Writing what you know
Writing what you know

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Writing what you know

3.2 Contexts

On their own, sensory perceptions don't tend to mean that much. They depend on a context in which they can be brought to life: for instance, that of a character. Such sensory perceptions as you've just listed in Activity 4 might hold more meaning if the man who twitches the curtains was the character smelling the smells or touching the surfaces; if his neighbour in the purple sari was the character hearing the noises, tasting the flavours. Sensory perceptions offer dimensions that will enrich your writing, but generally they cannot operate in isolation.

Activity 5

Read the opening of Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie . Think about the following questions:

  • Which sensory perceptions are used, and how are they used?

  • Do the perceptions belong to a character?

  • Is a place realised through the sensory perceptions?

  • How is time being organised?

  • Are the perceptions from one moment or many?

Click on the link below to open the start of Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie,

Laurie Lee's [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


Notice in Cider with Rosie that all the senses are activated, and how happily the childlike perception – viewing the world as if for the first time – coincides with Lee's intention: realising this particular world afresh. Amid the flurry of sensory detail there is also a tight organisation of time. Even though Lee's recall of events must be fragmentary and confused, for the purposes of his narrative he has started arranging details in coherent and logical sequence. He is three years old, it is June, he gets deposited from a cart in the grass, feels lost, alone, overwhelmed, and consequently cries, before being rescued by his sisters. In your reading, look out for such temporal organisation, and be similarly aware of it in your own writing.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus