you, as you enjoy Christmas, to jot down YOUR sensory experiences from YOUR CHRISTMAS season.

The Australian Christmas will probably have very different sense experiences.


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This entry was posted on December 22, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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