Sensory Images Enrich Writing

Model of the Führermuseum


There’s nothing like a few well-chosen sensory images to bring a scene to life. In the following example from All the Light We Cannot See, by Anothony Doerr, we’re in the imagination of Sergeant Major von Rumpel.

Excerpt: In his weaker moments, he imagines walking in some future hour between arcades of pillars in the great Führermuseum at Linz, his boots clacking smartly on the marble, twilight cascading through high windows.

My Take-away: A lesser author would have said, “. . . he imagines visiting the Führermuseum at Linz.”  But Doerr’s words: “arcades of pillars . . . his boots clacking smartly on the marble, twilight cascading through high windows”  evoke a sensory experience that puts us right in the moment. The passage also reinforces von Rumpel’s exalted opinion of himself.

I thought for a moment that “walking” could be replaced with “strutting,” but I realized that’s how an observer would describe von Rumpel, not how he would describe himself.

Incidentally, both von Rumpel and Hitler could only dream of the  Führermuseum, intended to house much of the world’s finest art, most of it confiscated by the Nazis. Hitler’s plan for a grand museum complex, to include a library, opera house, theater, and more, was never realized.


Writing a book is an adventure: to begin with it is a toy. And an amusement. And then it becomes a mistress. And then it becomes a master. And then it becomes a tyrant. And the last phase is that just about as you are reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster. And fling him about to the public.

–Winston Churchill

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